In God’s Voice: A Celebration of the Spirituality of Harriet Tubman

May 28 to August 14, 2022

Syracuse artist Vanessa Johnson focuses on Harriet Tubman’s faith in her exhibit In God’s Voice: A Celebration of the Spirituality of Harriet Tubman. The exhibit is part of the Emerging Artists project and will be on display in both the Schweinfurth Art Center and the Cayuga Museum of History & Art.

Johnson will exhibit quilts and fiber artworks that address Tubman’s spirituality and faith: her use of nature to guide her path as she freed enslaved people; her blackouts, in which she said God spoke to her; and her faith in the allies, both Black and white, who supported her rescues.

The title is taken from a quote by abolitionist Thomas Garrett, who supported many of Tubman’s journeys to free enslaved people. Tubman frequently used Garrett’s stop along the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania. “I never met with any person, of any color, who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul … and her faith in a Supreme Power truly was great,” Garrett said.

Artist’s Talk

Artist Bio

Vanessa Johnson is a griot, playwright, actor, fiber artist, museum consultant, and teaching artist. She combines fiber art and storytelling, sharing autobiographical stories, traditional African and diaspora tales, and social justice movement stories.

Johnson performs and conducts workshops at schools, colleges, libraries, museums and community events. She has exhibited at the SUNY Oswego Metro Center, Syracuse University’s Community Folk Art Center, the Tioga Arts Council Center, Onondaga County Library branches, and has done a Schweinfurth Museum trunk show.

Her first solo show, “Unwrapping Vanessa,” exhibited at Syracuse’s ArtRage Gallery in 2017. Vanessa curated her first group show, “The Struggle to Connect,” in February and March 2022. The show included her work in dialogue about race with women artists of color and of European descent.

Johnson founded the “Harambee Youth Tent” at the New York State Fair Pan African Village, offering youth arts activities from Africa and the African Diaspora guided by professional artists in 2000. She was a teaching artist in Syracuse City District after-school programs from 2005 to spring 2022, teaching storytelling, drama, African cultural, and fiber arts.

She currently teaches fiber arts and drama for the Syracuse University Community Folk Art Gallery Arts Academy after-school program. She has conducted fiber arts workshops for youth at the Everson Museum and at the Schweinfurth Art Center. Johnson is Artist in Residence at the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville.

Thank you to our sponsors for this exhibit!

  • New York State Council on the Arts
  • Nelson B. Delavan Foundation Part A
  • Cayuga County Office of Tourism
  • Support for this program is provided by the City of Auburn’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation of funds to support the City of Auburn Historic and Cultural Sites Commission’s Harriet Tubman Bicentennial project with a goal of boosting the recovery from the pandemic for the tourism, travel, and hospitality industry.