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Creating Connections: Self-Taught Artists in the Rosenthal Collection

June 9–October 8, 2023

The Thomas R. Schiff Gallery (Gallery 234)
With accompanying work from Visionaries + Voices in Gallery 235
Free Admission
Friends of American Painting, Sculpture, and Drawings
Press Release


Works of art connect us. Yet mystery surrounds both our experiences of making them and our encounters with them. 

Drawn from the collection of Richard Rosenthal and his family, this exhibition celebrates a promised gift to the Cincinnati Art Museum and features 38 works by self-taught artists from diverse cultures and circumstances.  

Connected by a desire to communicate through art making—and by astonishing creativity and ingenuity—these artists, most from the 20th century, speak volumes. Their media include drawings, paintings, sculpture, and needlework. Their art materials range from the conventional to creatively repurposed ones like housepaint, cardboard, rocks, bottle caps, cans, even discarded scraps of wood.  

The exhibition features artists recognized by the art world and museums as well as those whose creative output remained obscure or known only to close associates. They include Bill Traylor, Nellie Mae Rowe, Ralph Fasanella, Martín Ramírez, Thornton Dial, Nek Chand, and many others. We feature their works alongside those of French artist Jean Dubuffet, a champion of self-taught art.

Creating Connections also will be accompanied by a display of work from Cincinnati’s Visionaries + Voices (Gallery 235).

The significant contributions to the Cincinnati Art Museum of Richard “Dick” Rosenthal and his family reflect a commitment to sharing works of art, making art widely accessible, and fostering creativity. Most notably, in 2003, a generous donation from the Rosenthal Family Foundation supported free, daily admission. Since 2011, the Rosenthal Education Center (REC) has provided hands-on art making experiences for drop-in visitors. Recently, Dick and Kitty Rosenthal were honorary chairs of the A New View campaign, which surpassed $65 million in fundraising. It is his hope that the promised bequest of art and this exhibition will gain wider appreciation for the work of self-taught artists and encourage the collecting and donation of their work. 

This exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the museum in association with D. Giles Ltd.


Audio Description icon Exhibition Content

Download complete Creating Connections: Self-Taught Artists in the Rosenthal Collection large print labels, optimized for screen reader.


Watch Mysterious Grace: Researching the Art-Making Process featuring Olivia Sagan.

Hear verbal descriptions of highlighted artworks and interpretive content for the exhibition, wherever you are.

Access the Audio Exhibition

If you need accessibility accommodations for this program or event, please email [email protected]. Please contact us in advance to ensure accommodations can be made.


Members Opening

Thursday, June 8, 2023, 5–7 p.m.


Mysterious Grace: Researching the Art Making Process

Featuring Dr. Olivia Sagan, Professor of Psychology and Head of Division of Psychology, Sociology and Education from the Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh

Thursday, June 8, 7–8 p.m.


Connect: A Program for Adults with Developmental Disabilities: Visionaries and Voices Guest Teaching Artist

June 24, 2023, 1 p.m.


Film Screening–This World Is Not My Own: The Limitless Story of Nellie Mae Rowe

Thursday, August 31, 2023, 7 p.m.


Family Storytime and Gallery Walk: Feelings

September 2, 2023, 11 a.m.–noon


Art Together: Artmaking for Families with Children Ages 3-5

Saturday, September 16, 10:15–11:15 a.m. 


Family Studio: Artmaking for Families with Children Ages 6-12

Saturday, September 16, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. 


Canceled—Creating Connections: Panel Discussion

Thursday, September 28, 6:30–8 p.m. 


CAM Kids Day

Saturday, October 7, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. 

A lavishly illustrated publication which explores an exceptionally diverse array of work by self-taught artists with wide-ranging backgrounds and motivations.

Charles Russell, Julie Aronson, Olivia Sagan

Buy Now

An illustrated interview by Julie Aronson with Richard Rosenthal provides special insight into the collector who has brought together this exceptionally diverse array of work. Essays by Olivia Sagan and Charles Russell look at the need for a more nuanced approach to these artists and their work, at the history of its appreciation (including terminology such as "Outsider Art"), and examine the work in the context of autobiography, trauma, connection, and remembering.

Presenting Sponsor