#FaithInFocus: History, the Arts, and Engaging Dialogues about Religious Diversity in Greater Cleveland

Above: Herbert Ascherman, Jr. and Sr. Zenais Tarimo, St. Adalbert Catholic School (2022). Courtesy of Herbert Ascherman, Jr.


#FaithInFocusCLE: History, the Arts, and Engaging Dialogues about Religious Diversity,” a 2023-2024 program series, will include exhibitions in the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Mr. Henri Pell Junod, Jr. Center for History Education, guest speakers, book discussions, poster exhibitions from the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES); and banner and web-based oral history exhibitions related to a community partnership with Cleveland’s East Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Dr. Regennia N. Williams, Distinguished Scholar of African American History and Culture, is the program director and curator, and DavidPatrick Ryan is the assistant curator.

The series begins on Thursday, October 19, 2023, with the 6:30 PM Opening Reception for “Sisters: Portraits of Women Religious from St. Adalbert / Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church and School and St. Agnes / Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church,” a special exhibition of recent works by photographer Herbert Ascherman, Jr. At 7 PM, Ascherman will deliver an illustrated talk on “Religious Cleveland: A Photo Documentary.” The address for the Western Reserve Historical Society is 10825 East Boulevard, Cleveland, Ohio, 44106. Admission to this event is free for WRHS members and other guests with paid museum admission or guest passes.

Ascherman’s presentation will include photographs that he contributed to Images from the Heart: A Bicentennial Celebration of Cleveland and Its People. He described his contribution to this book project as a portrait study of the approximately 65 religious communities in Cleveland. The photographer went on to say that he shot on location and produced a portrait of a representative of each of the communities.

Having closed his studio in 2009, Ascherman donated his “legacy” photography collection to the Western Reserve Historical Society. A fourth-generation citizen of Greater Cleveland, his WRHS Library collection includes 6,000 black and white portraits taken over the course of his 45-year career. The photographer states that his camera has taken him to 43 states and 36 countries. Today, he works from his home-based studio in Shaker Heights and remains committed to the health and welfare of Cleveland, a community that he describes as “the greatest little gem in the country.”

The Ascherman exhibition, which includes portraits of Sisters from Tanzania, will continue through December 2023. A complete schedule of program activities and information on an oral history project related to local history, global Africa, and Blacks in the Diocese of Cleveland will be available in October, which is National Arts and Humanities Month. For more information, please contact Dr. Regennia N. Williams at rwilliams@wrhs.org.