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Enter with Courage
Handle with Care
Learning Guide 



  • Where Do You Stand, People & Land Exploration

  • Shine a Light Citizen Research & Photo Analysis 

  • Erasure Map Exploration

  • Modern Day "Strange Fruit" Poem Prompt

  • Mending Fences, Mental Health Roundtable

  • Compare & Contrast Muhammad Ali's "Red Bike" Moment & Mrs. Ada Doss Campbell's "No One is Coming" Moment

Enter with Courage, Handle with Care: Learning Guide is a digital educational resource to impart a connection between the artist, visual art, and global community engaging throughout the communicated temporary exhibition honoring Mrs. Ada Doss Campbell. The guide contextualizes the artistic installation by Marlesha, while simultaneously welcoming diversified museum attendees and virtual learners into the meaning-making that collaborative spaces of place and identity reveal. This guide is accessible through simply scanning a designated QR code within the Muhammad Ali Center's Ina B. Bond Gallery located in Louisville, KY. 

This learning tool and visual installation is one of seven artistic expressions of "We Don't Wither" created among trailblazing artists exhibiting. The curatorial leadership of Bess Goldy, Senior Manager of Collections & Exhibits at the Muhammad Ali Center ideated the #wedontwither group exhibition to navigate the cross-stitched byways of art and activism. 

All art and photos are subject to copyright and may be shared unaltered for educational purposes and social sharing. Sincere gratitude is extended for reimagining people and land interactions with us restoratively. 

"Seriously you need to connect with anything Marlesha does."
Genuis. Generous. Joy. 
Dr. Natalie Witherspoon, The Global EDchange, Haiti

If you are in Louisville you must visit the Mohammad Ali Center and the poignant current “We Don’t Wither” art exhibit. The whole experience was extraordinary.




Congratulations on a wonderful event and gallery exhibition.  Thanks so much for including me! 


Thank you for having us and sharing your art and your story with us!


Louisville Metro Government

I loved the exhibition.



Your installation & presentation were both fascinating.


I am grateful I was present for your presentation and very much enjoyed the gallery portion, too.


Senior Manager of Collections & Exhibits Muhammad Ali Center

This is amazing



    Enter    Courage
Handle    Care 

is an exhibition exploring the evolution of land & the many people that have been erased

from it.


we honor the life of Mrs. Ada Doss Campbell & stand in solidarity to restore her narrative, as she was a victim of discrimination & medical racism. She was erased from the land where she was held involuntarily until her egregious death.

We recognize the historical atrocities that claimed

countless lives including a heightened population

of African American citizens at Lakeland Asylum,

chattel slavery that preceded its claim, & the

many Native American & Indigenous people

including the Shawnee tribe that were forced off

of the land.






Chained Door


Cracked Mud


“here is a strange & bitter crop.” 
Abel Meeropol

Deeply Rooted
Broken Vessels




we are interwoven


Artist Statement 

My art is a representation of over thirty years of self-discovery, of which at least 5 years were void of art-making, prayers, and deep hopes during the mid 2000’s. Immersing myself back into art culture and creating, I bring with me diversified narratives that deepen my passion to protect mind, body, and spirit.

This collection, Enter with Courage Handle with Care, was created between 2019-2023 with intentions not to trip over art-speak, and is accompanied with a digital learning guide; to personally hear my heart behind this work. I relay parts of my personal story, share anecdotes of my matriarchs, and preserve the narrative of the late Mrs. Ada Doss Campbell. 

There are some stories that one hears that are not necessarily personal but yet, not disconnected from a known reality, a string of place and time that moves beyond compassion and lands on a call-to-action. Her narrative strikes a chord with me and I amplify its unifying abilities with you. 

There is fluidity within the stories that I share and the modes in which I create. My use of polychromatic fusion, or multiuse of color colliding on canvas naturally creates forms. Some brushstrokes are arranged with structure, while much of the process for the paintings exhibited are created without knowing the intended end. This method to some is akin to process art and resembles abstract expressionism. I choose to superimpose human figures and portraiture selectively. 

I primarily create acrylic paintings. While building textures at times, I use natural materials such as: sand, textiles, and botanicals harvested from my garden or forest floor respectfully. After saturating a painting's background with a series of color washes, I vary the viscosity levels within the paints and pigments, understanding that similarly to life, the heaviest or most burdened layer subsides to the background and the lighter materials float to the surface. Just as stressors can be pushed down chemically, at some point they are inevitably revealed. The works displayed express many sides of interpreting life.


You may also explore wearable art exclusively designed for the Muhammad Ali Center retail store, created from eco-friendly materials such as modal scarves made from beechwood, and glass and wooden handmade beadwork reminiscent of my late grandmother, Elsz’ fiber artistry. I honor my matriarchs with my work including the “O” in Elsz & O, my late great aunt, Olist, the first African American artist and professor that I knew, from the sharecropping-hills of Tennessee. She spirited my innate artistic gifts early on and most significantly, my mother, Marilyn Cooper, who cherishes me always. 


My work is inspired by nature, cultural and personal memories. Processing my own transgenerational trauma, healing from abuse, surviving medical racism, systemic barriers and oppressions of living in a world submerged in Anti-Blackness has impacted my art. I create outward expressions to bring light to challenging issues, love and gratitude from within, to honor self, family and community. My faith ushers in possibilities to become who and what I need to be throughout my journey as an artist, woman, and conduit for culture shifts. 

I do not believe that personhood and production can be severed. My identity and lived experiences are multifaceted and intricately connected to narratives of the populations that I serve, love and are loved by. Art in this context is a reflection of both the sum and parts of identity. 

My desire for those that choose to engage with my art, is to be as intentional as I was through the art-making process. I welcome each community member as a participant and not a voyeur. Take a look and then look again. Observe the work, dive into the color-play, rhythm, broken lines, mergers of styles, layered textures, movement and emotions. Art is a vehicle to travel our minds to what is, what was, and what can be.

Consider abstractions from your own story and explore the intersections of belonging here in this paint that is birthed from place-informed, people-centered, and purpose-driven work. 

Enter with Courage Handle with Care


This exhibition supports the Muhammad Ali Center's universal mission to "be great & do great things." Additionally, 30% of all art proceeds will be donated by artist, Marlesha to Phoenix Global Humanitarian Foundation in support of advocacy initiatives, &

anti-racism research to preserve the narratives of Mrs. Ada Doss Campbell. 



im·mer·sive learning STARTS HERE

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