Hank Willis Thomas NXTHVN exhibition features audience participation

NXTHVN, an international art institution in the Dixwell neighborhood of New Haven, CT, will exhibit Hank Willis Thomas and Ryan Alexiev’s “the truth is i am you” from September 24 to November 20, 2022. The audience is invited to complete the prompt “the truth is…” on large balloons that float throughout the gallery space. The personal truths written on the balloons will become part of the collective experience of the exhibition, with messages added throughout the life of the installation.

NXTHVN will host an opening receptiononSeptember24 from1 to 3 p.m. At 2 p.m., Hank Willis Thomas and NXTHVN’s programs manager, Victoria McCraven, will participate in a conversation.

“the truth is i am you” aims to ignite conversation, inviting viewers to approach their varied perspectives on value and truth with a new sense of understanding. The exhibition also includes balloons with phrases from an accompanying poem composed by Thomas and Alexiev, such as “the truth is i respect you,” “the truth is i welcome you” and “the truth is i need you.”

As a compliment to the balloon installation, a video of “truth is…” messages gathered from the public by The Truth Booth—a touring, inflatable booth developed by The CAUSE COLLECTIVE that traveled around the world—will be on view. A vibrant speech bubble bench titled, “Josephine and Kazumi,” will be installed at NXTHVN’s facade, inviting visitors to rest, contemplate and reflect.

First exhibited at the University of California at San Francisco in 2007, “the truth is i am you is” part of Thomas’ ongoing series of interactive installations that are intended to ignite conversations and create circumstances for deliberate participation. Referencing Andy Warhol’s “Silver Clouds,” which originally debuted in 1966, “the truth is i am you” provides viewers a new point of entry to actively engage with the arts with candor, by considering who we are, what we value, where we come from and where we are going—both in and outside the walls of NXTHVN.


Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. Thomas holds a B.F.A. from New York University, and an M.A./M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts. Thomas also holds honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art, and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts.

Thomas’ work is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art;  the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.  His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad.


NXTHVN Facade. Courtesy NXTHVN.
NXTHVN Facade. Courtesy NXTHVN.

NXTHVN is a groundbreaking institution that combines the best of arts and entrepreneurship. Through access, education, programming and impact investing, NXTHVN launches the careers of artists and curators and strengthens the livelihood of its local community. Located in the historically Black Dixwell neighborhood of New Haven, CT, the expansive adapted-reuse campus houses gallery, studio, library, office and coworking, performance and living spaces in addition to a forthcoming storefront cafe.

Cornerstone programs include a renowned fellowship to educate and accelerate emerging and underrepresented artists and curators, paid arts apprenticeships for local high school students and business incubation to nurture cultural and capital value in the neighborhood.

Co-founded in 2018 by acclaimed visual artist Titus Kaphar and private equity investor Jason Price—both longtime residents of New Haven—NXTHVN represents a new national arts model for developing an equitable society.

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