Toilynn O'Neal Turner doesn't remember when art and activism were not a part of her life. From her earliest memories to her work today, her very existence has been defined and shaped by standing up and speaking with the creative voice inside her. Her latest venture has been to develop and preserve the iconic Regal Theater as the permanent home for the Robert O'Neal Multicultural Arts Center (ROMAC) in honor of her late father. As Founding Director of ROMAC, Toilynn works to celebrate, advance, and preserve African American culture and achievement through the arts, history, and education while uplifting the rich diversity of artists and cultures of Greater Cincinnati.
In addition, Toilynn is the Executive Director of Queen City Foundation, a non-profit organization whose vision is to provide educational opportunities to minority students through independent college preparatory schools.
Her work history began in 1994 and includes serving as the Museum and Visual Art Director for the Arts Consortium of Cincinnati. Under her leadership, the Arts Consortium’s visual arts program flourished. For over 11 years, she worked hard to improve the program, get the community involved, and celebrate diversity through art. In 2004, to celebrate the Arts Consortium’s anniversary, she created Reunion of Artists II: Celebrating the Artists of the 1980s-1990s. It was the second show in an ongoing annual series of mixed-media art featuring 60 works - paintings, sculpture, photography, and textiles - by 32 Art Consortium artists.
In 2005 Toilynn accepted a position at the Cincinnati Art Museum, where she worked as an Education Coordinator for Community Engagement for six years. While in this position, she also opened a physical location for her personal venture, the New American Art Gallery II, in Tower Place Mall in downtown Cincinnati. She continued her focus on arts education, diversity, and inclusion by working as the Diversity Trainer and Educational Consultant for Rice Education Consulting, helping clients to identify and eliminate barriers to improve recruitment and retention of minorities in grade schools, high schools, and colleges. As the Program Coordinator for VIBE Cincinnati and cultural curator for Fountain Square activities for 14 years, she helps to develop and implement a multicultural platform for the Cincinnati Visitor Bureau including booking talent, planning entertainment, and scheduling seasonal events for multicultural groups, conferences, and organizations visiting the area.
For over 21 years, Toilynn also served as the Director of Diversity for St. Ursula Academy, where she developed diversity initiatives and programs including training and awareness activities for staff, faculty, parents, and students; initiatives to recruit and retain diverse students; and organized cultural assemblies and community outreach programs.
Toilynn's unending dedication to the City of Cincinnati drives her passion for community collaboration, diversity, and cultural education for her city. Her extensive list of past and current volunteer positions includes membership on the board of the Cincinnati Arts Association, The Cincinnati Ballet, Invest in Neighborhood, Preschool Promise, Clifton Cultural Art Center, Walnut Hills Area Council, and the Nrityarpana School of Performing Arts. She has been active on committees for the Freedom Center, the African American Chamber of Commerce, the Cincinnati Museum Center, the University of Cincinnati Diversity Officer Roundtable, Boys Hope Girls Hope of Cincinnati School, the Mayor’s Commission of Gender Equality, and the National African American Museum Association.
Along with her many accolades and awards, Toilynn was recently honored by the Contemporary Art Center at their 2022 Regional Gala. In February 2022, Cincinnati Regional Chamber recognized her as a “ Black History Maker in Cincinnati.” 2019 when she received the MAC Award for Diversity and Leadership in the Arts from the Multicultural Awareness Council (MAC) of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. This award recognizes local artists, administrators, and visionaries who have forged paths for the inclusion of underrepresented communities in the arts. Other awards have included the NAACP Arts and Education Award, Cincinnati Who’s Who in Black Cincinnati for the Arts, Kenton County (KY) Award for Art Education, Leading Women Award for Art /Entertainment (Women’s Fund Greater Cincinnati Foundation), Cincinnati YWCA Rising Star Recipient, Cincinnati Herald Nefertiti Award, Eye of the Artist Foundation “Dada Rafiki” Award, Outstanding Woman of America, and she was also an Applause ImageMaker Emerging Leader Recipient.
Her direct, hands-on efforts have helped numerous organizations throughout the city. She was at the forefront of diversity, equity, and inclusion before it was part of our popular vernacular. She sees art as a change agent that heals communities by allowing them to express their emotions and struggles. She is a rare treasure in Cincinnati: an artist, an activist, and an educator. Every day, in hundreds of ways, Toilynn O'Neal Turner lives her own mission of promoting diversity through the arts.