How do the arts reshape urban neighborhoods? A look at SPACES, Transformer Station & FRONT Triennial.

by | Jan 29, 2018 | Arts & Culture, Events & Festivals, Neighborhoods & Housing

Monday, January 29, 2018 – Once a month, our whole staff takes a field trip to learn something new in NE Ohio so we have the latest info to share with the recruits and newcomers we are hired to educate and acclimate. This morning we met at SPACES Art Gallery in Ohio City’s Hingetown where Fred Bidwell (who along with his wife Laura is the force behind the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Transformer Station) and SPACES Director Christina Vassallo. They shared insights into how the arts can help re-invent urban neighborhoods.

FRONT Triennial’s Fred Bidwell with EA staff.

When Fred and Laura Bidwell bought the building that is now Transformer Station, they hoped it would be an anchor for Hingetown – a way to attract visitors to an area they might never have taken the time to visit. The 1924 former electrical station was originally used to power streetcars between downtown and Ohio City. It was re-imagined and opened in 2013 and is owned and operated by The Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation. And, with the support of both the Bidwells and the heavily-endowed Cleveland Museum of Art behind this property, real estate development began to happen at a faster pace. Rehabs and new construction projects skyrocketed and more restaurants and bars joined those that Hingtown residents Graham Veysey and Marika Shioiri-Clark had begun a few years earlier.
In a unique marriage with the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Bidwells loan the galleries to CMA for half of the yearly schedule, and the Bidwells (highly regarded contemporary art collectors themselves) are responsible for the shows the other half of the year. In addition, they have promised Transformer Station as a legacy gift to CMA in the future. In a strong show of commitment to the neighborhood, the Bidwells just recently moved from the sleepy, charming town of Peninsula to the third floor loft space above SPACES.
Fred then shared his vision for the upcoming FRONT Triennial, which he hopes will serve as a catalyst for cultural tourism to NE Ohio. FRONT, which kicks off and in July and runs through September will be a region-wide arts event with exhibitions in galleries and museums. It will also have visitors exploring non-traditional venues like St. John’s Church in Ohio City, the lobby of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the hold of the William G. Mather Steamship, and more. Fred described it as an “art scavenger hunt through NE Ohio for your whole family.”  FRONT rehabbed two historic buildings in Cleveland’s Glenville neighorhood (which had previously housed a daycare center and medical offices) to host Artists-in-Residence who are part of the 2018 FRONT. The Triennial will also leave behind permanent art in downtown CLE through a series of 15 wall murals, between Public Square and Playhouse Square, inspired by one of Cleveland’s greatest artists – Julien Stanczak.
Finally, the EA staff took a tour through SPACES with Director Christine Vassallo, a recent transplant from NYC. SPACES is a non-profit art space that showcases local work, provides space for artists to be creative and network and offers community-oriented events including their annual fundraiser Monster Drawing Rally, which brings 100 local artists to SPACES on Saturday, March 31st to create art with visitors looking, then offer each competed piece for sale ($75!) to the first person who spies it. Sounds like a cool mix of supporting local artists, a cool gallery and an adrenaline fueled race to claim the art you like bes – how fun is that?

Christine Vassallo shows EA staffers SPACES Gallery.

Margy Judd & Cari Ross show Truman some love.

SPACES itself is a community gathering space, offering classes and a huge boardroom that can be used for meetings, artists connecting with each other, etc. Their exhibits will challenge your mind and their board is a wonderful mix of artists and business people. Next time you visit a restaurant, shop, or bar in Hingetown, stop at SPACES to check out their new space and meet the gallery’s dog, Truman.
If you’d like your recruits and new hires to learn about the culture of the region to help you attract and retain the best possible talent, call us at 216.231.9311.