Cultural Whirlwind Spins Global Artists Into the Cleveland Scene

Mely Barragan, center, and Daniel Ruanova, right, who together operate studios in Mexico and China, talk with local artist Jason Lehrer at the Negative Space Mixer.

It is just a week since our Creative Fusion artists arrived, and they’ve already begun to connect, frenetically, with the community.  After orientation at the Cleveland Foundation, a Lolly the Trolley tour of Greater Cleveland, a docent tour of the Art Museum, and an informal dinner at the Rainey Institute (all this between Tuesday morning and Thursday evening), the artists had part of a day off. 

We all met again Friday evening at Negative Space at the Asia Town Plaza for a meet-and-greet with local artists.  Organized collaboratively with the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, about 50 local artists showed up to meet their seven international colleagues and hopefully begin some new relationships.

Drinks; a very eclectic, delicious, and global cuisine; and lots of good music and conversation ensued.  Negative Space was the perfect venue for this event and we thank the owners/partners for their wonderful support and hospitality.

Tom Schorgl of CPAC talked about the truly remarkable variety of supports for individual artists here in Cleveland. We showed the Creative Fusion video to explain the program to those unfamiliar with it. Each Creative Fusion host presented their artist to the group and each artist spoke briefly and passed out their business cards (created for them by Michael Gill of Zygote Press – thank you, Michael). The meeting went past the scheduled time, but no one seemed to mind – even though the food was totally consumed.

Then almost everyone trooped from Negative Space’s fabulous facility the few blocks to Zygote Press’s equally fabulous artist space for Zygote’s annual 100 x 100 benefit event.  A totally rockin’ evening with one of Cleveland’s countless and always exceptional bands (Pompous Ass). 

There were many hundreds of people vying to plop down $100 to get an original print by one of the 100 artists exhibited, and hoping to have their name picked early to get their first choice.  It was like hens clucking around the farmer’s wife at feeding time. (I clucked early and got a fabulous piece by Deborah Pinter).  I left around 11 p.m. and the place was still jumpin’.

Spoiler Alert: Opinion Forthcoming!

I love this benefit because people get to buy real art at a reasonable price and the artist can offer just one in a series of prints without having to donate a one-of-a-kind or go to the expense of framing it.  Much better than the ‘auctions’ where artists spend a small fortune presenting and  donating an original work and it gets ‘auctioned’ for a pittance.  The nonprofit and the artist both get cheated in that scenario – the non-profit never gets the full benefit of what the work is worth and the artist’s work is devalued in public opinion and the market by being sold cheap.

Off my soap-box now. 

Look for more about Creative Fusion in upcoming posts.  This week, we are all off to see “War Horse,” then “Carmina Burana” and finally Shakespeare – “Much Ado About Nothing.” 

Many, many thanks to PlayhouseSquare, the Cleveland Orchestra, and Great Lakes Theater for making this exceptional taste of Cleveland culture available to our global artists.