Cleveland Foundation announces Creative Fusion: Waterways to Waterways

Release Date: 1.31.2019

CLEVELAND – As part of the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River catching fire on June 22, 1969, the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion: Waterways to Waterways Edition will bring together a group of international and local artists to focus on projects that connect the regenerative efforts for the Cuyahoga to global waterways.

“When we were considering how our artist residency program could have an impact in 2019, we thought the Cuyahoga River and environmental justice would be a perfect fit,” said Lillian Kuri, Cleveland Foundation Vice President for Strategic Grantmaking, Arts & Urban Design Initiatives. “The Cuyahoga River Valley, clean water and Cleveland’s role in environmental protection are important focal points for the local and international artists to share ideas, reflect and innovate together.”

This two-pronged initiative will incorporate works that artists are doing in other parts of the world to inspire continuing progress in Cleveland and around the globe, while providing a platform for Cleveland to share lessons with the rest of the world about how to revive and reimagine a river.

“Our freshwater system is Cleveland’s greatest natural resource and one that was neglected for far too long,” said Stephen Love, Cleveland Foundation Program Officer for Environment. “We are blessed to have such wonderful partners and believe this will be a tremendous opportunity to showcase the recovery of the Cuyahoga to the world.”

The Creative Fusion cohort is a part of Cleveland’s broader Cuyahoga50 initiative ( which brings people together throughout 2019 to celebrate clean water and ignite future action through storytelling, discussion, and debate.

“There is much to celebrate in Cleveland around the rebirth of the Cuyahoga River,” said Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson. “It is a fitting tribute to see the environmental strides we’ve made as a city commemorated in the work of these well-respected artists.”

Five local organizations will host the international artists, who will participate in a variety of projects:

Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA)

CIA will bring internationally-recognized German architect and planner Lukas Kronawitter to Cleveland to share his expertise in green urbanism and sustainable design. Kronawitter will help design sustainable solutions to improve the health of river ecosystems alongside CIA Professor Doug Paige and a team of students. Using the principles and methodology of biomimicry, the collaborative team will design, test, and build a functional, scaled model of a “green” bulkhead that will combine human-made elements and vegetation to help emulate the flow and function of natural river systems. Biomimicry, as its name implies, is the study of designs found in nature and the imitation of those natural designs in human-made objects to create effective, sustainable solutions. CIA students will help to design and build the scaled exhibit model, along with printed materials to help communicate the design concept with the public. Once the scaled model is developed, the green bulkhead will be exhibited in a place that allows for public interaction and education. The project has the potential to inform future design and implementation of sustainable river management systems in the Cuyahoga and other rivers throughout the country and the world to improve the health of polluted or over-managed waterways.

Cleveland Print Room (CPR)

1) International artist in residence

CPR has selected Ethiopian photographer and photojournalist Michael Tsegaye, who lives and works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. One of Tsegay’s photographic series features aerial photography of the patchwork farmland in Ethiopia. It is with this inspiration that he will create an exhibition of aerial photographs of the Cuyahoga River and its crooked bend from a helicopter. Tsegaye is working with local artist, John W. Carlson who is serving as the artist liaison on this project.

2) Cuyahoga River walk

Native American artist Sharon Day, an Ojibwe elder from Minnesota, plans to lead a river walk along the entire stretch of the Cuyahoga. Day spent much of the past seven years calling attention to American rivers by leading walks that combine native ritual with political activism. She has walked the length of the Mississippi, the Ohio, the Chippewa, and the St. Louis. The proposed water walk will begin at the Cuyahoga’s headwaters in northern Ohio and end four days later, in a process in which Day leads a group that carries the sacred river water to the mouth of the Cuyahoga, where it empties into Lake Erie. Tri-C student Erahlea Harnett will create an artistic-driven documentary to exhibit.

3) Archival and new photography of the bridges along the Cuyahoga River

Photographer and artist Sophie Schwartz, a Cleveland native, will explore the Cuyahoga watershed and bridges along the way, capturing people using the bridges. The human element is critical to her study as she will create a photographic essay as a mixture of environmental portraits and landscapes using a large format 4×5 view camera. Her project will juxtapose a photographic survey of the existing structures with archival images and architectural drawings of bridges on the river, placing the past fifty years within a larger historical context. Researching the Cleveland State University Archives Photo Collection, as well as the Photograph Collection at the Cleveland Public Library, the project will include archival photographs of the river, bridges, and life.

4) River Water Soup

CPR’s Teen Institute arts mastery students will undertake a project in which they capture the traces of the overlooked and unseen along the Cuyahoga River – to hold all its breadth into a narrow form. Using an alternative photographic cyanotype process, the students will attempt to see what the place may add (or subtract) to the organic and conceptual results. Creating cyanotypes at the riverside takes away the usual element of sterility in the traditional photographic process that will further add to the mystery of the final outcome. Students will create a book that documents the process and the experimental results.

Kent State University Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (KSU CUDC)

1) The Detroit Superior Bridge project

The KSU CUDC has selected Squidsoup, a UK-based design collaborative that creates digital and interactive media experiences, to create and immerse residents and visitors in an interactive experience on the streetcar level of the Detroit Superior Bridge. Squidsoup will create an engaging public spectacle for the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 celebration of the Cuyahoga River. The project will reinforce connections between the bridge, the banks of the river, Downtown Cleveland, and near-west neighborhoods. This will help the CUDC and the City of Cleveland build momentum for transforming this remarkable and underutilized resource into a signature public space and bicycle/pedestrian connection.

2) International Design Exchange (INDEX) studio

A second part of Creative Fusion 2019 includes an International Design Exchange between Cleveland-based graduate students in architecture and urban design from Kent State’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design, the University de Medellin in Colombia, and the Lebanese American University in Beirut. The Medellin River in Medellin and Beirut River in Beirut have been degraded by adjacent industries and urbanization. Colombian and Lebanese designers and community activists are working to restore the ecological health of both rivers. Commonalities between the Beirut, Medellin, and Cuyahoga rivers provide an opportunity for a cross-cultural exchange of ideas between Lebanese, Colombian and U.S. design students.

LAND studio

LAND studio and Cleveland artist Malaz Elgemiabby will transform the former community center at Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Riverview Terrace property in Ohio City – which is currently being used as a storage facility. LAND and the artists will work closely with Riverview and Lakeview Terrace residents, the refugees at the Ohio City Farm, and other neighborhood stakeholders, to reimagine the former community center into a place that reflects the people it serves. The redeveloped space on this site will provide a variety of uses including a public gathering space, gallery, an information center featuring the history of Irishtown Bend and Cleveland’s waterways, a demonstration site for sustainable building materials, and a programming space for LAND studio and all of the other organizations that are part of the 2019 Creative Fusion cohort.

Praxis Fiber Workshop

Praxis has invited Venezuelan artists Eduardo Portillo and Mariá Eugenia Dávila to partner with a pair of local artists to be the first to use its newly fermented Indigo Vat (via a naturally-grown indigo crop and ready for use in spring 2019). Each Creative Fusion artist or team will be responsible for helping to facilitate three workshops, with a total of nine workshops across Cleveland over eight weeks. Tentatively slated to take place at Praxis (located in North Collinwood), the Collinwood Recreation Center, the Collinwood/Nottingham Library and Euclid Beach, the goal is to engage 900 people across the region during this residency. Other locations could include the West Side Market, 78th Street Studios, Morgan Conservatory, Shaker Heights Shelton Park, Edgewater Park and Public Square. 900 squares will be sewn together by Praxis staff to create a total of three 60-foot banners, which will be on display during celebrations to commemorate the anniversary of the burning of the Cuyahoga River.

Global PechaKucha Night: Waterways

PechaKucha Night Cleveland and LAND studio will host Global PechaKucha Night: Waterways, a groundbreaking event featuring thought leaders and activists from around the globe. The PechaKucha format is fast-paced and engaging, with each presentation consisting of 20 slides timed to 20 seconds of speaking time per slide. This gives each presenter exactly 6 minutes, 40 seconds to wow the audience and convey their message – no less, no more. This crowd-pleasing format was pioneered in Tokyo in the early 2000s and quickly spread to over 1,000 cities worldwide.

Slated to take place Thursday, June 20 at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, Global PechaKucha Night: Waterways will be the 34th PechaKucha Night in Cleveland, and the first to feature nationally and internationally renowned experts in addition to local presenters. Taking place in an open-air amphitheater on the banks of the Cuyahoga almost 50 years to the day of the river’s burning, the event will highlight water issues in an exciting, accessible format appealing to both clean water stakeholders and the public at large.

About Creative Fusion

Since 2008, the Cleveland Foundation has brought more than 90 accomplished or rapidly rising artists from around the world to Cleveland as part of an international arts residency program. Each year, artists from Creative Fusion cohorts are hosted by local cultural institutions during a three-month residency. Creative Fusion artists collaborate with local Cleveland artists on a commissioned project during their stay, and engage directly with the community, making strong connections and exchanges. Beginning in 2016, the program strengthened collaboration between local Cleveland artists and the visiting artists by focusing each Creative Fusion cohort along a theme, those have included Creative Fusion: Data Edition, Creative Fusion: Composer Edition, The Madison Residencies as part for FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, Creative Fusion: Cuba Edition, and Creative Fusion: Street Art Edition. More information about Creative Fusion: Waterways to Waterways can be found at, and by following #CreativeFusionCLE across Cleveland Foundation and host organization social media properties.

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