The Cleveland Foundation Presents CREATIVE FUSION: Revealing Our City to Us

When Juan Capistran visited Cleveland for a week in January, we took a driving tour, starting in University Circle. There’s nothing like showing Cleveland to a visitor to reveal the city to yourself anew.

Los Angeles-based, Mexican-born Capistran is one of the Madison Residents, a cohort of national, international, and Cleveland-based artists whose residencies are supported by the Cleveland Foundation through the Creative Fusion program. You’ll read more about him and several other visiting artists on the following pages. Since they began last Fall, the Madison Residencies have offered the first public contact with artists associated with FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art.


Like most of the artists, Capistran had never been to Cleveland before. We drove through University Circle, where he had already visited the Museum and MOCA. We wound through Rockefeller Park, with its dozens of Cultural Gardens, their monuments and patios and staircases built and maintained by immigrant groups over the course of the last century. We passed under the handsome stone bridges partially funded by the Rockefeller fortune.

As we drove, Capistran wondered about the same things that challenge Clevelanders. Are we able to get to the Lake? Sure, there’s Dike 14 Nature Preserve, and Voinovich Park by the Rock Hall. And at Whiskey Island and Edgewater Park you can actually touch the water. But as we drove along the shoreway, where Burke Lakefront Airport, the power plant, the stadium, the Port Authority, and Cargil, and the water treatment plant, and all those private homes line the shore, I had to say not so much. This was remarkable for someone from Los Angeles, where public beaches are a defining part of city life.

Does the lake freeze? Yes, but some winters more than others. The percent of its surface that is frozen is reported on the local news.

Where are all the people? Clustered in certain walking-friendly neighborhoods. But even there, it was January. It was brutally cold. Everybody was inside.

Where do the Latinos live? We drove south from the Lake to get to Clark Avenue, Storer, and Denison on the Near West Side.

Where do the artists live and work? And is it easy for them to find space? We talked about neighborhoods and gentrification, and about Cleveland’s big, vacant industrial spaces: affordable luxury for artists here.

The other thing that happens while giving a visitor a tour is that the differences between places reveal common needs and interests. Artists all over the world want connection to their surroundings and their community. They all need space to do their work. In the end, meeting people from other places is less about differences than similarities.

In July, when FRONT opens with its theme, An American City, the tables will be turned: it will be the artists’ turn to show our city to us. In the mean time, here’s a preview of their works and ideas.