Creative Fusion Outcomes: Pivot Center for the Arts Opening Soon in Clark-Fulton Neighborhood

Dancers working out in Inlet Dance Theater’s new studio at the Pivot Center. Photo by Gus Chan.

It is only a coincidence that several arts organizations that have participated in the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion program are among the tenants of the building now known as The Pivot Center for Arts, Dance and Expression—on West 25th Street, between Seymour and Castle Avenues. However, the dual investments of money and creative energy that the artist residency program represented over the years is also manifest in the infusion of people and activity that those organizations–and the revitalized building–will bring to the Clark-Fulton Neighborhood.

Once home to the Astrup awning and sail-making company, the sprawling 80,000 square-foot warehouse was redeveloped by Rick Foran of the Foran Group. He named it “Pivot” to emphasize the neighborhood’s ability to turn around and change for the better.

Most prominent among the new tenants is the Cleveland Museum of Art, which from 2018-2020 hosted a contingent of US and international composers with support from the Creative Fusion program. The composers wrote music inspired by art in the museum, or by the city in general, which was performed by Cleveland based musicians in concerts accessible to the community.

At the Pivot Center, the Museum will use exhibit and studio space to house its community-based programs. A beautiful, light-filled gallery fronts the building on West 25th Street, with angled windows that seem to actually pivot out onto the street. Several state-of-the-art classrooms are inside, along with storage for their Parade the Circle Collection, a workshop space, and more. At CAN’s press time, the Museum had commissioned several Cleveland-based artists to create murals in the hallways and common areas, and was installing some of the most spectacular costumes and props created for Parade the Circle over the years for an exhibit in the gallery.

Immediately next door is the LatinUS Theatre Co’s new Black Box Theater. LatinUS is part of the 2020-2021 Creative Fusion cohort, which saw its activities long-delayed by COVID. If all goes well, and COVID permits, their first production in the venue will be La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba) by Federico García Lorca, directed by John Rivera-Resto, in September. LatinUs – the first theatre company in Ohio solely dedicated to performing original, Spanish language theater–has performed in venues around Northeast Ohio since 2018, but the space in the Pivot Center is their first permanent home. It is a flex-space, adaptable to any performance’s needs. It seats 200 people. The company plans to engage people in the Clark-Fulton area by offering one free show to neighborhood residents during each production, and hosting theater classes for neighborhood kids at the Pivot Center.

Inlet Dance Theatre artistic director Bill Wade says having space at the Pivot Center fullfills a long-deferred dream. “I had the idea to have a building that was embedded in an urban neighborhood that would be filled with Creatives and health & human service organizations prior to Inlet Dance Theatre becoming a reality.” Wade spent two decades building the company, including dancers, repertory, organizational culture, and educational programming. He says the company was “nomadic” for all that time, with rehearsal space, offices and storage all over the city. Then, “In early 2018 I shared the fact that Inlet needed to find new space in a conversation that Libby Koba (Inlet’s Managing Director) and I were having with Beth Woods over at Cleveland Public Theatre. She mentioned Rick (Foran) and provided us with contact information. We visited the building, and I realized I’d been in and out of the (place) for a few years already because of Inlet’s connection to Robin VanLear (formerly with Cleveland Museum of Art/Parade the Circle), as she stored her large puppets in this building, and Inlet was often doing events with her crew. We also had been conducting programming in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood for a few years with the Boys & Girls Club at Walton School and we’d performed and done programming with MetroHealth Systems for several years in the neighborhood, so the area was not new to us at all. When we walked through the building with Rick I instantly recognized this was it–this is the building I’d been looking for all these years.”

Additional tenants of the building include La Mega Media, the Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults, and Future Ink Graphics (FIG), a community access studio for graphic designers, digital and silkscreen artists, including equipment, classes and collaborative opportunities. (FIG is owned by CAN development director Stephanie Kluk.)

The result of another of the 2020-2021 Creative Fusion artist residency is visible just outside the building, across the street on north wall of Zubal’s books: The Metro West community development corporation sponsored a residency by Detroit-based artist Gisela McDaniel, who created a mural portrait of Gina DeJesus.  The mural is visible from the Pivot Center offices of the Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults, a nonprofit founded by DeJesus and her cousin, Sylvia Colon.  It’s also just steps away from the site of the house on Seymore Avenue, where DeJesus, Michelle Knight, and Amanda Berry were held prisoner and eventually escaped. McDaniel’s mural, completed during the depths of the pandemic, is emblematic of the spirit of this new enterprise: in bright letters, the word HOPE arches across the bouquet of flowers gathered in DeJesus hands, as if to say better days are indeed coming.