SPACES: Capturing the Essence Unique

The view from St. Clair

The view from St. Clair

Gambling is about faith and delusion. It’s about believing that on any given day, odds that are clearly stacked against you might just fall into one of those statistically inevitable streaks that let you win the game for a little while.

In the summer of 2012, that’s an obvious takeaway from a Cleveland SGS installation, the Essence Unique Shrine, a part of SPACES’ Convention and Visitors bureau exhibit. With its slot-machine altar, the shrine dazzles with light and captures a moment in Cleveland’s psyche when gambling mixes with spirituality for people who have no choice but to make due with the hand they are dealt. Easy listening pipes into the shrine. The walls are papered with black and white graphics that pop with a festive jumble of skulls and martini glasses, numbers, and dollar bills.

But to read the exhibit as commentary on what a casino brings to town is a reactionary oversimplification. What the shrine actually celebrates is culture and history, as told by people who remember it, and as seen in back issues of the Call and Post newspaper. Inspired by those stories and graphics, Cleveland SGS created the fictitious Essence Unique Shrine and adjacent movie house in a real building at East 72nd and St. Clair, as part of a Cleveland Urban Design center project re-imagining the neighborhood. What the installation at SPACES offers, then, is an extension of that — love of the city, an imaginative history that just happens to coincide with the opening of a downtown casino.

That neighborhood embrace dominates the mood in the Convention and Visitors Bureau, which could easily have been a sarcastic look at civic salesmanship. Instead, the artists and organizations report on quirky assets. They tell what might be secrets even to people who live here.

Some of the exhibits will inspire curiosity, like the Cleveland Urban Design Center’s Tourist Attractions of the Future, a map of real potential fulfilled–the Detroit Superior Bridge opened as public space, abandoned homes in use as “bio cellars.” Some re-frame information, and with it the way you think about a place, like Ryan Griffith’s “Riparian City,” which treats the Doan Brook watershed as a political entity, with flags and passports. Some ask that you go somewhere else—like to the Loren Naji studio (2138 W. 25th St.) to see the Beautiful Possibility Road Show, an exhibit of hand painted, wild west style banners by San Francisco-based artist Alison Pebworth, presented as part of SPACES World Artist Program.

It’s hopeful without being a snow job. It doesn’t over promise. It re-presents at what we’ve got.


Through July 13

CUDC Twilight excursion June 28

Goodnight Cleveland bus tour July 13

2220 Superior Viaduct

Cleveland, Ohio 44113