Worldwide Begins at Home

You’ve seen at least one variation of this idea expressed on bumper stickers: Think Globally: Act Locally. That may mean something different to everyone who reads it, but when it’s stuck on the back of an old, fuel-efficient car along with a bunch of other bumper stickers that say things like “Imagine Whirled Peas,” and “Coexist” (spelled out in the symbols of world religions), it seems to mean something about social consciousness. If you want a clean world, clean up your own mess. If you want a sustainable world, lead your own life in a self-sufficient, sustainable way.

Phrases like “Buy Local,” or “Support Local Artists,” mean something different, and they are not simply expressions of pride in our place: artists of this rust belt city need your support to continue doing what they do, and to have a place in the culture. They build local culture, and they need local investment to continue that work.

Carried to extremes, though, a focus on local support to the point of excluding anything else is an isolationist approach. And you can see plenty of this on social media. Whenever an artist from elsewhere gets a local commission, a chorus of locally-focused voices wonders why the patron or the foundation couldn’t have found someone in Cleveland to do that work.

But if we don’t show interest in the world at large, why should people from elsewhere pay attention to us? If cities all over the world were to support only their own local artists, how would anyone develop a broader audience?  How would a Cleveland artist get a show, commission, or residency in another city?

It’s a dynamic that will never resolve itself—the need to support a local economy, to take pride in the place you call home, to let it inform your work, but also to be universal, to look beyond your local geography.

As we organized the beginning of CAN’s coverage of both this fall’s Creative Fusion artists and the first FRONT International, I was talking with FRONT’s Lisa Kuerzner about artists who would come here from around the world, from around the US, and artists of Northeast Ohio. Her take on all that categorization: They are all artists in the same world. Why can’t we just call them artists?

It’s about balance. This issue of CAN also marks our first public announcement of an event built specifically to present Cleveland artists and galleries to the world: CAN Triennial. Since FRONT was first announced, we heard from many of you that local artists and galleries need significant representation to capture some of the international attention the event will bring. CAN Triennial will scour the countryside for artists, eliminate barriers for applications, and bring together critical mass so that cultural tourists have a destination attraction that gives them an in-depth look at Cleveland art. It will also offer booth space to galleries and studios so that people who want to take a piece of Cleveland art home with them can find a broad selection  in one place. CAN Triennial will balance the local side of the scale. Details are evolving fast, but one thing is constant: in July 2018, we want you there.

And as always, we look forward to seeing you.

Michael Gill