End of an Era: Mansfield Art Center and Artists Archives of the Western Reserve Look Back at City Artists at Work
The Mansfield Art Center is very pleased to partner with the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve to present City Artists at Work, 1998–2018. This exhibition, curated by current AAWR executive director and former CAAW co–chair Mindy Tousley, will be the first in what is hoped will be a continuing partnership between AAWR and Mansfield. It brings together over eighty works, in a variety of mediums, by forty of the artists who were involved in the CAAW group over its twenty-year span. It will also mark the disbandment of CAAW.
The story behind CAAW is a familiar one for artists. It concerns forgotten industrial neighborhoods, gentrification, and the political use of artists to boost local economies.
Founded by artist William Martin Jean, City Artists at Work was a grassroots organization of artists whose primary mission was to educate the public by demystifying art in the intimacy of the artist’s studio. In what would become a signature event, twenty-seven artists from three buildings opened their studios to the public for the first studio tour on October 23, 1998. They attracted 350 guests in a three-day period, a success by any standard. Visitors were eager to see what was in the old warehouses. Delighted by the large, open interior spaces flooded with natural light, they were happy to interact with and learn from the artists. These Open Studio Tours became the vehicle for CAAW to accomplish its mission and a catalyst for the economic growth of the neighborhood.
As the years progressed, City Artists at Work was formalized and operated as a nonprofit under the umbrella of the Quadrangle (now Campus District, Inc.) CDC. By 2007, then-City Councilman Joe Cimperman estimated there were 500 artists living or working within what was initially branded by the artists as the Superior Arts Corridor (the QuARTer in 2007, and now the Superior Arts District).
Over the course of twenty years, CAAW would hold twenty-four open studio tours of forty to sixty artists in fourteen buildings, attracting over seven thousand people. Eleven galleries would come and go, sixteen exhibitions were curated for the Plain Dealer headquarters, and countless workshops and demonstrations were held.
With the encroachment of new campus housing and the recent sale of many of the buildings in the district to real estate developers GBX Group, the neighborhood continues to change. Some arts organizations that were attracted to the neighborhood—like Zygote Press and Morgan Conservatory—continue to thrive. But the fate of the individual artists’ studios is now in limbo.
“As early residents and developers, we take a little credit for the start of something big…. City Artists at Work began with the idea that there is more power as a group of artists than going it alone, and we have seen the area flourish and spread out in a way that has absorbed us in the changes that continue to take place. We are forever grateful to the Mansfield Art Center for hosting our last hurrah art exhibition. In many ways this is more than an exhibition. It is the fulfillment of our mission and a salute to those who will continue to take up the banner and lead the district into its next phase.” – WM Jean, 2018
73rd ANNUAL MAY SHOW | MAY 5–JUNE 3
CITY ARTISTS AT WORK: ARTIST ARCHIVES OF THE WESTERN RESERVE | JUNE 23–JULY 22
DOROTHY GILL BARNES: IN NATURE | AUGUST 4–SEPTEMBER 9
WENDY MINOR VINY: MAKING ART ON THE FLY | AUGUST 4–SEPTEMBER 9
THE ANDY HUDSON COLLECTION: JUST LOCAL FOLK | SEPTEMBER 29 – OCTOBER 28
MAGGIE MEINER: REVISITING ROCKWELL | SEPTEMBER 29 – OCTOBER 28
Mansfield Art Center
700 Marion Avenue
Mansfield, Ohio 44906