Did Cleveland Make You Proud?

Each issue of CAN looks ahead to a new season, but this time we’ve got to take a minute to look back on what just happened in Northeast Ohio. The FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art is winding down. The inaugural CAN Triennial is behind us. Did Cleveland make you proud?

In our view, the most important thing about CAN Triennial was not a review or any single work of art, but the collection of relationships that made it work, and the context that informed the show. Cleveland’s art scene is in the midst of a front-burner conversation about racial equity, which CAN embraced through its curators and many other choices. We are also in the midst of what feels like an unprecedented era of cooperation among our art institutions, and CAN is also a major part of that.

How did all that inform CAN Triennial? Here’s an example: it was in the context of dialog on racial equity that many of us on the Cleveland art scene connected with Mister Soul. Two decades ago he was part of the Cleveland Skribe Tribe, a locally legendary graffiti crew led by the artist SANO. They were known among graffiti crews not only for their murals along the Red Line, but for entrepreneurship and mentoring of younger artists. The crew split up, and members turned their art into careers in faraway places. Mister Soul went to Atlanta, where he organized an art scene and designed graphics for the music industry. SANO painted and taught, including on a recent US State Department cultural ambassador trip to Cambodia. Another of their members, BIAS, now designs concept cars for Hyundai. By coincidence of timing, Mister Soul was able to reunite SANO and other members of the Cleveland Skribe Tribe to create a new mural for CAN Triennial—Chief Thunderwater—on an exterior wall on the east side of West 78th Street Studios. It will not only endure as a work of public art, but also serve as a launching pad for the Cleveland Skribe Tribe to reclaim its identity as cultural players in Cleveland. That is an outcome to be proud of, and we look forward to seeing what they do.

CAN Triennial was also honored to present a room full of mixed media paintings by AfriCOBRA co-founder / Civil Rights era art icon Wadsworth Jarrell. On the heels of his exhibit with Jae Jarrell at the Cleveland Museum of Art, we were thrilled to exhibit his work in the context of other Cleveland artists. We’re also proud to have played a role in spreading awareness of AfriCOBRA’s joyful and important work, not just in Cleveland, but around Ohio. To wit: later in this issue, you’ll see the announcement of winners of CAN Triennial Exhibition Prizes. We worked with five regional museums, whose curators visited CAN Triennial and each chose from the exhibit an artist to offer a solo show in the coming years. The Mansfield Art Center chose to offer an exhibit by Wadsworth Jarrell. The Jarrells are following the tour of an exhibit in which they star: the Tate Museum’s Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power has already travelled to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. So they are busy people. But they accepted MAC’s CAN Triennial exhibition prize. It’s an enormous source of pride that CAN played a role in connecting this important piece of art history to the audience of the Mansfield Art Center in central Ohio.

Those are just two outcomes from an exhibit that highlighted ninety Cleveland artists. As you turn pages of this issue of CAN, you’ll read about other prize winners, as well as news of upcoming exhibits and programs at dozens of galleries, plus artist interviews, a look at Pittsburgh-based John Morris’s effort to build collaboration between our city and his, a preview of an upcoming show by Dott von Schneider, a review of Andy Dreamingwolf’s Moniker at the Massillon Museum, student writing on community engagement, and of course much more.

We look forward to seeing you.

Michael Gill

Editor / Publisher