If Art is a reflection of society

Cleveland is a city buoyed and inspired by a workforce of artists

We have always contended that art is a part of public discourse, and not just the writing and conversation about art, but the art itself. It’s not merely decorative, though it can be. It is not merely promotional, though it can do that, too. Rather, by presenting the ideas and musings of people who make it their business to explore the world aesthetically, it helps those who pay attention to it to develop their understanding of the world that surrounds them. Indeed, it is a necessary part of that world.

This issue of CAN is all about that. If art is about community engagement, Art House is doing the heavy lifting by meeting the people of its neighborhood where they are, and giving them opportunity and a forum to express themselves by making—as you will read in Brittany Hudak’s profile of the place and its executive director Laila Voss.

The entire cohort of artists visiting Cleveland as part of the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion program this fall are making work informed by the kind of data that typically is considered “hard news.”

If art is a reflection of society, the multitude of murals painted in recent years around Cleveland show Cleveland to be a city buoyed and inspired by a workforce of artists, portraying their heritage, their diversity, their hopes, criticism, ideals and fears on a large scale; a city of artists fueled and enabled by community development corporations and other nonprofits; a city of neighborhoods competing for attention, both among themselves and on all of Cleveland’s behalf.

The role of art as public discourse has probably never been more apparent here than it is now. FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art (yes, we are still talking about that) directly took up the task of musing on the state of Cleveland and similar cities with its theme, “An American City.”  Later in this issue Douglas Max Utter muses on the whole thing, and Bruce Checefsky takes a look at one of the last exhibits standing, Allen Ruppersberg’s Then and Now, on view through December 2 at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

You’ll also find a full season of exhibits on view, all enriching the discourse. MOCA, for example, takes up one of our most pressing issues, the health of the Great Lakes, with Alexis Rackman’s The Great Lakes Cycle. Akron Art Museum explores works of Jeff Donaldson, a co-founder of the AfriCOBRA collective with Cleveland artists Wadsworth and Jae Jarrell (whose works you may have seen at the Cleveland Museum of Art and at CAN Triennial). Judson Park continues its tradition of connecting its senior citizen residents with the region’s contemporary art scene, through a series of shows featuring the likes of Jenniffer Omaitz, Mindy Tousley, and A. D. Peters. Zygote Press helps artists and Cleveland in general connect to the rest of the world through its international residency program, and offers readers a glimpse through an essay by a recent resident, UK-based letterpress artist David Armes. And of course multiple studios and art centers connect their communities to local artists during the gift-giving season through holiday markets. You’ll find our Holiday Market Guide nestled all snug in the midst of our comprehensive event listings, which begin on page 74.

It’s a great time to make and do and see in Cleveland. We look forward to seeing you.

Michael Gill

Editor / Publisher