The Long and Unconventional Road to the Cleveland Convention Gallery
Here is the story of an unconventional art gallery that took more than 25 years to develop and open in the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. In the early ’90s I was hired by Forest City to develop an art and technology exhibit at Tower City in the old Barney’s space. I worked with Richard Humphrey from New York to curate the three-month show that welcomed more than 10,000 guests.
Based on our success, we began to explore other venues to showcase art and technology in Cleveland. The nearby Cleveland Convention Center—at the time owned and operated by the City of Cleveland—offered a central downtown location and looked like a perfect choice for a permanent exhibit. Our plan, titled Forces–Cleveland in the 21st Century, was based on a central permanent location at the Convention Center with fifteen satellite exhibits spaced throughout Cleveland and sponsored by individual corporations. We had one corporation on board, but the Convention Center management did not agree to it and the project died.
Over the next decades, I contacted various people at the Convention Center to incorporate art and Cleveland-centric banners to showcase our cultural center and sports teams. But there was no interest.
Fast forward to 2015. The brand-new Huntington Convention Center is now owned by the Cuyahoga County Convention Facilities Development Corporation and managed by SMG. Christy Gray and I met with the SMG team and made our recommendations. Christy and I have collaborated on several large projects, including the new Cuyahoga County Administration Building. The project stalled due to a lack of support and funding. In the meantime, I was looking for a space large enough to show Sam Roth’s eight-foot paintings and David Deming’s sculpture.
With Ron King assuming the general manager duties at the Huntington Convention Center and with the support of the County Executive, we moved forward with a new model based on offering the Roth and Deming exhibit, A Conversation in Metal and Canvas, on a short-term basis with no cost to the county. Since the Gallery opened in June, thousands of visitors to the Huntington Convention Center have enjoyed the new Cleveland Convention Gallery and it has provided the Convention Center with a unique, unconventional advantage not enjoyed in many other convention centers.
Today, we are moving forward with a permanent gallery in the Huntington Convention Center, featuring changing exhibits showcasing the amazing talent of local artists and supporting the commerce of art by inviting commercial galleries into the space. I have the good fortune to manage the gallery and we’re excited to welcome our new exhibit featuring the work of George Kozmon and Guy-Vincent, scheduled for an April opening.
The Cleveland Convention Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm and is free and open to the public. The Gallery is located on the Concourse level of the Huntington Convention Center between the Global Center for Health Innovation and the connected Hilton Cleveland Downtown. This unconventional Gallery has a long, twisted history but is today a great success.
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