Artists Can Build a Better Future

With Waterloo Arts and other art businesses closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, the streets are quiet in North Collinwood.

As I sat with other shop and gallery owners during our monthly arts district meeting on March 11, we knew something serious was afoot; but we were still talking about future events as though the storm would somehow blow over and life would go on.

By the end of the hour, texts were filling our phones, and by the end of the day, my inbox was filled with cancellations. The next day, Waterloo Arts closed up shop, like so many places in the city, for what we thought would be a monthlong hiatus. The days immediately following were a whirlwind, with news changing so fast that what you thought made sense one hour, seemed absurd by the next. The way this pandemic has affected our sense of time and space is fascinating, and I wonder what, if any, of those changes will be lasting.

It was difficult to cancel the afterschool program pilot we had worked with neighborhood artists to plan, and now we are working to put the annual DayGlo and Juried exhibits online and then moving them into fall gallery slots for what we hope will be in-person shows. At the time of writing this, I don’t have a definite decision on what we are doing with the Waterloo Arts Fest—whether we will postpone it, cancel it or try to change the program to something more immediately relevant.

Before this crisis hit, I was working with a handful of very part-time staff to improve our efficiency and effectiveness as an organization. Although it is difficult, we continue to do that work for the long run, because it seems like this will be a long run. The challenges now are dire, but we also have an opportunity to rebuild our communities in better, more resilient and socially strong ways.

If we do it right, the arts will play an important role in that future. Individual artists are vital to the health of our communities; and we are hoping to provide small opportunities to help artists get through this difficult time, and also to engage in conversations with residents about the future of our Collinwood neighborhood and how we can all work together to build a better future.


15605 Waterloo Road

Cleveland, Ohio 44110