A Pause: Reflection and Change at the Morgan Conservatory

Although the Morgan’s doors have been closed throughout the pandemic, our urban garden used to grow fibers for papermaking is thriving. ABOVE: Kozo (paper mulberry) which we harvest each year for Japanese papermaking.

“Times are tough, and they’ve challenged everybody,” reflects Tom Balbo, founder and artistic director. “I started with the concept for the Morgan in 2006. This must be unlucky 13.”

This summer of closures, postponements, and uncertainties has caused us to realize that often the most memorable experiences of art involve crowded spaces. Back in March, we canceled the opening reception of our most packed event of the year and launched our National Juried Exhibition digitally. We also canceled our summer workshop season, which included 25 paper arts classes taught by national artists.

Gradually, the cautious optimism that we would return to a new normal sooner than later was met with the reality that this pandemic is following us into the future. Since April, the Morgan’s staff have been furloughed. We have postponed our 2020 gallery schedule and artist residency program until we’re certain that we’ve developed an informed and intentional approach to safely reopening. This year’s residency program included two artists traveling from Chile, one from Australia, and six national artists.

“Through the tough times, we’re trying to keep the vision of the Morgan intact. Although it has been eerie to see the building empty throughout the summer, our garden is hopeful and the birds and butterflies have returned,” Balbo says.

During this pause, we’ve also begun to reimagine the future of our programming. The Morgan is located in between Cleveland’s MidTown and Hough districts; Balbo also owns a private studio in the latter. “I’ve been active in the Hough area for thirty-some years. This neighborhood has given me a lot. In this time for reflection, I’ve found that we need to be more proactive in being an equitable organization,” he says.

We hope to fully reactivate in 2021. This will include renewed plans to support, engage, and amplify the voices of artists of color through all aspects of our programming and community. It will also include digital programming, such as workshops, gallery exhibitions, artists interviews, and studio visits.

As for the remainder of 2020, we’re tentatively planning to display our National Juried Exhibition with timed gallery entry, and to host a socially-distanced kozo harvest in November. In a world forever changed by the pandemic, we believe more than ever in the necessity of creativity and the power of collective expression. Together we’ll adapt, persist, and remain creative.

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1754 East 47th Street

Cleveland, Ohio 44103