CAN’s Top Ten Posts of 2021

The Immersive Van Gogh Experience. Photo by Luke Frazier for his essay, A Van Gogh-ing.

The thing about the internet is, you don’t have to ask what is popular. You know by the number of page views. So with page views as our yardstick, we’re going to tell you what were CAN’s Top Ten Posts of 2021.

But first, a word on such things: Some of the stories that got the most views in 2021 were actually posted in previous years. So we’ve taken those out of the running.  In 2021, the three posts that would have made the top ten if they had not been posted more than a year ago include an introductory column called If Art is a Reflection of Society; a feature story called Railroad Fame, about the exhibit of railroad graffiti at the Massillon Museum; and Making Sense of the Hills, a story about Andy Goldsworthy’s visit to Cleveland, occasioned by the commission of not one but seven of his major “projects” for an outdoor sculpture garden on a private estate east of Cleveland.

We also took out any “listicles.” Whether we should do that or not is a good question: Articles which are primarily lists of upcoming events are not “think pieces” or reviews, but they are useful refrerence information, and they are much-used reference material. Nonetheless, we are not counting our list of Holiday Markets in this top ten.

Without further ado, here they are:

Norman Rockwell’s From Concord to Tranquility (1971) was the cover of the Boy Scouts of America calendar in 1973, and the cover image for our Spring 2021 issue, featuring A Scouting Adventure in Mahoning County–Erin O’Brien’s telling of the creation story of the Medici Museum and how it came to be keeper of this and 64 other original Norman Rockwell paintings in the Boy Scouts of America collection.

10. A Scouting Adventure with Norman Rockwell, in the Mahoning Valley

Here Erin O’Brien looks behind the scenes at the unusual genesis story of the Medici Museum. The new institution was created when the lease expired on the Butler Institute’s use of its branch in Howland, Ohio, and owners of the building decided to start their own museum that would house a collection of Boy Scout art, including approximately 60 original paintings by Norman Rockwell.

9. Cleveland Mayoral Candidates and the Arts: Who Gets Your Vote?

This story gathered all the interviews we did with 7 primary election candidates in the race for Cleveland Mayor. The big takeaway: All seven candidates answered that yes they would 1) create a cabinet-level position to advise the administration and serve as liaison to the arts community; 2) dedicate a line item in their budget in support of the arts; and 3) work with the arts and cultural community to create an arts and cultural plan for the city.

Candidate Justin Bibb

8. Cleveland Mayoral Candidates and the Arts: Justin Bibb

Cleveland’s next Mayor gave informed answers to all our questions, and they were clearly grounded in personal experience. And he clearly said that he would: 1) Create a cabinet level position in his administration for the arts; 2) Set aside a budget line item dedicated to support the arts; and 3) Work with the arts and cultural community to create an arts and cultural plan for the city. Now that he has been elected, What should the arts community expect from Justin Bibb? We still don’t know, exactly, but this is what he said during the campaign.

7. William Busta Projects to Open on Waterloo

After 5 years in retirement, noted gallerist William Busta announced that he planned to set up shop again, though on a smaller scale, this time in the renovated Gold Building, on Waterloo.  The high level of interest was no doubt due to respect for his track record and anticipation of his shows, as well as the remarkable associated story of the revival of the building itself.

How the Gold Building got its name: In its vacant and condemned state, it served as canvas for mural by the street art collective Hygienic Dress League, as part of Waterloo Arts Zoetic Walls program.

6. The Gold Standard: The Neighborhood Rallies to Save an Old Building on Waterloo

It took a village to save the long-vacant Gold Building from the wrecking ball. The village began with from Waterloo Arts, a developer with a vision, and a group of businesses, most of which came from the neighborhood. First came Lori Kella and Michael Loderstedt’s Photocentric Gallery, followed quickly by the aforementioned William Bust a Projects, and John Farina and Adam Tully’s Maria Neil Art Project, and others.

5. What Can We Learn from Susan Allan Block?

Susan Allan Block is part of the family that owns Block Communications, which owns the Toledo Blade,  the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and several broadcast outlets. She was on the Ohio Arts Council’s Board of Directors when she responded to the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol by posting on social media in all caps, NO PEACE, NO UNITY, NO CONCESSION, and called president elect Joe Biden “ILLIGITIMATE,” and referred to vice president-elect Kamala Harris as a “WHORE.”  Block resigned after multiple media outlets picked up the story. But what can we learn from a person who holds those views, and–perhaps slightly against type–also owned an artisanal baking company and is a student of permaculture?

Artist Arabella Proffer, self portrait

4. Facing Cancer Head-On: Arabella Proffer

At a time when life is surreal, frightening, and uncertain, painter Arabella Proffer is facing the unthinkable. Writer Brittany Mariel Hudak tells of the well-known artist who is living with terminal cancer during a global pandemic, with a strength, determination, and grace that few could muster. But if you know Arabella well, as Hudak notes, this is hardly surprising: with a commanding personality, cutting sense of humor, and an immense talent to boot, Proffer is an extraordinary human being who will not be trifled with—even when the odds are against her.

3. First Look: Beacons of Light and Flight Elevate Wendy Park Bridge

Erin O’Brien was first to tell you about the public art installation that graces one of the most important pieces of infrastructure the region has seen in recent years: Sculptors Stephen Yusko and Stephen Manka created illuminated steel sculptures at both ends of the new bike and pedestrian bridge that forms one of the final links in the Towpath Trail: a connection between Wendy Park, on the shore of Lake Erie at the mouth of the Cuyahoga, with the miles of Towpath Trail to the South.

2. John W. Carlson, RIP

The social media outpouring of grief over the passing of the painter John W. Carlson provided a small window on the scope of impact made by an artist who loved to engage with people, ideas, and art. Carlson left behind a significant body of work, in styles that evolved through the years, and we look forward with hope and anticipation to a retrospective exhibit.  As critic Joseph Clark wrote, his “images are ‘gestural’ in at least two senses; his brushstrokes are unconcealed and dramatic, and his subjects splay and contort their bodies to communicate operatic emotion. His most recent works, however, captured intimate moments between people, with joy. Find more stories about John and his work here.

1. Immersive Extraction: Not to be a Debby Downer, But …

Writer Liz Maugans measured the Immersive Van Gogh Experience against the yardstick of museum exhibits, and the expectation of scholarship, and especially community engagement and economic ripple effect, and found the spectacle lacking. Her essay was at the core of a lively online debate, with scores of people weighing in with their own opinions. If our list of Top Stories had gone to eleven, it would also have included a bunch of those opinions, which appeared in Immersed: Artists and Readers Respond to the Big Van Gogh Show. And if we’d had a few more slots to fill, we’d also have included Luke Frazier’s own take. We did, at least, use his photo.





The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.