Way Out Here: No Exit and Heights Arts Explore the Surreal

No Exit Ne Music Ensemble. Photo by Steven Mastroianni.

A spell of the surreal has settled over Cleveland. Cast by No Exit New Music Ensemble and fostered by many partners, including Heights Arts, Year of Surreality is an attempt to unlock the power of freewheeling creativity.

“One of the things that is appealing about dedicating No Exit’s entire season to surrealism is that surrealism is not a particular style or medium, but rather an ideology,” Artistic Director Timothy Beyer says. “This gives us the opportunity to present things across a wide range of disciplines.”

While music plays a large part in surreality, from Dadaist piano to experimental harp, the art isn’t only auditory. On August 18, Heights Arts unveiled the first of a series of cross-disciplinary efforts: Collaborage. The show, running through October 15, features collaborative work made by four teams of visual artists.

“It’s been about a century since the advent of surrealism, and, as an art teacher, it is one of my favorite topics to teach to my high school students,” says participating artist Jordan McConnell. “We often talk about it as the precursor to modernism, as it defied the conventions of art at the time and caused a paradigm shift in how art is created, appreciated, and experienced.”

In order to spark the imagination—and unlock the unconscious—artists were given games played by surrealists in the years following WWI. Heights Arts’ volunteer community teams also provided curated clips of music and literature from which to draw inspiration.

“Surrealism always offers some sense of uneasiness,” explains participating artist Jacob Liptow. “By abstracting or misplacing objects that we are familiar with, surrealism creates an uncanny-affinity that can both intrigue and unsettle the viewer.”

The pieces in Collaborage are sure to prove unique: the perfect setting for a No Exit concert and poetry reading in October. But in the land of surrealism, nothing is forever. They’ll be auctioned off during the exhibition, allowing bidders to take home the unexpected.

“Surrealism draws directly from the unfiltered imagination, without agenda or obligation,” says Steven Mastroianni, participating artist. “This can be a refreshing path for artists bogged down in concepts and social expectations, and can serve to reinvigorate creativity and help in finding their own original voices.”

Set your melting watch: this eclectic combination of disciplines, mediums, and visions will make Collaborage a must-see exhibition—and the beginning of an unreal year for art.

2175 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118


Free Gallery Concert: Afi Scruggs, 7pm Thursday, September 14

Ekphrastacy: Artists Talk and Poets Respond to Collaborage and Gregory Johnson, 7pm Thursday, September 21

No Exit’s Year of Surreality Performance, 7pm Friday, October 13

Heights Arts Holiday Store, 1pm Friday, November 3

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