CAN’s Ten Most-Read Stories of 2023
CAN Journal learns something at the end of every year—something about hot topics and what makes people read, and also something about the challenges inherent to building top ten lists.
Year after year, we see that people want to read about injustice and controversy. And 2023 was no different, with posts about the disappearance of a large piece of public art, about the way artists are treated by the pay-to-play model of juried shows, and the year of turmoil at Cuyahoga Arts and Culture all making this year’s top-ten list.
We also know that stories breaking late in the year never get a fair shake: what’s published in November or December doesn’t have as much time to be read as many times something posted in, say, January. Meanwhile, something published in, say, November of the previous year is outside the time frame. Therefore Individual Artist Grants and the Slicing of Pie doesn’t make our list because it was published in December, 2022. And some stories off to a well-read start this year—such as CAC Board: Fresh Air Coming, and Assembly to Lead Individual Artist Grants, and A Marijuana Tax for the Arts? Maybe—don’t quite make the list, but they’ve only been in circulation a few weeks.
We’re intrigued to see a couple of stories about art collectors made this year’s list, and especially happy to see a couple of stories simply about art. You’ll see that the amazing writer Erin O’Brien’s work made this list no fewer than three times—three of our top four stories, in fact.
So acknowledging all that, and as usual throwing out CAN’s own announcements (such as CAN Journal Announces Archiving Partnerships) and stories that are really lists (Holiday Markets), here are CAN’s ten most-read stories of 2023:
CARTA Members Enjoy Fun Collecting Options, by Christopher Johnston
We’re delighted that this would make it to our top ten list, because this story by Christopher Johnston highlights the Cleveland Art Association’s art lending program: CARTA buys Cleveland art to build a lending library and, through a membership program, raises money to support scholarships at the Cleveland Institute of Art, and loans local art to members for a year. At the end of the year, participants can either return the work or buy it.
Cleveland Print Room Bids Farewell, by Jeff Curtis
This news was long-awaited after the City of Cleveland chose the ArtCraft building –where Cleveland Print Room formerly made its home — as the site of a new Police Headquarters, thereby displacing a multitude of artists as well as the beloved community darkroom. We look forward to a visit to their new location.
Bob and Margo Roth: Collecting Ahead of the Curve, by Christopher Johnston
Margo Roth and her late husband Bob are long known as prodigious collectors: on the walls of their Cleveland Heights home hang some of the same names you’ve seen at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Original works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, El Anatsui, Helen Frankenthaler, Pablo Picasso, Annie Leibovitz, and Carrie Mae Weems adorn their living room and front stairwell. When we visited, a piece by Nick Cave was on loan to The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and headed to the Guggenheim.
The Appearance of Art: Roger Golling at Sixty Bowls, by Michael Gill
Roger von Golling was born in Cleveland Heights in 1946, and raised in Lakewood. While caring for his mother in 1974, he took up drawing. He eventually attended the Cooper School. In the 80s he was an artist in service to the Cleveland rock scene, making sets, backdrops, flyers, and album art primarily for the band Lucky Pierre. He then left the region for an itinerant life as a cook, chef, garbage man, palm tree trimmer, designer of window displays, and many other gigs. He says he was homeless “a lot.” While living in a boarding house in Boston he worked to find a focus in his art. That’s what we found on view at Sixty Bowls, a gallery still new-ish to Cleveland’s gallery scene, located on Detroit Road in Ohio City.
Celebrating the Life and Work of Ken Nevadomi, by Indra K. Lācis, PhD
Artist and teacher Ken Nevadomi touched a lot of artists in his role at Cleveland State University, and his powerful, symbol-laden paintings will continue to do so. Indra Lacis’s profound look into his life and work found some of the reasons—including this bit of advice: “Nevadomi’s longtime friend and studio mate, Arleene Hartman, divulged that although Ken might have been stingy with chipping in for gas money, he was deeply generous with advice about art and the artistic process. Ken implored her: Go to the studio every day, even if you only sharpen your pencils.”
Re-evaluating Juried Exhibitions, by John A. Sargent III
If you’re an artist in Cleveland, or if you regularly visit shows, odds are you’ve seen John Sargent’s remarkable seascapes and cloudscapes in the galleries, and perhaps engaged intense conversation with him about aesthetics, or the cold reality of the art market. In this essay, he takes a look at a regular feature of the regional art scene—the juried show—considering in earnest how they work and what impact they have on artists and their careers.
Hundreds of Clevelanders have had the experience of sitting for a session with the Pretentious Cleveland Portrait Artists. We knew no one could narrate that experience like Erin O’Brien, who got into it by quoting a movie: “’I want you to draw me like one of your French girls,’ said a precocious Rose (Kate Winslet) to Jack (Leo DiCaprio) as he readied his charcoal pencils in the 1997 Titanic. … French? Nope. Even ‘girl’ is a stretch for me. After all, I’m a short, 58-year-old woman with long witchlike hair. So be it, I thought, this is who I am. […] Noelle Celeste popped into my feed urging anyone tapped by the group to take them up on the offer. ‘It was a splendid honor,’ the City Club’s COO and Director of Advancement wrote on Facebook, but that’s not what stuck with me. She also said the session had her ‘breathing in pain and breathing out love.’ … Well, sure I was going to breathe, but … pain? There was going to be pain?”
Blade’s Edge: An Artistic Approach to Wind Power’s Dirty Secret, by Erin O’Brien
Erin O’Brien uncovered something we never knew about wind power—that the blades wear out, and they are massive, and there are a lot of them, and the way they are built makes them difficult to recycle. Enter an Avon, Ohio company called Canvus, with a plan to cut them up into functional pieces and hire artists to turn them into public art. Cleveland artists Debra Sue Solecki, Eileen Dorsey, Garrett Weider, Mike Sobeck, Alicia Vasquez, Natalie Lanese, Dayz Whun, Christa Freehands, and many others have applied their style to the work.
CAC: A Voice for Individual Artists? by Michael Gill
Everything in this story from March of 2023 is still true—the need for practicing arts professionals to be represented on CAC’s board, the need for individual artists to get a bigger slice of the pie, the need for that funding to be administered equitably, and the ever-more-urgent need to modify the cigarette tax – and perhaps augment it with, oh, I don’t know, may be something like a tax on now-legal sales of marijuana for recreational use. The office of County Executive Chris Ronayne is still taking applications and nominations for people to serve on CAC’s board of directors, and artists and arts professionals are encouraged to apply.
Public Art Installation, They Have Landed, Disappears, by Erin O’Brien
Everyone loves a mystery, and this one –CAN’s most-read story of 2023–unfolded in broad daylight on a public art scale. Loren Naji’s spherical plywood sculpture They Have Landed debuted when the Ingenuity Festival happened on the Detroit Superior Bridge, and in 2011 it found what the artist thought would be a permanent home at the West 25th Street Rapid Transit station. It was there for more than a decade, survived the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 National Championship, and was listed on Ohio Outdoor Sculpture Website—until a construction company, acting on behalf of the developers of the Intro apartment building removed it and, in the process caused it to fall to pieces. Naji sued and eventually reached a settlement. Is that the end of the story? Stay tuned.