An A2 Inmate in Cleveland

by Melissa Glick

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Rebar orbs adorn a chain link fence in the Gordon Sq

A few weeks ago I attended the opening days of the first Cleveland Triennial, a 3 month arts event that takes place all across the City.  When I saw this fence, it sort of summed up my experience. The way the industrial material of these rebar orbs are treated in an aesthetic way, felt like something I would see at A2, and I wanted to share how I saw Cleveland’s industrial character intertwined with the creative.

As a representative of A2 with VIP access to openings, parties, the press reception and curator led tours – and free non alcoholic drinks at the opening, I got to see how the arts are contributing to the revitalization of this one time booming City.

The event follows in the tradition of the Venice Biennale – the 123 year old tradition in which inclusion has been a significant accomplishment of the most successful and influential artists. Once the economic benefits for the city became apparent to the rest of the world, “biannuals” began to pop up all over. So much so that those in the “art world” report having “bianual burnout“!  International gatherings such as World’s Fairs have lost their relevance, while those in the arts are thriving.

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FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art is an exhibition consisting of artist commissions, performances, films, and public programs running from July 14 to Sept 30, 2018.  An American City: Eleven Cultural Exercises, features collaborations with museums, civic institutions, and alternative spaces across Cleveland, Akron, and Oberlin. Visit the FRONT website for more information.

I had never been to Ohio before and what I knew of its socio-economic history was not positive, so my first view of the city was a happy surprise! The vista across the  Cuyahoga river with a multitude of bridges, smoke stacks of steel plants, ornate brick buildings and gigantic reflective skyscrapers was eye popping!

Cleveland was a booming industrial and manufacturing epicenter for about a hundred years. It was a transportation hub where the iron ore was processed into the steel that built this great country, along with many other manufacturing industries.  John D. Rockefeller founder of Standard Oil and US Steel started off in Cleveland.

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The White Dam, 1939 Raphael Gleitsmann

Cleveland’s biggest boom was during World Wars. It’s decline began in the 1960’s due to industrial restructuring among other things, by ’78 they entered into financial default on federal loans.

During its heyday, prosperous patrons were intent on building a beautiful, culturally rich new city comparable with Paris or London. They were also concerned with the social welfare of the working population, the many immigrants and their families. The beautiful bones of the city can still be seen, amidst the decay, frenzied revitalization, sports stadiums, obnoxiously grand skyscrapers, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Cleveland Museum of Art, seen across one of the many parks in the city.

On the East Side, we saw marvels of past including: Olmsted-like parks, the incredible public Library, The Federal Reserve and a shopping arcade with the largest glass & steel beamed roof. An art installation addressing immigration is in one of the many grand library rooms. The Library has a tiny/tidy makerspace with 2 laser cutters, a vinyl cutter, a 3D printer and computers with guitars for working in Rock Band. They have plans for taking over a whole floor since library use is really low.

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Installation by Yinka Shonibare, MBE (RA) at Cleveland Public Library

On the West side we saw beautiful murals in neighborhoods, Trinity, The Flats, Ohio City and beautiful Beaux Arts, Art Deco, Sullivanesque brick buildings. The old factories and warehouses, offer loads of great space for artists. We wandered around the 78th street studios, formally headquarters for American Greeting cards -now full of galleries and work spaces.  I realized it was comparable in size to The Asylum, but times 4 floors! There is so much space out there!  Again, artists have drawn attention to the value of formally unwanted real estate and they are being gobbled up by developers.

Between the developers and artists little areas are being revitalized with murals, art spaces, bars, restaurants, shops and the old time establishments are benefiting.

In an area called Hinge town, the conversion of the The Transformer Building at 1460 West 29th Street has stimulated a lot of activity including a project at SPACES that brings the community together to try to make something positive grow from the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice. An installation by Dawoud Bey at St. John’s Church commemorates the Underground Railroad. There is a Cafe and Deli in a beautiful renovated firehouse.

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Hingetown: roof deck of the Triennual’s patron who renovated The Transformer Building into an arts space and lives above SPACES, a gallery that features community arts projects.
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It was interesting to see the beautiful old iron work in conjunction with the video installation about the economy Phil Vanderhyden. Federal Reserve Bank on Detroit Ave.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has an incredible collection! It was awesome to see works by Picasso, Nevelson, Warhol I have never seen before in person

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This amazing arrangement of cinder blocks and other debris picked up around the City was the favorite of many people I spoke with. Notice the variety of clamps!!! Brutalismo by Marlon de Azambuja and Luisa Lambri
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White and Steel Polars, 1945  by Theodore Roszak. Roszak

My favorite was this sculpture which was made by an artist who worked in the aeronautics industry. I love its smooth, white abstract geometry and its futuristic, satellite-like look. I have a predilection for abstract sculpture and my work is made with materials I find at A2. After reading the wall text, I felt it sounded a lot like A2.

In an era when most sculpture was made by traditional methods such as carving or casting, he instead employed industrial techniques to create his inventive works. His studio was more akin to a machine shop, complete with drill presses, lathes and dies.

 

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Yayoi Kusama

We were pleasantly surprised to find we could get tickets to the sold out Yayoi Kusama show. She was involved with the “god father of assemblage” Joseph Cornell in the 1960’s. I had no idea that her work consisted of infinity mirrors (something I have been planning on doing.) I also recently found out, one of her boxes, which you walk into, is currently at DeCordova Museum in Lincoln. So you can experience it yourself!

Hacker Creations by Melissa Glick  visit my website or contact me at glick.melissa [at] gmail.com

Melissa’s work reflects the rapid pace which technology becomes obsolete and the resulting glut of old computers. She is concerned that many people don’t know what to do with their old technology and feels manufacturers must begin to take responsibility for the disposal of their products.

Growing up, her father worked at Raytheon (1960 –90) and brought home outdated equipment that was being thrown out. Nevertheless she never opened a computer until joining The Artisan’s Asylum, maker space in Somerville, MA where she has had a studio since 2012. She is the recipient of surplus parts, cruft, e-waste from the other members.
The older the computer/tech the bigger and better the parts are. There is a limited supply of the most beautiful parts. She is documenting a period of technological development that quickly becomes history. She finds beauty in the abstract shapes and colors of the wide variety of components. Her work has been described as, “Structural Poetry”.

 

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Cuba!

Where to begin? I haven’t traveled in a while so please excuse my excessive gushing about how good it is for the mind & soul! I came home inspired, motivated to make art. I loved it and here are some of the things I learned:

1. Cuba is a beautiful country with decaying Colonial Spanish architecture, undeveloped rural land, blue ocean, sunny skies and beautiful, creative people.

2. People to people which is one of the required travel visas, is something I excel at, I was told. I would talk to anyone. I started many of my interactions with Cuban people by saying, “Trump es diabalo.” To which they would smile and we would both shake our heads in agreement.  Then I would say, “I hope it doesn’t change here.” Many said,  “We don’t want it to change.” Others said, “It will take a long time to change.” (Just today someone told me about what it was like there 15 years ago. A lot has changed!)

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Sylvia and Jorge huddle over ice cream discussing our next move in Cienfuegos

3. The group I went with was lead by Syliva of Colibri Travel out of Cambridge MA. She is an awesome person & tour guide. Our Cuban guide, Jorge was also awesome and very guapo.

 

 

 

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Everyone make a funny face now!

 

 

 

 

It was really nice to be in a small group of eight. We began to act like a family, with Tlak and Iruna as Mom & Dad, I was always running to catch up with the group. There were the girls, Diana, Joan and Cindy; and Linda & Dick, who I coincidentally know from Cambridge.

 

 

 

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Sorry we couldn’t bring the puppy home.

 

For my travel partner, I had the honor of being accompanied by one of my oldest and best friends, Karen R.  Even though Karen and I first became friends on a 10 day bike trip when we were 13. It took some getting used to the close quarters.  I haven’t shared a room with anyone (of my own gender)… since my sister moved out to college in 1974! Thanks for coming KR.

 

 

 

In the 3 days we spent in Havana, we visited National Museo of Fine Art & Revolution Museums, “Squares” of Old Havana (De Armas, de la Cathedral, de San Francisco, Vieja). I attended a Flamenco performance at the beautifully restored Teatro de la Habana. We walked to Hotel National along the Malecón the 5 mile long seawall which stretches from Old Havana to the Vedado neighborhood where we stayed at the awesome Vintage Casa.

We then drove east to the rural area where we visited a Tobacco Farm, we ate the most amazing vegetarian lunch in history at a “finca” farm. Not only did we count 45 different vegetables but the view was breath taking. Coconut drink with herbs, magical! The largest flan ever! Literally 12″ in diameter!

 

A night in Vinales at a Casa where we ate breakfast on the roof terrace.

 

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Diana, Jean on roof of Casa in Vinales

 

 

A night at the amazing Moka hotel at Las Terrazas, eco community, artists, swimming, trees growing thru the hotel!

 

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Artists and Farmers, Las Terrazas

 

 

Its hard not to take a good photo in Cuba. Note to self: don’t delete folders trying to make more room – due to lack of internet, they haven’t been backed up. Thankfully, my travel mates shared their best photos which I were way better than ones I lost.

 

We then headed west, our tour bus sharing the highway with horse and buggies. After visiting Che’s memorial in the heat, we headed to Unesco-protected town of Trinidad. Our final day was spent in Cienfuegos.

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Stone streets of Trinidad

 

 

Post  Script: I’ve been back in Trumpland for two weeks – what a contrast. And to dampen my mood even more, I just watched the documentary, “Cuba Fatherland or Death: Unvarnished look at contemporary Cuba through the eyes of its people” by Patria O. Muerte, which shows Cuba very differently from the one I saw as a tourist. Especially shocking  were images of people being taken away by police, as Obama disembarks from his plane. In the film, Fidel triumphantly announces “Cuba is not under anyone else’s sovereignty!” This was a great accomplishment but what followed did not provide the strong foundation, spirituality or shared values needed to succeed.Cuba is now faced with the challenge of building a society & economy to support their people. In that sense it is time for big change.

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Beautiful Decay

 

On a positive note, Cuban artist, Tania Bruguera has started the  INSTITUTO DE ARTIVISMO HANNAH ARENDT . Perhaps the arts will help Cubans have a say in what’s to come. “Here Cubanos de a pie (everyday Cubans) will use Art-activism to wish, think and do, in order to build a real democracy in Cuba.”

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