Scott Goss stands with a pinwheel for “Wind Farm,” a project he created for Peekskill, N.Y. Canvas Photo / Carlo Wolff

By Carlo Wolff

Scott Goss is organized. He has to be. As a full-time faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Art and a practicing artist specializing in public installation, time is the coin of his realm – the way he makes the two sides of his professional life keep on turning.

Teaching first-year students at CIA pleases him and provides stability. But public installations are Goss’ bread and butter, the soul of his work for the last 10 years or so.

“I tell my students, I apply for 60 or 80 projects a year,” Goss says. “I’m lucky if I get one or two of those. And if I get one or two of those, my project’s full, my deck is full.”

A Cleveland Heights native, Goss likes to experiment and is eager to develop unusual art, like “Wind Farm,” an installation featuring five stainless steel pinwheels 64 inches in diameter to be installed in Peekskill, N.Y., this spring. “Wind Farm” is one of three commissions Goss is working on. 

In 2006, when he graduated from CIA with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in glass, Goss was used to working in that one medium – and his fused glass-panel art began to pop up all over the Cleveland area. Glass was the ticket, it seemed. But it wasn’t enough to fully express Goss’ interdisciplinary inclination. Pinwheels were not on his mind then, let alone giant ones with turbines. 

“Aboard” rendering by Scott Goss, to be installed in the spring at Main Street Beach Park in Vermilion. Corten weathering steel, repurposed cedar wood and stainless steel, 17 x 13 feet. Rendering courtesy of Scott Goss. 

In graduate school at Kent State University, an adviser suggested he think beyond a single medium. 

“I ended up getting into more experimental installations with video and light, thinking about how the viewer would interact with the environment, and building life-size rooms you’d climb into,” he says in a recent interview at the studio he rents from CIA emeritus professor Brent Kee Young and Mark Sudduth, both glass artists.

After acquiring his master’s degree in crafts from Kent State in 2014, Goss returned to Cleveland, where he started part-time work in CIA’s Foundation Department. His adjunct position turned full-time in 2018, and in 2023, Goss became an assistant professor. He’s also assistant chair of Foundation, the program dedicated to helping students establish the core skills they will build on during their art education. As such, the Foundation year tends to be a time of discovery and new possibilities for students, and is rewarding to teach for faculty.

“I love to work with students and develop an idea,” Goss says.

He also loves solving his own artistic problems. Although he says he has never encountered a problem he couldn’t solve, he adds, “I’ve encountered problems that were difficult, that made me think, OK, let’s rethink the entire idea a little more. I’ve never given up on a problem, but I believe the idea can change as different problems arise. So that’s part of the ideation process.”

“Shielded Together” (2022) by Scott Goss at Lakewood’s Fire
Station No. 2. Corten steel, stainless steel and powder coating,
15 x 11 x 1.5 feet. Photo courtesy of Scott Goss. 

As of the end of March, for example, Goss was well into “Wind Farm.” To get there, he had to teach himself about kinetics and how a wind turbine works.

“What do I do with that energy?” Goss asked himself. “Where does the energy go? Does it go back into itself or into a battery like I’m using right now? It’s not going to be bright enough to be seen in bright daylight, so I have to store the electricity, and then I have to put a photocell on there to tell us when it’s dark enough outside and then it can kind of light up.”

Young taught Goss as an undergraduate. 

 “You can see his work leaning toward applied art, where the work leans toward thinking about the audience and what their needs would be and how they react,” Young says.

Over the past 15 years, Goss has mounted at least
15 exhibitions at sites including in Cleveland, Akron, Toledo, Columbus, Chicago and Pittsburgh. His work is in collections at the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, Calif.; the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock; and the Worthington Yards apartment complex in downtown Cleveland. This fall, his work will be on view in the CIA Faculty Show.

“I pursue each project as its own individual entity,” Goss says. “I’m more interested in terms of representation of form. I think about material, I think about craft. Elements that I bring into the classroom – repetition line, color, light – are all components that I bring into my design projects.”

“NEST” sculptural playground by Scott Goss for the Lorraine H. Whitlock Elementary School in Washington, D.C., to finish installation this summer. HDPE boards and stainless steel, 10 x 10 x 6 feet. Rendering courtesy of Scott Goss


While Goss, his wife and their two children live in Shaker Heights, he fabricates and engineers his work in his studio on Perkins Avenue in midtown Cleveland. 

Creativity runs in his family. His aunt, Gretchen Goss, has taught enameling at CIA since 1989. His father, Gregory Goss, was an architect in Cleveland Heights. The Goss clan – strong in arts and engineering, he says – is an inventive one.

“I want to engage and I want my voice to be equal to others,” Goss says, noting that when he worked in his father’s office, he thought, “His job was really boring.” No longer. Engagement is the draw and a value he absorbed while working for his dad. 

“What I’ve learned from architecture and design is it’s not about designing for yourself, it’s designing for others,” Goss says. “So you go in, you see how the community is going to respond to the space, whether it’s a building, a sculpture, a playground. You see how they use the space and then design from that. And so, I take that design approach into my works. I think about how people are going to react to the work, how they’re going to see it.”

Young notes his former pupil’s restiveness. “He was not afraid to challenge himself beyond the parameters of what the problem was, like installation,” Young says. “You have expectations from previous experiences and Scott’s solutions were more than original.”

The view from “City Reflections” interactive kaleidoscope viewer (2021) by Scott Goss in Cleveland. No. 8 polished stainless steel, steel, powder coating, 5 x 7 x 5 feet. Photo courtesy of Scott Goss


It took 11 months from project award to unveiling for a project in Lakewood: a layered, laser-cut display Goss fabricated for an exterior wall of the city’s Fire Station No. 2.
Completed in April 2022, the commission had a $43,750 budget. Goss laser-cut figures of firefighters, shown working together, at his studio. 

He began with a request for qualifications, submitted his materials, was listed as a finalist, visited the station, talked to the firefighters and noticed “a lot of symbols” on ambulances, uniforms and trucks that he wanted to incorporate into the project. The Corten steel in the background was used for its weather resistance. It creates a protective coating that because of its rusty color also becomes a design element.

The Lakewood Fire Department and the city’s public art advisory board had to approve Goss’ plans and make sure the project, 15 feet wide and 11 feet tall, reflected the community in a positive way, says Goss. Reaching agreement on such public installations pleases him. It’s the emotional payoff.

“I don’t get upset if somebody tells me they don’t like my design,” he says. “I take their feedback and incorporate it. That’s what a critique process is. I can choose whether I want to leave or I want to stay.”

For public installations, Goss creates a set of plans to show clients how the work will be made, and he’s also the fabricator. He buys the parts and assembles them all at his studio.

For the Lakewood project, the plan developed step by step.

“The beauty about making this piece was that once those plans are done, I now have a blueprint to follow in terms of the making,” he says. “Once it’s through the engineering state, I have things to work with along the way.” 

A man uses the “City Reflections” interactive kaleidoscope viewer created by Scott Goss. Photo courtesy of Scott Goss


Scott Goss has about a dozen applications out for projects all over the country. He has three underway at the moment:

“Wind Farm,” a pinwheel project in Peekskill, N.Y., is in fabrication. Its budget is $36,850, and it is to be installed this spring.

Fabrication is imminent for “Aboard,” a $31,000 endeavor in Vermilion consisting of three Corten sail-shaped benches, made of repurposed cedar wood, that will aggregate into the form of a schooner once they’re built into Main Street Beach Park. 

“NEST” is a sculptural playground for the Lorraine H. Whitlock Elementary School in Washington, D.C. At 10 feet in diameter and 6 feet tall, this oversized bird’s nest aims to be a playscape children can scale to reach cargo netting on which they can bounce and jump. Made of stainless steel and outdoor-rated, high-density polyethylene boards, the $55,000 installation is scheduled for completion this summer.