By Amanda Koehn
Since February, anyone walking or driving around The Shoreway building on West 76th Street in Cleveland’s Battery Park may have been captivated by a 38-foot mural depicting a bright red squid imposed on a lighthouse. The painting gives a sense of mystery and eeriness, and is fitting for its close proximity to the shores of Lake Erie.
However, the mural’s creator and the program that helped it come to life are no longer so mysterious. Cleveland artist Nolan Meyer created his mural, “Lighthouse,” as the first-ever artist in residence with feverdream – a new artists’ residency and community program headquartered in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. Since launching last August with the residency program, feverdream aims to provide opportunities to Cleveland-area early-career artists who want to better develop their practice.
The residency selects one artist on a rotating cycle to receive funding, time and space to create new self-directed work. As part of it, a mural they create will be displayed on The Shoreway building; Meyer’s painting will rotate out as another artist’s work rotates in early this summer.
Having the money and time to focus wholeheartedly on their artwork can be a rare opportunity for emerging artists, says Christine Grant. She founded feverdream with her husband, Jesse Grant, local artists Erin Guido and John Paul Costello (also a married couple), and Maxmillian Peralta. The goal is to “help the emerging artists here explore more, give them time, resources and space to have the freedom to put the survival mode on hold,” Christine Grant says. Beyond the residency, the fledgling organization also aims to develop opportunities and establish itself as a support system for those building careers making art.
FILLING A VOID
The Grants and Guido and Costello had long had an idea to start such a residency program, Christine Grant says. All being busy with their other endeavors, the idea was just that for some time.
The vision became a reality after they met Peralta, she says – “he really owned” the program’s concept from the outset and they saw him as someone who could facilitate it.
Peralta – a painter who graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2021 – is feverdream’s program director and himself an early-career artist.
“I definitely knew there was a niche that could be filled,” says Peralta, who was profiled in this magazine’s Who’s Next emerging artists feature in 2021.
A German native, Grant was a professional dancer there for about 12 years. She says she and her husband are “lovers of the arts” – Jesse is an arts proponent and leads architectural design for J Roc Development. She said they had noticed a void between succeeding in the “bubble” of a fine arts college to becoming an artist who can make work for a living. She knew of residency programs for performance arts in Germany, and wanted to create something similar for visual artists in her new hometown.
Peralta says among local organizations offering artist residencies, most target mid-career or more advanced artists and don’t always have a preference toward those living and working in Northeast Ohio.
Meyer – the inaugural feverdream artist in residence and a 2020 CIA graduate – adds, “It is interesting to go and apply for a residency at the same place that a professor had a show … it’s a little more intimidating.”
ROTATING SPACE, TIME
Meyer’s residency was from August until October 2022. During it, he took two months off from his job as a line cook at Cleveland Vegan in Lakewood to focus on creating his artwork full time. Working in feverdream’s space at 469 Literary Road was also productive, as his current house lacks extra space for art making, he explains.
“You just kind of get to put your head down and do what you really want to do,” Meyer says. “I just worked and I could buy groceries, do all that stuff. I didn’t have to worry about working my other job.”
Coming up with the concept for his mural around the Halloween season influenced his design, he says. He also wanted to incorporate water since he knew it would go up near the lake. It plays on and acknowledges fears of the unknown.
To place his mural, the feverdream crew had to get approval from both the city and local landmark committee since The Shoreway is a historic building. That slowed the process down, but his mural went up in February and will likely be there until early summer. The intention is to rotate murals a few times a year so each artist’s work has ample exposure time, Peralta says.
The second feverdream resident, Elizabeth Lax, is preparing for her mural to go up after Meyer’s. A 2019 Kent State University graduate in studio art, Lax focuses on painting the human form, according to feverdream’s website.
Going forward, the residencies will each last three to four months, Grant says. Applications closed for the third round, and the fourth applicant round will open in mid-June for a September-November residency at feverdream.co.
The residency offers a $4,500 stipend and a $600 supply stipend, according to its website. To be eligible, applicants must be 18 years or older, an early-career artist and able to commute to the feverdream’s studio. No artist collective groups are accepted, per the website.
Recognized as a nonprofit by the state of Ohio, feverdream is currently privately funded but it intends to apply for grants to further serve artists. And while the residency is its cornerstone, the founders also hope to incorporate other elements to assist local creators, Peralta and Grant explain. One aspect is providing critique group opportunities to help the artists grow and improve their work.
“I think every artist wants to better their work, and how that works is you have someone you trust in their opinion look at it … and you get feedback on it,” Grant says, adding they will bring in artists from outside the residency to both seek critiques and offer them to others.
Throughout the process, they hope to build a sense of community for local emerging artists, and assist them with facets of an artistic career they might not have much experience with, like shipping their work, making connections and portraying themselves effectively on social media.
The first critique group – which they are calling “the critters,” Peralta says with a laugh – will take place May 19. He says while he and his artist friends recently out of college have discussed creating a critique group before, it’s never gone far, making it another area where feverdream plans to fill a gap in the local art community.
“The residency is a great way to serve one artist,” Peralta says. “We want to come up with ways to serve a few at a time and build community.”
For more information on feverdream’s residency and critique programs, visit feverdream.co.