SHED Projects is located on a historic property at 3731 Pearl Road in Cleveland. Photo / Lou Muenz

By Ed Carroll

Though it shares part of its name with a common feature of many backyards, SHED Projects is anything but a typical art space.

The gallery, located at 3731 Pearl Road in Cleveland, wears many hats –
some uncommon for an art space. In addition to indoor and outdoor viewing spaces, the building is both a historic landmark and the home of SHED Projects co-founders Gabrielle Banzhaf, executive director and curator, and Jon Gott, her partner and SHED Projects co-founder.

SHED Projects co-founders Gabrielle Banzhaf, executive director and curator, and Jon Gott, her partner and SHED Projects co-founder. Photo / Nicole Carroll.

The two first met in Cleveland and later started SHED Projects in 2021 in New Orleans. The couple and their child relocated back to Cleveland in summer 2023, bringing SHED Projects with them. 

Gott says SHED Projects’ mission is exploring the relationship between art and knowledge, and how they relate to their family life and through their work and art. The new space for visual culture and experimental projects, as the pair describe it, has been showing artwork in Cleveland since last year and aims to be accessible to artists and others in the creative community looking to begin new projects or flesh out ideas. 

“This is something we’re actually figuring out ourselves because there isn’t really language for what we’re creating right now,” Banzhaf adds. “We’re not here to only deposit art into our space and sell it – we’re not simply a commercial gallery. We’re interested in the dialogue that develops around these projects and ideas, and the knowledge built through the work we do. 

“Experimenting with formats and methods for presenting art that extend beyond the bounds of conventional exhibitions is central to our work. Sometimes it’s a conversation with the artist that they need to get out there, or a book about things they’ve been thinking about. We’re interested in how these things become circulated in the world as elements in a broader set of social interactions and interventions.”

How it started

Banzhaf was raised in a humanitarian family, as she describes, and grew up all over the world, living on a ship and mainly residing in Sweden, South Africa and Peru. After starting college in Washington, D.C. and studying photojournalism, she ended up moving to Cleveland to pursue a degree in fiber and material studies. She now considers herself more of a curator than a maker.

“I switched from making – I used to be a weaver – and instead now I consider my curatorial practice to be my art practice,” she says. “While I don’t have a regular studio or studio practice, I am approaching the projects at SHED, as well as this specific house, as the weaving of my curatorial practice’s public and private life.”

Gott was born on the east coast and spent most of his childhood in Northeast Ohio. He was home-schooled, which let him finish high school early and gave him several years between high school and college to travel. 

He then came back to Cleveland to study painting, and also worked as a builder, preservationist and artist in Chicago and New York before teaching studio art classes at the University of Illinois. While working as a preservationist, he says he learned many of the skills necessary for upkeep and preservation of a historic building like their new home and gallery.

Gott and Banzhaf reconnected in Cleveland before they moved to Miami, and then later to New Orleans. There, they started working with artists more formally as SHED Projects, initially in their backyard — in, well, a covered shed, hence the name.

Christian Wulffen, a professor emeritus at the Cleveland Institute of Art who has worked with the SHED co-founders, suggests a “SHED project” inherently focuses on the reach of the artwork beyond its showing in a gallery space.

“SHED Projects employs a variety of optical models effected through social meanings in a radical form,” Wulffen says. “Focusing on the extension of the terms of contemporary art within the environmental conditions of life, their concern is not contributing to the deposit of art, rather where will it go and what can it do, offering a shell of dynamic enterprise where input and output are in fluid transitions.”

Contemporary with history

While SHED Projects’ history may seem relatively short, their new home, an Italianate Victorian, is rich as a historic-designated property, first built around 1857. The property most recently housed the office of a podiatrist and was one of the key selling points for the family when it came time to relocate and grow SHED Projects – though it wasn’t the only reason they chose Cleveland.

“There’s no hurricanes and we can afford the insurance here,” Banzhaf says, laughing, before pointing out that both of them have local ties. “We wanted to make sure we were raising our son back in the Midwest with Midwest values. That was really important.

“I like to say this property kind of found us. Jon did a lot of research to find a historical property. So, the space that we are in now is a landmark, which we take very seriously, but it’s also a nod to the mesh of our German and Latin heritage as a family. The house is situated just blocks away from where my dad, who was a German immigrant, lived when he first came to Ohio as a child, and being close to the Latino-Hispanic culture of Clark-Fulton was important to me,” she adds. 

Gott says the property’s historic status was a factor in their choice to buy.

“The historic preservation practice I have is very much about sculpture for me,” he says. “It’s kind of fluid with my sculpture and my art practice. When we found this house, that became a big part of the philosophy that we were going to apply moving forward working here was that the … historic preservation project taking place here is a large-scale sculpture of existence in the landscape of the city of Cleveland. 

“It’s also kind of a living social organism that exists in that space as well. So, we’re kind of in this territory where we’re exploring where those two things connect.”

“Lady Godiva’s Operation” (2019-2022) by Jon Gott. Upholstery fabric, pleather, paper, digital prints, polystyrene, socks, acrylic, house paint, enamel, firewood, artificial hair, D hooks on a found canvas, 36 x 48 x 6 inches. Photo courtesy of SHED Projects.

He also plans to apply knowledge of historic preservation to ideas of contemporary art and contemporary life.

“What does it mean to have all these different practitioners and artists and people coming here and talking about art, making art here in this historic property that is very much alive in the present time?” Gott asks. “It’s thinking about those connections and those relationships.”

Banzhaf says another factor in selecting the property was simply that it was convenient for them.

“It was very convenient for us in the sense that we live upstairs,” she says. “The entire second floor is dedicated to our family life, whereas the first floor is then dedicated to the public. It’s where the project spaces, gallery spaces, the wood shop, all of that reside.”

Banzhaf and Gott’s son is 13, and Banzhaf says SHED Projects is a family operation. He often helps his parents during exhibitions, running the coat check or doing other odd jobs.

“It’s all of us, all three of us do the cleaning of the house, that ritual of just getting everything ready,” she says.

What happens in the SHED

SHED Projects’ gallery productions can’t be easily described in any sort of blanket terms. One project displayed in 2023 was by artist Conrad Bakker, who carved and painted books and sculptures to match the personal library of artist Robert Smithson. And in November 2023, SHED hosted what they call a “one-piece viewing,” a one-night-only showing of one piece of art, that night by artist Terry Durst titled “Space Junk,” consisting of electronics panels made to look like they were drifting in space for years. Similarly, this February it held a one-night showing of a piece by the late Cleveland artist John W. Carlson, titled “Body.” In March of this year, SHED showcased clay works by artist Evelyn Jordan. 

At the time of Canvas’ interview, SHED had on view a painting show by Gott himself, entitled “If you receive a love letter from me, you are fucked forever.”

Banzhaf says they call their “projects” and “programs” as such because SHED Projects doesn’t just do art shows. 

Visitors check out “If you receive a love letter from me, you are fucked forever,” a painting exhibition by Jon Gott at SHED Projects. Photo / Nicole Carroll

“The goal of us in working with artists, the end result is not always going to be a show,” she says. “Sometimes it’s going to a publication, sometimes a film festival, sometimes it’s just a conversation with the artist that they need to get out of their body, out of themselves. … I think that we are creating something a little bit different, and it’s exciting to be on the forefront of that.”

For Gott, the most exciting thing he thinks SHED Projects offers is the size and setting, as its smaller scope makes it more accessible to a lot of artists. Both Gott and Banzhaf have experience on both sides of the art equation, as artists and as administrators, and believe in paying artists for the work they do. They’re often also able to house artists during or while planning for a project.  

“It’s pretty much (Banzhaf) and I running the entire thing,” Gott says. “I think that’s something that makes our operation really special. It’s a family operation. We spend a lot of one-on-one time with everyone we work with and all the projects we do. We’re accessible. Anyone that wants to come over here and talk to us, work on a project or talk about ideas, we’re open to the community in very direct ways. I think that’s really conducive to how Cleveland was formed as a city, and also really conducive to exploring new territory in how to work.”  

On View

  • SHED Projects will open“ECHO,” a show by Melissa Pokorny and Lucy Puls from 5-9 p.m. June 22 at the gallery located at 3731 Pearl Road, Cleveland. 
  • Also during the June 22 opening of “ECHO,” SHED Projects will roll out its three-part dinner series, “May we eat and be of the flesh to each other,” in collaboration with Rump Studio. Additional dinners in the series are on July 20 and Aug. 24. 
  • On Aug. 24, SHED Projects will premiere a solo show by Jade Yumang, “Cast Your Net Far and Wide” from 5-9 p.m. (on view through Sept. 28).
  • SHED Projects will also continue its one-piece viewing series throughout the summer, and dates and events will be posted regularly on its website,, and Instagram page,