By Becky Raspe
Howard Alan has always seen Cleveland as a perfect artistic hub. As an arts festival promoter and co-founder and president of Howard Alan Events and American Craft Endeavors, Alan remembered his first Cleveland show was organized by Gary Jacobs in 1990 and took place where the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame now stands.
In 2017, Alan will promote four shows in Greater Cleveland: Art in The Village with Craft Marketplace (June 3-4 at Legacy Village in Lyndhurst), Crocker Park Fine Art Fair with Craft Marketplace (June 10-11 at Crocker Park in Westlake), The Hathaway Brown Fine Art Festival (June 17-18 at Hathaway Brown in Shaker Heights) and The Flats Festival of the Arts (Aug. 19-20 at Flats East Bank in downtown Cleveland).
“Attendees come from all over the country and drive hundreds of miles just to get to these Cleveland shows,” he says. “People in Cleveland are among the best customers an artist could want.
“The young people in Cleveland are very educated in the arts,” he adds. “(The artists) get elementary-aged kids asking about what medium was used and these really advanced questions for their age. In Cleveland, you see that artistic interest everywhere.”
Among all four festivals, there will be a combined 333 artists representing 39 different states, offering something for everyone, Alan says.
With a diverse mix of shops and restaurants, Legacy Village, Crocker Park and the Flats East Bank provide art festival attendees a dynamic that allows them to make a day out of their visit. Live music will be included at some of the festivals, depending on location.
Moreland Hills resident Patti Stern will be one of this year’s participating artists. Stern creates whimsical pieces of art from upcycled architectural antiques with her husband, Bob. The couple collaborates using their respective interior design and carpentry experience, and they typically participate in 40 art shows a year.
“We’ve done multiple Howard Alan shows, like the ones in Chagrin Falls, Legacy Village and Crocker Park,” she says. “We’re really busy. Art has been our livelihood since 1998.”
When asked why they create such playful and eccentric works, Stern explains it’s because of the world around them.
“The world has changed,” she says. “Many horrible things happen every day. We wanted to make happier, quirky artwork to combat that. We can’t make the same thing twice.”
Stern and her husband, who moved to Northeast Ohio from New Jersey, got a big career boost by participating in Cleveland shows. Though at first they found Northeast Ohioans tastes in art and décor to be “quite conservative,” that eventually changed.
“We started only doing Ohio shows,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons why we are so thrilled the Hathaway Brown show is back. It’s one of the best shows on the Cleveland art circuit.”
Russ Brunn, on the other hand, would be considered a fledgling in the art-festival world. He just started attending them last summer. The Cleveland-based artist works with mixed media, creating scrap metal cityscapes. Brunn will be at five Cleveland shows this summer, including some of Howard Alan Events’ shows.
“I’ve had an amazing experience as an artist in Cleveland,” Brunn says. “It’s part of the reason I like to do shows. It’s one thing to make art and like it yourself, but another to see the response and even make sales. It’s great.”
Brunn finds that Northeast Ohio is such a good place for art because Cleveland is experiencing a renaissance of sorts.
“It’s all about rejuvenation right now,” he says. “That’s why it’s a great time as an artist making Cleveland art, like myself. The culture and energy of the city is just getting better and better.”
But he finds that the art is actually the most rewarding part about the process, especially for the city.
“Cleveland has a special place in my heart,” Brunn says. “I feel like I’m giving back to it this way. Since the materials are collected locally, it’s like I’m taking the forgotten pieces and adding to the city’s culture.” CV
Howard Alan Events
• Art in The Village with Craft Marketplace will take place June 3-4 at Legacy Village in Lyndhurst
• Crocker Park Fine Art Fair with Craft Marketplace will take place June 10-11 at Crocker Park in Westlake
• The Hathaway Brown Fine Art Festival will take place June 17-18 at Hathaway Brown in Shaker Heights
• The Flats Festival of the Arts will take place Aug. 19-20 at Flats East Bank in downtown Cleveland
For more, visit artfestival.com.
Lead image: Attendees take in the art at the 2016 Art in The Village with Craft Marketplace at Legacy Village in Lyndhurst. Jason Miller / Pixelate Photography & Design / Legacy Village