Story by Bob Abelman

The Coventry area in Cleveland Heights is the latest neighborhood to encourage arts-oriented enterprises by creating studios and galleries, incubators for art-centric businesses and organizations, and performance spaces out of buildings originally designed for another purpose.

On the edge of Gordon Square, 170,000 square feet of the former home of the Baker Electric Motor Vehicle Co. and American Greetings’ Creative Studios became the 78th Street Studios. In Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood, long known for its industrial manufacturing, buildings have been transformed into the Waterloo Arts and Entertainment district.

And now the 5,376 square feet of the Coventry School building at 2843 Washington Blvd. that was unoccupied since the school closed in 2007 is Artful Cleveland. It is the latest component of the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. campus.

Studio space under construction.
Studio space under construction. Photo by Artful Cleveland.

Artful Cleveland is a collaborative nonprofit enterprise whose mission is to bring affordable, quality studio and workshop space to the Heights area, which is home to the largest population of artists in Greater Cleveland.

Shannon Morris

All of this is the brainchild of Cleveland Heights resident Shannon Morris, who serves as Artful’s executive director.  

“As a lifelong artist, business is not my strong suit,” said Morris, and yet she opened the doors of Artful Cleveland in March 2017, one year after she invited fellow artists to her home to discuss this project and form a founding board. 

There are 18 studios on the second floor with five more spaces under construction in the open classrooms that exist there. Artful boasts full capacity and a waiting list, she said.  

Ann Epstein

One artist renting studio space is Ann Epstein, a Beachwood resident and member of Kol HaLev, Cleveland’s Reconstructionist Jewish Community in Pepper Pike. She is the recent recipient of a fellowship from Jewish Arts and Culture Lab, which served to encourage her collage and mixed media art work.  

Epstein was attracted to Artful’s nearby location, affordability and sense of community. 

“The artists have frequent potluck critiques of each other’s work, where everyone brings a side dish and offers constructive criticism, and I leave my office door open all the time so artists and visitors can feel free to come in to discuss my work,” Epstein said.

Six months ago, Morris was notified that the building was up for sale for possible commercial development. All the tenants banned together and negotiated an arrangement where they, and not the taxpayers or the Cleveland Heights Library that now owns the building, will absorb the costs of keeping it operational for the next year.  

“The plan is for this to be a permantent arrangement,” said Morris, who is in the process of orchestrating fundraising events to promote the facility and community buy-in to the six nonprofit organizations that reside there.  “This way we can all control our own future.”

Entering “Rend” at Michael Weil’s Foothill Galleries. PHOTO | Michael Weil

Grieving father creates exhibit at Cleveland Heights gallery as eulogy for son, best friend

By Carlo Wolff

Photos of Masada, left, and the Grand Canyon bracket Michael Weil at his Foothill Galleries. PHOTO | Carlo Wolff

Photos of Masada, left, and the Grand Canyon bracket Michael Weil at his Foothill Galleries. PHOTO | Carlo Wolff

There is damage. There is numbness, shock. There are wounds that tell you you’re alive, that even keep you alive. And there are wounds that cannot heal, grief so deep it becomes a thirst that cannot be slaked.

Then, too, there is tranquility, in an image so beautiful it hurts, like “Beyond All Hymns, Praises and Consolations,” a photograph Michael Weil took of his son, Josh, on a lake in the Adirondacks. It’s almost gauzy, its core an impression of Josh in his canoe fading into the dawn mist. Josh is actually on his way into the deepest recesses of his family’s heart.

“Beyond All Hymns, Praises and Consolations” PHOTO | Michael Weil

“Beyond All Hymns, Praises and Consolations” PHOTO | Michael Weil

Josh Weil and his friend, Alexander Doody, were killed in an automobile crash May 14, 2015. They were seniors at Hawken School in Chester Township. A benefit in their memory is planned for May 28 at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica in Cleveland. All proceeds from the event, set for 4 to 11 p.m., will go to the Catch Meaning Fund at the Cleveland Foundation.

Michael Weil, his wife, Meredith, and Sam, their other son, came up with the notion of “catch meaning” to emphasize the importance of squeezing all the juice out of every living moment, as Josh did.

“The meaning of (my) life is to help others find the meaning of theirs,” Weil said, citing Viktor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” a book in which Josh was interested.

For now, there’s “Rend,” Weil’s memorial to his youngest boy.

An adjunct professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Weil has been taking photographs for years. His tools are a Canon with Leica lenses. His pictures in “Rend” have heft — literally. Because they’re printed on cloth, they’re three-dimensional.

Little did Weil know his public debut would be a eulogy for Josh and Alex, his best friend.

“Beyond” is one of 18 images Weil assembled for his moving debut at his own space, Foothill Galleries. That picture, the very distillation of loss, may be the most personal in this gorgeous and resonant display.

“Rend” is a photographic cache of varying tonalities that is both profoundly inviting and profoundly sad. See where the family went, from Iceland to Israel, from Canada to California. There are images of the Grand Canyon, Masada, the Colosseum, Joshua Tree, the Mojave Desert. The photographs, each uniquely torn, speak of emblematic places. They also carry on the unfinished business of the heart.

Weil effectively prepared for “Rend” by reading Leon Wieseltier’s book, “Kaddish,” a meditation on how Wieseltier grieved his father’s death. “I’ve been trying to say kaddish daily for the past nine months,” Weil said in a March 1 interview, “and it became a very powerful concept, the idea of rending as an expression of grief.”

“A rend is a physical expression of grief, like a tear meant both ways,” reads part of Weil’s opening statement on the entrance wall at Foothill. “Jacob rent his clothes, so too did Job. These 18 images are torn because our memory and hope of being here with Josh is torn. Eighteen for his life and his holiness and his steps beside us among these hills, rocks, spires, dunes, trees, walls, and waters.”

“I don’t know if the notion of healing is realistic in this regard,” Weil said at his gallery, which opened Feb. 11. He spoke of the myth of Prometheus, a figure in Greek mythology who comes to view the eagle that gnaws at his liver daily as his only companion. Since Josh died, there’s been a lot of gallows humor in Weil’s life, and he doesn’t know whether he wants to be healed.

Losing a child is the “worst imaginable thing anybody ever has to get through,” said Weil, an art historian who has turned sorrow indelible. CV

On View

WHAT: “Rend”

WHERE: Foothill Galleries of the Photo-Succession, 2460 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights

WHEN: Through May

INFO: Call 216-287-3064 or visit


Originally published in the Cleveland Jewish News on March 17, 2016.

Lead image: Entering “Rend” at Michael Weil’s Foothill Galleries. PHOTO | Michael Weil