“Moving Up” by Sarah Kabot, part of “Constructions” at Gallery W. Photo by Michael C. Butz

Four institutions on Northeast Ohio’s western edge represent a wealth of artistic offerings

By Ed Carroll

From a world-class museum at a liberal arts college to a cutting-edge gallery at an outdoor shopping center, or from a thriving community arts hub on the shores of Lake Erie to an all-in-one community college arts center home to both visual and performance art, Northeast Ohio’s outer-ring West Side suburbs have something to satisfy artistic interests of all types.

Varied only slightly by geography, the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, Gallery W at Crocker Park in Westlake, BAYarts in Bay Village and Stocker Arts Center at Lorain County Community College in Elyria combine to make western Cuyahoga and eastern Lorain counties a well-respected hot spot for those in the immediate area and a must-experience destination for those who aren’t already familiar.

Oberlin’s art ‘gem’

At right, Andrea Gyorody, curator of modern and contemporary art, discusses “Wisteria,” one of two paintings in the Allen’s collection by French impressionist painter Claude Monet. Photo by Scott Shaw / Allen Memorial Art Museum

At right, Andrea Gyorody, curator of modern and contemporary art, discusses “Wisteria,” one of two paintings in the Allen’s collection by French impressionist painter Claude Monet. Photo by Scott Shaw / Allen Memorial Art Museum

The Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin celebrated its centennial anniversary June 12, and like most institutions that have stood for a century, it’s steeped in history.

The Allen Memorial Art Museum was founded by Elisabeth Severance Allen Prentiss and her husband, Dr. Dudley Allen, who wanted to build an art museum for Oberlin College. Allen passed away before construction began, hence it’s a memorial museum. Renowned architect Cass Gilbert designed the building.

Megan Harding, manager of publications, membership and media for the Allen Memorial Art Museum, says people in the area have grown up with the collection.

“It’s a resource people can come in and view for 10 to 15 minutes and look at one painting, or spend a couple hours and look at the entire collection,” she says.

The entire college is encouraged to use the museum as a resource, no matter the course material – be it an astronomy class measuring the quilt of the night sky or a mathematics class measuring the volume of an ancient Greek cup – because it likely has something to relate to it.

“We find that by combining (classes and the museum), students get a richer experience and an appreciation for the visual arts they might not otherwise have,” Harding says.

In addition, the Allen Memorial Art Museum showcases world-class works of art, which the public is free to enjoy.

“This is a very high-quality collection here,” Harding says. “These works are on par with what they have at the Cleveland Museum of Art. We have been ranked consistently for decades as one of the top five academic art museums in the country. People don’t know what they have here. It’s really a gem. It’s a wonderful place to visit.”

Uniquely positioned

Gallery W set up for The 37th Annual American Greetings Fine Art Show in 2016. Photo courtesy of American Greetings.

Gallery W set up for The 37th Annual American Greetings Fine Art Show in 2016. Photo courtesy of American Greetings.

Gallery W is relatively new to Northeast Ohio’s art scene. It opened in 2016 on the first floor of American Greetings’ Creative Studios in Westlake’s Crocker Park shopping center. Gallery W is spacious, featuring ceilings that are 13 feet high and about 23,000 linear square feet of wall space.

Linda Marshall, creative director at American Greetings and gallery manager at Gallery W, describes the gallery as a “gift to everyone” from the company.

“American Greetings wanted to recognize our creative roots as an organization,” she says. “They wanted to make this a statement and an important statement. They decided to make this first floor kind of an olive branch to the community for anyone who wants to come in publicly to visit American Greetings or any guest to come into our gallery or our lobby and just enjoy creativity and be inspired.”

Due to the large space, Gallery W often features established artists – frequently affiliated with Northeast Ohio – who are capable and confident enough to hold the space. Recent shows have featured Barry Underwood, Sarah Kabot, Joseph Minek, Jerry Birchfield, George Kozmon and Loren Naji.

Megan Baucco, associate manager of marketing communications at American Greetings, says Gallery W is fortunate to be part of a larger corporation. As a result, it doesn’t need to sell art to survive, meaning it can take creative risks on the art it features.

“We try to humbly say we’re unique over here, and if we’re being technical about it, there’s nothing else like us,” she says. “We’re really fortunate that there’s no bottom line in Gallery W because that gives us a unique opportunity to show pieces others might not want to because they’re not for sale. If you think we’re just another art gallery to stop by and check out, then you need to come back a few more times and see how very different we are.”

Community appeal

Artists from across the country visited BAYarts in September 2016 when it hosted the Ohio Plein Air Society’s Annual Competition. Photo courtesy of BAYarts.

Artists from across the country visited BAYarts in September 2016 when it hosted the Ohio Plein Air Society’s Annual Competition. Photo courtesy of BAYarts.

BAYarts was founded by area artists seeking community in 1948. Originally named Baycrafters, the nonprofit became BAYarts in 2006, and today, it primarily operates as an arts education facility.

However, BAYarts artistic director Karen Petkovic says the organization has evolved to be more of a professional gallery and hosts regular exhibitions. BAYarts has two galleries: the Diane Boldman Education Gallery, which largely showcases work by BAYarts faculty, staff and students, and the Sullivan Family Gallery, which hosts shows featuring professional artists. 

BAYarts’ base consists primarily of Bay Village, Westlake, North Olmsted and Avon Lake residents, but people from across Northeast Ohio visit the organization’s campus. When it comes to selecting artists to feature or finding curators for shows, Petkovic says she tries to reach past BAYarts’ base to infuse the galleries with artistic diversity, citing the “My Cuban Experience” and “Cuban Art Invitational” shows on view in July as recent examples.

“We always are trying to kind of shake it up a little bit,” she says.

BAYarts has thrived throughout the years, Petkovic says, in part due to its inviting atmosphere.

“It’s just a very welcoming place,” she says. “It has a huge history, and the fact that it’s in the (Cleveland) Metroparks – and the buildings are historic and interesting to the community – is part of it.

“We’ve worked really hard to have programming, shows, summer concerts and (other) things that really reach out to the community so that they can come out for an evening right in their own backyard and see a band or a professional gallery show and send their kids to classes. It kind of just does everything, bringing it together.”

Multidimensional offerings

Visitors take in a recent exhibition at the Beth K. Stocker Art Gallery at Lorain County Community College’s Stocker Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Stocker Arts Center.

Visitors take in a recent exhibition at the Beth K. Stocker Art Gallery at Lorain County Community College’s Stocker Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Stocker Arts Center.

The C. Paul Stocker Humanities and Fine Arts Center, commonly known as the Stocker Arts Center, was established in 1980 as part of Lorain County Community College in Elyria and serves as a multifunctional arts center not only for the college, but for the entire community, featuring two theaters, art education and a gallery, the Beth K. Stocker Art Gallery.

The Stocker Arts Center is open to the public and always free, for LCCC students and nonstudents alike, but those aren’t the sole reasons for its popularity.

Stocker Arts Center director Janet Herman Barlow suggests the center is so highly regarded because the college prioritizes supporting and cultivating it.

“I think the college has nurtured it throughout its history, for all 37 years it’s been here,” she says. “I think the college takes a lot of pride in what it can bring to the community and what it stands for.”

Stocker Arts Center presents theater, music and other fine arts, and its gallery showcases for both students and faculty.

“At least two of our shows every year are student exhibitions, strictly the work of students at Lorain County Community College,” she says. “Every other year, we do a faculty exhibition as well. This fall, we’ll open with the arts faculty fine arts exhibit. … It’s a sign that the college is deeply committed to fine arts – as well as to other kinds of academic programs.”

Herman Barlow says Stocker Arts Center is the “community’s arts center.”

“We’re the only place that really has it all in one,” she says. “We’re closer than you think and it’s worth making the trip.” CV

On View

Allen Memorial Art Museum

“Maidenform to Modernishm: The Bissett Collection” and “This is Your Art: The Legacy of Ellen Johnson” opened Aug. 15 at 87 North Main St., Oberlin.


“Equal: Jessica Pinsky” and “Teacher Tell Me a Story: The Mad Side of Wonderland” will be on view through Sept. 23 at 28795 Lake Road, Bay Village.

Gallery W

“The 38th Annual American Greetings Fine Art Show” will be on view from Sept. 15 to Oct. 27. An opening reception will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Sept. 15 at 1 American Blvd., Westlake.

Stocker Arts Center

The “Art Faculty Fine Art Exhibit” will be on view from Aug. 28 to Sept. 22. An artists’ reception will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Aug. 31 at 1005 N. Abbe Road, Elyria. “James Massena March: Retrospective” will be on view from Sept. 28 to Oct. 27, with an artist’s reception from 3 to 7 p.m. Sept. 28.

Steve Wagner / FireFish Festival

Steve Wagner / FireFish Festival

FireFish fun

The third annual FireFish Festival will again bring art, music, dance and fire performances to downtown Lorain – but this year, those events will span two instead of just one.

From 5 to 10 p.m. Oct. 6, the festival will feature regionally acclaimed music groups and art installations across Lorain’s abandoned storefronts.

From 2 to 11 p.m. Oct. 7, the party will continue with music, dance and theater performances, leading up to the grand finale, the FireFish Processional. There, the crowd will join dancers, fire jugglers, baton twirlers, stilt walkers and drummers as they make their way to the Black River landing for the lighting of ceremonial papier-mâché fish in a fire display.

The FireFish Festival was created by James Levin, who also co-founded IngenuityFest and founded
Cleveland World Festival.

For more, visit firefishfestival.com.

Lead image: “Moving Up” by Sarah Kabot, part of “Constructions” at Gallery W. Photo by Michael C. Butz

Some observers indicate more red dots like this one, which indicate a piece of art has been sold, are popping up around Northeast Ohio.

Northeast Ohio’s market for art is rising; for those who haven’t yet navigated the challenging but rewarding landscape, now is the time to buy in

Story and photo by Michael C. Butz

High-quality art has become increasingly popular in Greater Cleveland. Art lovers swarm 78th Street Studios every third Friday, art walks in Tremont and Waterloo clog the streets, and even the artists themselves are justified in congratulations, both self and to each other.

But do the traffic and art’s newfound popularity translate to sales? It’s one thing to create art, and there’s no shortage of that in the region. It’s another to market it, and that’s gotten easier, with new galleries popping up and increased arts coverage in weekly newspapers and magazines like this one.

But there’s a bottom line to art, too, because after the artist creates – the painting’s ready to hang, the sculpture screams for a living room to call home – he or she has to sell it. Art is an expression. It’s a profession. It’s also a business.

With the quality of the art escalating and the outlets proliferating, the Cleveland art scene seems to be thriving, even booming. Artists are eager to sell their work. Are Northeast Ohioans buying?

Anecdotally, at least, the answer seems to be “yes,” according to two longtime keepers of Cleveland’s art scene.

“I’m going to say more people are buying local art just from the sense I get from artists,” says Joan Perch, exhibition coordinator at the Stocker Arts Center at Lorain County Community College. She also once owned a commercial gallery, ArtMetro, in downtown Cleveland, and founded the RED DOT Project, a nonprofit that sells and markets the art of its artist members.

“A lot of artists I knew and represented are doing well with selling their work,” Perch says.

Dan Bush, owner and developer of 78th Street Studios, a veritable beehive of creativity in Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood, sees the same trend.

Bush – with encouragement from Bill Scheele of Kokoon Gallery, who said to him several years ago, “This place is boring, we need to have a party” – helped launch Third Fridays, a regularly recurring arts bazaar.

Third Fridays quickly grew from a quarterly event to a monthly event, and in terms of participation, 78th Street Studios has seen it grow from “a couple of hundred” people visiting 30 to 40 businesses to “between roughly 1,500 and 2,000 people” visiting the building’s more than 60 businesses.

“I’m constantly astounded by two things,” Bush says. “One is that people keep coming, which is great. … The second thing is that people are buying art in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s beyond good – it’s astounding. And being someone who enjoys that, I certainly enjoy the fact that there are other people like me out there.”

But are there ever really enough art sales? Certainly not, and accordingly, both Perch and Bush see room for growth ­– if not necessarily in terms of quantity of pieces purchased, then in terms of the volume of buyers – and have advice for those who haven’t yet made the leap from art socializer to art shopper.

“It’s OK to take a while, it’s not like walking into a grocery store,” says Perch of the virgin art buyer.

Perch, whose background includes arts education and nurturing new art-buying clients, suggests newcomers engage in a process they’re likely already good at: making acquaintances.

“It’s all about relationship-building. It’s about personal relationships and trusting the artist and the dealer,” she says. “In the galleries at Lorain County Community College, I often talk to anyone coming in. You really need to start a conversation and a dialogue. That’s where art is – the art is telling you something.”

That dialogue – that exchange of thoughts and emotions – can continue for years as the art hangs on the buyer’s walls for years. What develops following a purchase is a symbiotic relationship between art and buyer, as well as artist and buyer.

“Those pieces of art remind you of the people you know and the things you’ve learned about them and learned about their art,” Perch says. “If you purchase something that’s made by hand, and you get to know (the artist), and you’re helping someone making a living in a creative endeavor, there’s a sense of accomplishment.

“When buying a piece of jewelry or ceramics, a small print, a painting, you’re not only supporting the artist, you’re supporting the gallery,” she adds. “It’s important to support those galleries, too.”

Of course, when supporting artists and galleries, one’s financial ability to do so comes into play. After all, art isn’t functional – not in the same way furniture or a home appliance is. As a result, some struggle with justifying a potential art purchase.

“It really just goes back to the fact it’s art, you can’t eat it,” Bush quips. “Technically, you could heat your house with it if you had to, but people don’t have to enjoy it and they don’t have to engage in it, and I’m just thrilled that they do – and that I get to be a part of it.”

Set a budget but be prepared to exceed it, if only slightly. In Northeast Ohio, many galleries and events offer works at a wide range of price points.

“Not everyone is going to be buying a $3,500 or $35,000 painting, but we’ve got anything from those price points down to a $35 pair of earrings – and everybody can walk away with a piece of art in their hands,” Bush says of Third Fridays. “It’s a good experience for everybody.”

And while “you can’t eat art,” there’s a monetarily unquantifiable value to it.

“Don’t be afraid to get in where you’re comfortable, and look for a price point at which you’re willing to get in,” Perch says. “Once you have some successful acquisitions, you’re ready to build on it. A lot of times, clients like to start with something smaller.”

Starting small helps some overcome what might be considered an intimidating process, from figuring out what you like to knowing the tricks of the trade. Unless you’ve been raised in a family that buys art, you might not know where to start. Is there a right or wrong way to buy art?

“If you like something, there’s not a wrong approach,” Bush says. “I actually have sold art here; I’ve just talked to people. It’s not my business, by any means, but it’s certainly exciting to see somebody walk away with something you can tell they really enjoy. I have a handful of friends I’ve gotten involved with and it’s really fun to see how engaged they are in collecting and learning about the artists they enjoy.”

Some consider buying art risky, and in a sense, it is – but so is making art. Artists take risks, as do those who buy their work. But with risks come rewards.

“I was just talking to some art students about doing something different. We’re working with different technology that artists can use, and they’re a little uncomfortable. And I told them to step out of their comfort zone; that’s what artists do,” Perch says. “People need to trust themselves a little more. Just trust yourself. People can get to know a whole lot more than they think they can.”

“I enjoy seeing people buying art, not purely for selfish reasons,” says Bush, who’s been collecting for 30 years and focuses on Cleveland School art. “I know how much I enjoy it and how it makes me feel, and I want to share that with people. I know a lot of people who have that same itch. So it does my heart good when I see somebody pulling the trigger on something.”

From first-time buyers to “loyal customers” eagerly awaiting new work from artists they’ve long targeted, Northeast Ohio’s art scene is gaining traction.

“Cleveland is a very solid hometown town, and yes, people do support their friends, and they do support their artists and they do support the scene,” Bush says. “There is a really solid art scene in Cleveland right now. It’s not bringing top dollar, it’s not bringing New York or LA figures. I would venture to say, however, that it should be.” CV

Lead image: Some observers indicate more red dots like this one, which indicate a piece of art has been sold, are popping up around Northeast Ohio.