Group gets a handle on art haunts
Plain Dealer Reporter
A Cleveland neighborhood is gradually becoming an art district – one of those funky, vibrant enclaves of artists’ studios, galleries, bistros and live-work spaces that are spreading all over the country.
A group of artists and nonprofit groups dedicated to art and culture renamed a 22-block area straddling St. Clair and Superior avenues Friday and held a benefit to raise money for banners in the neighborhood.
The neighborhood’s new name is the Cleveland Art Quarter, which will be framed by Lake Erie, Euclid Avenue and East 18th and East 40th streets.
“Art districts not only have that cultural and creative vibe that makes the city feel alive,” said Christy Gray, project coordinator of the Red Dot Project, which sponsored the fund-raiser with two other neighborhood arts groups, Zygote Press and City Artists at Work. “Art districts are economic engines, because they help support businesses and foster growth in a community,” Gray said.
Those involved chose the name of The Cleveland Art Quarter – The Quarter for short – because it includes four neighborhoods within its boundaries: the Quadrangle District, St. Clair-Superior, Asiatown and Midtown. Also considered were “The Fringe” and “Funky Town.”
“We are gradually gentrifying the neighborhood,” said Mindy Tousley, co-director of City Artists at Work.
Artists began settling in the area about 10 years ago, and more than 100 members of City Artists at Work have studios between East 18th and East 40th streets.
City officials and art groups estimate some 500 artists live and work in the area. Artists are attracted to the spacious live-work warehouse buildings throughout the community, Gray said.
Councilman Joe Cimperman, whose Ward 13 includes The Quarter, applauds the effort to bring more attention to the St. Clair-Superior area, which in 2001 became the city’s first legislatively zoned live-work district.
“It [The Quarter] is an honest and genuine reflection of the life that goes on there,” Cimperman said.
“You can’t find another area per capita in the city that has as many artists, live-work spaces, galleries and photographers making a living.”
More artists and members of the so-called “creative class” began moving to the area when live-work lofts like Loftworks on East 40th Street and Tower Press on Superior Avenue were developed about four years ago.
The Quarter joins established art districts like Soho in Manhattan and Jackson Square in San Francisco, as well as more recent arrivals like Crosslands in Kansas City, Mo., and Old City in Philadelphia.
In addition to studio artists, creative people are steadily moving into the area, said Alenca Banco, who two years ago purchased the 91-year-old St. Josephat Church and turned it into the Convivium33 Gallery on East 33rd Street off Superior Avenue.
“Finally, local governments [nationwide] are realizing that art really drives economic development,” Banco said. “They rebuild communities and business districts.”