In his essay about Eva Kwong's exhibit Noetic Energy, on view now at William Busta Gallery (2731 Prospect Ave., 216.298.9071), Anderson Turner makes note of the Buddhist belief that "All natural processes and all living things are visibly suffused with moving life energy." To visualize this concept, Turner suggests that you spend time with a herd of animals or close your eyes and listen to the forest. Independent beings move together and act in response to one another. Turner finds this idea in Kwong's sculptural ceramic works, many of which are built from multitudes of smaller pieces that have individual identities, as well as relationships to each other, and a collective sense of movement and personality.
That same notion could be applied to the entire city at any time, really, but it's especially true this weekend during the Downtown Cleveland Alliance's Sparx Gallery Hop. Galleries from all over the region are opening their doors, and with some coordination and free transportation (courtesy of Lolly the Trolley), thousands of people will visit studios, galleries and outdoor events all over town. If you had a view from a helicopter, it would look not like a single herd moving in unison but dozens of herds, wandering the Cuyahoga watershed. The herd will move from the Tremont Arts and Cultural Festival to neighborhood galleries to the Cleveland Museum of Art's Chalk Festival, with stops in between at the Art Quarter on St. Clair and Superior avenues, Little Italy and MidTown.
Busta says one of the great things about the event is that it shows off one of Cleveland's greatest strengths: a vast amount of affordable, available space. Sparx gives artists who work in unceremonious industrial areas an occasion to open their doors. "One of the things Cleveland has is space for younger artists and artists of all kinds," he says. "That's one of the things that Sparx recognizes."
Busta says the scope of the Gallery Hop sets it apart from other art walks: "One thing I learned from my old gallery in Murray Hill is that the art walk has to distinguish itself. How is this different from every other day on Murray Hill?"
Indeed, the phrase "art walk" implies a neighborhood feel and the possibility of taking it all in by walking. The Sparx Gallery Hop is so large, both geographically and in terms of participating artists, that it wouldn't be quite right to call it an art walk.
The event also gives a secondary boost to galleries that have already opened shows - which typically, after opening-night festivities, see visitor traffic plummet. Busta expects that about 1,000 people will visit Noetic Energy this weekend - two weeks after its opening.
Asterisk Gallery's (2393 Professor Ave., 330.304.8528) Labor and Industry show - a cooperative venture with Ohio Canal Corridor and another stop on the Gallery Hop - should get a similar boost (it officially opened during last week's Tremont Art Walk). After its debut last year, when photographer Roger Mastroianni exhibited photos of men at work in steel mills, organizers Dan Morgan (in cooperation with Tim Donovan and the Ohio Canal Corridor) decided to make it an annual exhibit.
"I had worked with Dan Morgan before," says Asterisk curator Dana Depew. "This time, we decided to use a larger venue and have more artists. So we'll have about 14 artists working in all different media." Last week's opening showed a vast range of perspective on the subject - from the historical to the political, from Mastroianni's refined photos to high-energy pen-and-ink drawings by Derek Hess. This weekend, in addition to work by a dozen other artists, there'll be a blacksmithing demonstration and industrial music by DJ Adrian Bertolone.
Nearby in Tremont, Corey Baker will go out with a bang, renaming his Exit gallery Tixe (it's exit backward; 2688 W. 14th St., 330.321.8161) before he takes a break from the time and financial demands it takes to run an exhibit space. He's showing his own work, which began as photos of friends and relatives broken down into squares and circles, ranging from pencil-point size to the diameter of a penny. They were then turned into large, pixilated versions of the photographic images. Baker says they're inspired by ancient cave paintings made by shamans. One is nearly 11 feet tall.
At MidTown, artist Michael Greenwald provides a peek into the usually private world of his studio (located at 1900 Superior Ave., Suite 113). He's been an active participant in local public art projects - from the big fiberglass guitars to the slightly smaller fiberglass rats that have been seen around the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood. In his more personal work - which has exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Massillon Museum of Art and elsewhere - he explores different media, especially small- to mid-sized landscapes and seascapes, painted in oil on canvas, which, even as they portray the drama of their subjects, manage to evoke peace.
The Downtown Cleveland Alliance says more than 500 artists are participating in this year's Hop. That is a very large herd indeed.