Brite Winter Tees Up More Expansive Visual Arts Offerings This Year

click to enlarge Cleveland artist Ashley Sullivan hard at work creating Brite Winter's sculptural signage. - Thri
Cleveland artist Ashley Sullivan hard at work creating Brite Winter's sculptural signage.
Entering its sixth incarnation this weekend, Brite Winter has become something of a wintry institution in this town. We're a gritty, freezing temp-bred city, so a music and arts festival in the middle of winter — OUTDOORS, no less — is just as sensible as anything. Plus, the music and arts offerings are top-notch and getting better each year.

And, with respect to growth, this year's event promises the broadest and deepest visual arts offerings yet. Emily Appelbaum, Brite Winter's art director, says that the connection between Cleveland itself and the visuals scattered throughout Brite Winter is clear and meaningful.

"We're focusing on creating a unified environment, the idea being you walk into Brite Winter and you feel that you are really transported," she says. "What that ends up meaning is a lot of interactive art and creating experiences rather than just something you look at."

Cleveland artists, of course, have a huge hand in this. Brite Winter has teamed up with plenty of hard-working, talented folks around town who have developed enticing pieces for the festival. Located at various venues along West 25th Street and throughout Ohio City, Brite Winter lends an intimate setting for many Cleveland artists.

For instance, and this is a long-standing element of the festival, a group of artists via the Cleveland Museum of Art have created the Great Wall of Light, where people can come make lanterns and illuminate a massive installation along the street.

Beyond that, though, Michelle Murphy, owner of Micro Art Space, is collaborating with a Swiss artist on a large piece called "To Live Long and Briter." Without giving too much away ahead of time, Appelbaum says: "It will welcome people to leave and transmit their dreams and hopes and thoughts — and it's being born for this event, but it will have a life after this. It's going to travel and continue on a journey of gathering people's messages to each other and to outer space. Michelle is a photographer for NASA."

Elsewhere, Andrew Schumann, an area high school student and filmmaker, is setting up a piece called "Dashboard Confessional," which will invite people to come in from out of the cold and share secrets. Brite Winter, of course, plays off the idea that visual arts encompass a broad array of works from Northeast Ohio. Schumann's work will reflect the "experiential" aspect of the festival.

Thrive Cleveland is working on a very interesting-sounding project that will focus on the idea of Cleveland's cold climate and how we as a city deal with that. These freezing temperatures are risky propositions, and they play a role in defining us. From what we've gathered, there's a lot to look forward to in their work.

"I think that's what makes Brite as festival so different to begin with," Appelbaum says. "You can hear music at anytime in the winter, but there's something a little bit surreal about doing it outside in the cold. Our art is trying to emphasize that, as well." As in the past, a variety of exhibitions will be on displays at all sorts of venues, like the nearby RTA station, Town Hall, Old Angle, Market Avenue Wine Bar.

Appelbaum grew up in Cleveland, and she recently moved back after time spent working in the Bay Area out west. She says it's amazing to see a city like Cleveland — one which mirrors Oakland, Calif., in some ways, she adds — blend its blue-collar manufacturing roots with unbound creative expression.

"When I got here, to see how much had happened in the time that I was gone was just mind-boggling. Of course, Ohio City, Detroit-Shoreway, Waterloo — all of these places have improved and blossomed in the time that I've been gone," she says. "There's kind of a tongue-in-cheek scrappiness about what we do at Brite. There's something very 'Cleveland' about that. We want things to have that sense of humor and maybe a bit of a sense that we know things aren't finished yet and that we don't take ourselves too seriously."

Brite Winter Fest
4 - 11 p.m. Saturday Feb. 21 at venues throughout the Market District in Ohio City

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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