SPACES Presents Politically Themed Exhibits as RNC Nears

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[image-1]Gearing up for this summer’s RNC, SPACES hosts an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. this Friday, May 20, for three new projects that explore the political process. In addition to the highly anticipated local project, The Fixers, SWAP resident artist Roopa Vasudevan (based in Shanghai and Brooklyn) begins her #Bellweather project, which will unfold during the course of her residency. Additionally, SPACES’ Vault features a selection of video and film works examining the election cycle, as well as a mini-retrospective of former Plain Dealer editorial illustrator Edward Freska’s political cartoons.

Official statistics for the RNC forecast a tremendous influx of visitors and income, including 19 hotels, 5,000 rooms, 16,000 rooms in Cuyahoga County, 50,000 visitors, 15,000 members of the media and an estimated 10 billion media hits, totaling $200 million in direct spending. And it will all be here and gone in less than one week.

“SPACES is the only visual arts organization in the city that is focusing all of its major programs—running concurrent with the RNC—on the election cycle,” states SPACES Executive Director Christina Vassallo. “We work with artists who offer a glimpse into the future by questioning what is happening right now. With that in mind, how could we possibly ignore the effect of 50,000 politically motivated visitors?“

Through seven short films, The Fixers are working together to offer an alternative to the official, limited narrative. Topics include:

- A day in the life of a wrap-around school site coordinator, Buckeye area (Tanese Horton)

- Young people dealing with neighborhood-level violence in Kinsman (Naudia Loftis)
The impact of funding for military-grade equipment on civilian policing in Cleveland (RA Washington & Jacqueline Greene)

- How gentrification is effecting neighborhood social fabric, through the eyes of long-term residents of Ohio City (Friends from the Near West Side)

- Public transit access and the impact of transit funding decisions on riders in the Kinsman area (Marvetta Rutherford)

- Community-based nutrition workshops and local farm initiatives near Cedar/East 105th (Vel Scott)

- Initiatives addressing high infant mortality rates in Cleveland (Maria Miranda & Susan Greene)

The Fixers are led by local artist and author Kate Sopko, who encourages public dialogues through social experiments and projects that border between public art and social transformation. Sopko is joined by a team of filmmakers, including the production team of Angela Beallor and Elizabeth Press, both of whom live in Troy, NY. Beallor is a native of Cleveland, and her work explores history, memory and politics through photo and video. Additionally, local filmmakers and photographers Robert Banks, Chelsie Corso, Tom Laffay and Paul Sobota are helping to bring the project to life, with additional support from contributing musicians and designers.

“Kate Sopko, our R&D artist, will reveal the complexity of this city through a series of short films and public dialogues; each film will show a tour of Cleveland that locals would give RNC delegates if they had the chance,” says Vassallo.

Before the RNC, the project will also debut at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, NY (92 Plymouth Street). The exhibition at Smack Mellon will be on view from June 18 through July 31. The Fixers are also currently organizing events during the RNC (July 18 to 21).

“The first film will be released May 20, and the rest will be released approximately every week and a half until the RNC,” Sopko says. “Tanese Horton's will be the first one released. Several of the films will be up at the opening. Also, we're keeping an updated list of screenings/dialogues (of which there will be many) associated with the Fixers series at”

Roopa Vasudevan’s #Bellweather is a data collection project that explores political desires of the voting population of Ohio, a state considered vital by both parties, but whose residents are often characterized as “faceless, nameless votes.” #Bellweather manifests political rhetoric and social media data relating to Ohio into physical objects that re-contextualize the carefully constructed, heavily loaded language of political campaign season into a closer representation of how Ohio residents perceive these messages.

Additionally, the artist plans to compare her findings side by side with current polls to determine “Is there a trend to what the population actually wants? Do these trends match up with the widely accepted polls? And if not, is it time to investigate a new system of vote forecasting that better utilizes the data trails we are already habitually leaving behind us?” Roopa Vasudevan will give a free, public presentation on her work from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 9.

“Our SWAP resident Roopa Vasudevan is returning to her hometown, from Shanghai, to create a headquarters for the real Ohio voter inside SPACES,” elaborates Vassallo. “She'll be analyzing the sentiments behind social media data that originates in Ohio and references the presidential election. Then she'll put the data to work in a display that will evolve during the exhibition period.”

Meanwhile, the Vault at SPACES hosts Start Here, Finish Here, a collection of video works and documentaries exploring complex political terrain. The project’s name was inspired by the “ominous-sounding” tagline of the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee for the RNC. Through both the voice of the people and the propaganda associated with presidential candidates, Start Here, Finish Here reflects both the hope and cynicism inherent in the political system.

Start Here, Finish Here is curated by Steve Rowell and Christina Vassallo. Participating artists include Jim Finn (St. Louis, MO), Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese (New York, NY), Sheryl A. Oring (Greensboro, NC), Steve Rowell (Los Angeles, CA) and others, in addition to actual attack ads and disinformation shorts shown in The Vault strictly for educational purposes.

Additionally, SPACES hosts the first major gallery exhibition by nationally renowned, Cleveland-based political cartoonist Edward Freska. Originally the picture editor and op-ed illustrator for the Plain Dealer for 18 years, and later the graphics editor for the Los Angeles Times op-ed group, Freska continues working as an editorial cartoonist to this very day for the Sun News Group. Freska on Politics showcases several decades of illustrations offering a historical narrative that SPACES describes as a counter point to the contemporary issues raised in other work on view.

The Fixers remains on view through July 21. The other projects remain on view through July 29.

(SPACES) 2220 Superior Viaduct, 216-621-2314,

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