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Arts District

Monday, November 30, 2020

818 Studios Celebrates Second Year With '2020 Vision' Exhibition Featuring 20 Artists

Posted By on Mon, Nov 30, 2020 at 11:53 AM

  • 'Sun and Water,' Mary Cregan

To celebrate its second year in operation, 818 Studios gathered two pieces each from 20 different artists made during this year for '2020 Vision.'

The gallery, run by owner/curator Barbara Merritt and discretely located above Fahrenheit in Tremont, came to life two years ago after a two-bedroom apartment was converted to a studio space.

Merritt is pleased with the opportunity to take charge of the 818 space, which doubles as her photography studio and a retail space.

For this exhibition, Merritt felt with so many artists cooped up in their homes and studios this year toiling away as the pandemic leaves the sequestered disconnected from their would-be audience, it made sense to reach out to her network of artists to collaborate.

“'2020 Vision' came about because during the lockdown I found myself making more art than I had in a while,” explains Merritt. “I was exploring new mediums and free to create without the constraints of busy schedule. I eventually thought that all the other artists I know must be doing the same thing! So, for the 2nd anniversary group show I wanted to see what people have been creating since 2020 began. In a year that has been full of sharp turns, I knew that this show would help to cement a sense of community and positive action. Although it almost didn’t happen, the urge to come together in some way won out. '2020 Vision' was my only route to togetherness that I could see, and I took it.”

The show includes work by heavy hitters such at Douglass Max Utter and David Louis Cintron alongside younger talent such as Mary Cregan, whose striking piece “Sun and Water” features a faceless male figure, wearing only swimming trunks and sandals at what looks like some sort of campground.

The color scheme is muted and the work is impressionistic with its broad strokes full with skill and intent. For all I know this painting could be from a Polaroid she found in an old chest in her grandpa’s basement, but the feeling I get from it expresses something about the human connection with the artist and how she sees the world, a transference of emotion.

Douglas Max Utter, who has never ceased to impress, has a work in this exhibition called “House Call in the Plague Year,” which is an image of a centaur but with a beaked doctor mask, the figure’s hand raised as if to call attention to its arrival. The painting exemplifies Utter’s signature and always synergetic use of color applied with a dynamism consistent with mastery. The painting says something with pigment about 2020 which I’m not sure could be encapsulated with words.

Needless to say 2020 has been hard and displacing for so many and from so many angles and the arts and cultural sector have particularly taken a hard hit.

“With the two shows I’ve had since March, I’ve felt the sharp pain of losing the exhilaration of a big opening night,” explains Meritt. “I’ve come to find that building a show is equally exhilarating and exponentially beneficial to both artist and curator. It’s still a challenge and I still have doubts sometimes but ultimately I know now that keeping art alive, especially now, is really the most important thing. This keeps me going.”

The exhibition will be on display until the end of December.

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Playhouse Square Expects Broadway Series to Return to Stage in Fall 2021

Posted By on Mon, Nov 30, 2020 at 10:58 AM

  • Erik Drost/FlickrCC

After months of agony and quarantines and interruption and death, we've finally reached the point of the pandemic when future events can be announced that will likely go on as scheduled.

Playhouse Square said today that, while it will take touring productions time to get back to rehearsals, the theater company fully expects the Broadway Series to happen in the fall of next year.

“Based on what we know today about the state of the virus, the hopeful news regarding a vaccine and the status of the touring industry, we anticipate that Broadway will return to our stages in the fall of 2021. It will take time for tours to get back up and running when mass gatherings become safe again,” explained Playhouse Square President & CEO Gina Vernaci. “They will have to rehearse for a period of time. Routes and logistics have to be planned out all over the country. It will not happen overnight.”

“What has been so encouraging to us is that despite the uncertainty of 2020, 34,000 KeyBank Broadway Series season ticket holders are committed and eager for Broadway in CLE to return to our stages,” shared Vernaci. “We know this means an even longer wait, but we also know that the Broadway experience at Playhouse Square is worth it. And this is the best way to ensure the safety of our guests.”

Vernaci added, “As a not-for-profit organization, it is stressful to have our main source of revenue on pause for an extended period of time, but the health and safety of our audiences, performers and staff remains our priority. We were fortunate to be in a position of strength when the pandemic struck, thanks to the foresight of our founding board members who developed a business model combining the arts and real estate, but we will need philanthropic support from our community to sustain our mission-based work, particularly our educational programming, over the coming months.”

Playhouse Square has canceled or postponed some 680 performances since March, which is also the month when the Broadway Series lineup is usually announced.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

All Things For You Now Has Old Fashion Hot Dogs Swag For Sale

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 at 12:06 PM

  • Courtesy of All Things For You
Tim Yanko and Dwight Kaczmarek, the owners of the local vintage décor store All Things For You, frequently tell people they deal in memories.

“People are always pointing out furniture or collectibles that remind them of their childhood,” says Kaczmarek, who, with Yanko has just developed an exclusive line of Old Fashion Hot Dogs branded mementos. They purchased the store's iconic neon sign and various memorabilia when the place shuttered earlier this year and have now created a shrine of sorts to the shuttered eatery at their store.

The first items they've got for sale include stickers, magnets, pint glasses, coffee mugs and T-shirts that come in gray or catsup-and-mustard. There's also a “Deluxe Dog” package that features all of the aforementioned items for $60.

"The 360-square-foot diner had a big place in people’s hearts, including mine," says Yanko in a press release. "Lots of folks see the yellow-and-orange lights and stop in reminisce about visiting Old Fashion Hot Dogs with their dad before a game or grabbing a chili cheese dog with friends after a concert. These make great stocking stuffers or Secret Santa gifts.”

Beginning Friday and running through Dec. 20, All Things For You will have extended hours and be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Store hours Dec. 20 to 24 are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Social distancing measures are in place, and masks are required. Curb-side pickup and private appointment shopping are also available.

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Monday, November 23, 2020

Liz Maugans Releases “Pool Drawings,” a Humorous Look at the Human Condition

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2020 at 1:24 PM

  • Liz Maugans

Artist Liz Maugans taps into the comic side in "Pool Drawings," a new collection of 52 spreads over 103 pages in which she catalogs, sometimes sarcastically, modern adult life in America.

This release is through Cleveland’s HEDGE Gallery, which represents Maugans and which is located in 78th Street Studios.

“Poolside Drawings” is derived from Maugans’ notebooks over the past 10-odd years and exhibits what she refers to as her, “…more personal, private, and a “just-for-me” shy-side.” She has used waiting rooms, the airport and even church as ‘observation decks’ of sorts to compile these pages, giving the viewer a glimpse through the artist’s lens.

“I have three kids and my summer getaway and moment where I can get some time to myself and work on my tan, is at the pool,” said Maugans. “My buddy, Al Mothersbaugh makes these handmade blank sketchbooks out of old albums and vintage books and he puts all new blank paper inside. I would grab these books when I would head to the pool with my kids and draw in them. I am one of those artists that gets a lot from observation. I draw what I see, but rarely do these drawings show up in my work as an artist. Drawing for me is more like a diary.”

Maugans says that her next book might be called, “Church Drawings,” which is another favorite place for her to eavesdrop on humanity. She likes to make these observations from a quiet distance so that she may internalize and distill these thought-provoking ‘snap-shots.’

“I draw people that are still, relaxed and happy to be in the sun or in worship,” said Maugans. “The people at the pool are exposed, almost naked and sometimes, and I feel I can capture their vulnerability, of just being themselves. I see their moles, scars, tattoos (which I have a lot of fun with) and a story is revealed to me. Oftentimes, I overhear conversations that are revealed in the phrases that accompany the drawings. Many times these are made up later when I get home.”

The drawings are not elaborate and are playful in their simplicity. They remind me of the work of the ‘Instagram famous’ artist, Matt Gray, a.k.a. ‘really_good_artist’ and have, at times, a sarcastic tone evocative of another local artist, Katy Kosman, who released a book called “Dear Vodka” a few years ago also full of quips and dark commentary on the human condition.

“This quasi-confessional quality is all over my work and suggests the universality of both our humiliations and our kneejerk laughter through identifying with others,” explains Maugans. “Like my other work, these stories supply sympathy with the human quandary, one that in its cutting irony is (hopefully) all the more sincere. I have wrinkles, moles, stretch marks, scars and gray hair. I have to get my roots done! And even through these drawings are of other people, I take creative license and change a lot of things, which usually reflect a mirror back on my own life and experiences.”

There is a long-time camaraderie between Maugans and artist/HEDGE Gallery owner Hilary D. Gent, so it makes sense that the team at HEDGE, and specifically, Aireonna McCall, helped make this concept a reality. I was able to connect with Gent to get her take on the work.

“Liz Maugans is a vibrant, prolific Cleveland-based artist, and a close friend as well. She is a woman that can be confided in and a woman to laugh out loud with. I discovered Liz’s pool drawings on her social media pages and each time I viewed her new posts, I laughed so hard I cried," Gent said. "Her caricatures of gossiping ladies, flirting teenagers, bored lifeguards and retirees soaking in the sun are so hilarious that we thought perhaps more people needed to see these!”

The catalog is available for pre-sale on the HEDGE Gallery website and hope to have copies on hand at the gallery for the Black Friday event at 78th Street Studios on Nov. 27. 

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Negative Space Gallery Hosts a Weekend of Socially Distant Exhibitions and a Holiday Art Sale

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2020 at 11:52 AM

  • "Landscape #1: Whale Waters" by Tessa LeBaron

Negative Space Gallery is hosting socially-distanced events this weekend with the opening of two new exhibitions along with a holiday art sale.

In the Annex Gallery will be the work of Troy A. McCall, “Compa De Arte: Expressions by A Conscientious Dreamer.” McCall, who currently resides in Wheelersberg, OH, was an athlete, martial artist and a self-proclaimed MMA enthusiast who made art throughout his life who then decided to revisit this passion after being diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis in 2013. With his limited capacity, he makes painting using napkins and a credit card to apply the paint. McCall’s work is abstract and reminiscent of abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock.

“Sometimes my hands work and sometimes they don’t,” says McCall. “Before I work I say a little prayer then it’s out of my control, and from there I get into a flow space.”

The main gallery will feature the latest series by Cleveland artist Tessa LeBaron in “Landscapes,” a solo exhibition featuring paintings created during the time period since the COVID-19 outbreak. I spoke with LeBaron about this latest series.

In March of 2020 LeBaron visited Bainbridge Isle, WA, and was struck by the jagged mountains, the lush green ferns and the tall trees which inspired her.

“Our environment is a living synthesis of people and history whether it be mountains, rivers or lakes and soon a feeling is inherent to that place,” explains LeBaron. “When I got back, since everything was shut down due to COVID-19, I decided to paint a series of landscapes with an imaginative twist. I wanted my paintings to convey a variety of moods; like I have a painting where the clouds look like they are weeping and I have another one which I made use reds and oranges which conveys a sense of power and energy.”

Her work makes use of a fantastic pallet of vibrant colors, which emote a range of feeling from fervent to tranquil. The use of seeming ‘psychedelic’ pigment can transmit a sense of joy and whimsy.

“I want the viewer to feel as if they are in the scenery and to be transported to an atmospheric place," explains LeBaron. “I also want them to focus on what nature has to offer us; things like growth, progression and healing. I’d like for my illustrative style and use of color to depict a sense of serenity and tranquility. Lastly I want people to examine how environment can elicit a certain thought or feeling.”

LeBaron, 26, who is originally from Ashtabula, OH, has been a resident artist at Negative Space for the past two years and says that having her workspace at the gallery has allowed her to sell and showcase her work as well as to establish herself in the artistic community in Cleveland. She continues to network and connect with many developing artists and musicians through Negative Space, which normally hosts a gamut of events and exhibitions. Both of these exhibitions are free and open to the public from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m. Negative Space will also be hosting a holiday sale with discounted pricing featuring clothing by Yuval Zamir, jewelry from Cara Romano, artwork, prints and books by Gadi Zamir as well as art by Jessica Kramer of Rust Belt Artists.

With so much going on this weekend I wanted touch base with Gadi Zamir, the guiding force behind Negative Space. Zamir is originally from Jerusalem and came to the United Sates in 1999 where he studied Psychology during the day and made art at night until receiving his BA from Ursuline Collage in 2004.

“Growing up in Jerusalem impacted my work in many ways,” says Zamir. “My earliest memories of working were drawing “murals” in the apartment complex’s abandoned hallways. I would find pieces of charcoal on the ground from bonfires and draw upon the outside walls of the estate’s laundry rooms. We grew up in a housing project, surrounded by love, friendships, poverty, and working-class parents. I also grew up surrounded by violence, and terror, and loss. I used art to create my own imaginary world.”

Zamir works mostly on wood where he uses wood-burning tools such as soldering irons and butane torches. He colors the pieces using fabric dye, stains, and, at times, even makeup to create large 2-dimensional as well as 3-dimensional pieces which are festooned with traditional, non-traditional and symbolic imagery.

Negative Space, like many art venues, is feeling the strain from the COVID-19 pandemic, yet remains committed to its mission to serve as a platform for artists and a gathering place for the community.

“We would love it if you can come and enjoy this weekend’s art shows," says Zamir. “We are following the pandemic CDC requirements. Please ware a smile a smile under your mask and keep social distance. See you soon and all my love to you.”

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'Made Cleveland' Launches Website to Sell Goods From More Than 65 Local Artisans

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2020 at 10:06 AM

An engraved piece of wooden art of Severance Hall from by local artisan Inspired Indigo - PHOTO VIA MADECLEVELAND.COM
  • Photo via
  • An engraved piece of wooden art of Severance Hall from by local artisan Inspired Indigo

To help get the work of local vendors and artisans out to Clevelanders during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new organization called Made Cleveland recently launched a website where many of those creations can be purchased, and just in time for the holiday season when you won't want to be out and about but you will want to buy local.

Founded by Ash O’Connor, the organization hopes to be a “one-stop shop for all things made in Cleveland and to showcase all of the creative practices found in the region.” Their goal is to give a platform to small businesses to provide their goods safely and virtually.

Made Cleveland currently features 65+ vendors with more to be added over time. They are currently offering socially-distanced pick-up along with free local shipping. The current focus is on art, clothing and other handmade goods. In the future, they plan on expanding to add work by local filmmakers and authors. 

In addition to their website, the organization will also debut a pop-up shop in the Van Aken district on November 28th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free tickets are available for pre-order to space out customers in order to ensure a safe shopping experience. You can get one at their events page.

The organization will also be occupying a vacant storefront on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights from November 27th through December 24th with social distance guidelines in place.

You can follow them on Instagram @Made.Cleveland and Facebook.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Cozy Up with These New Cheesy Holiday Romcoms Streaming on Netflix

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2020 at 1:22 PM

  • Courtesy Netflix
Made-for-TV holiday film fans: As November wanes and December approaches, you may be asking yourself, "Can anything top last year's Netflix film The Knight Before Christmas? Not only in name but also in content?"

Starring Vanessa Hudgens, the film is completely saccharine, campy and bends the space time continuum... FOR LOVE AND CHRISTMAS MIRACLES. It follows a medieval hunk from Ireland (the accent is questionable), bedecked in chainmail, who is magically transported to 2019 by a wood witch — literally referred to as an "old crone" in the film — on his quest to become a "true knight."

Becoming a "true knight" apparently involves banging V. Hudge. She was either a baker or some kind of teacher or shopkeeper, and she hits the knight with her car and assumes he has amnesia — and not that he has traveled through time and landed in front of her vehicle. Hudgens invites this random man she has hit with her car — who is dressed like a 14th-century castle roamer — into her life and guest house with little to no concern that he might be mentally ill or a murderer. At one point, he disappears in a puff of smoke back to the 14th century to see his brother — no one bats an eye — but then tells the old crone to send him back.

Long story short: This is so insane and on the nose in terms of a knight-in-shining-armor trope, as well as the "night/knight" before Christmas pun that it could be offensive. But it is also highly enjoyable.

It falls into one of my favorite Christmas movie categories, "ghost love," wherein dead people (or out-of-place time travelers) decide to resurrect themselves/live in the present day (or past) to be with their one true love. It's a play on the Scrooge thing, but with more kissing.

(The best in this genre, by far, is The Spirit of Christmas, about a hot bootlegger who is murdered in the 1920s and haunts his giant house, but falls in love with the modern day lawyer/agent trying to sell it. And then literally abandons his ghost wife in some Close Encounters of the Third Kind-shit to be with her. See also: non-Christmas-related Kate & Leopold and The Lake House.)

That aside, Netflix has some new holiday films in their line-up (not nearly as many as last year, but what can you do?).

Here's what you can expect stream this season:

Now streaming

First up, Netflix released Holidate on Oct. 28, starring Emma Roberts, some handsome Australian dude, Kristin Chenoweth (who appears to have had some slightly odd plastic surgery) and Frances Fisher. Roberts plays a recently dumped 30-something whose mom nags her about not having a new boyfriend on Christmas. We can tell Roberts is depressed about her love life because she's always wearing sweatpants, sneaking cigarettes and shoveling candy into her face. So while returning some oversized pajamas to the mall, she meets the Australian dude — also heartbroken but not admitting it — and they decide to be each other's "holidates:" permanently on-call dates for every holiday, which run the gamut from New Year's Eve to Easter and Cinco de Mayo to Mother's Day...both literally and in the film's timespan. There's a no-sex rule in this bargain, but you can't have a romcom without it, so things get complicated. Verdict: Of course this is watchable, if only to see how many holidays the writers came up with that people take "dates" to. Saint Patrick's Day is not a date holiday.

Operation Christmas Drop
Now streaming

This appears to be a film about the military using their equipment to drop medicine, food and toys to remote tropical islands over the holidays. Kat Graham plays an uptight Washington, D.C. type sent to examine the validity of the project and report back to her superior about whether or not the government should be spending its money on the titular Drop. While there (still not quite sure where "there" is; Hawaii?), she meets Alexander Ludwig (giving off some Prince Harry vibes) and the two butt heads before maybe finding the true meaning of Christmas, together, on the other side of the world? And love, obviously. Seems a little White Christmas-y in its use of soldiers, but I saw zero evidence of a musical holiday score or choreography in the trailer. Disappointing — or not — depending on how you feel about large singing-and-dancing numbers. (Please, Santa, let it be better than Holiday in the Wild.)

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Now streaming

This is for kids, but seems quite whimsical — and appears to have zero romance, so skip if you just want romcoms. Forest Whitaker (who I find terrifying in most film roles) plays a great inventor named Jeronicus Jangle who lives in an imaginary holiday town (resembles the Nutcracker world based on the costuming) and was supposed to create some great toy that would revolutionize the gifting game. Thankfully (or not), this does appear to have some large singing and dancing numbers, as well as talking robot toys. And messages about how you can do anything and magic lives inside of you. I will watch this, mostly for Phylicia Rashad. Oh, and Keegan-Michael Key, who looks like he plays the villain.

The Princess Switch: Switched Again
Streaming Nov. 19

HOLD THE DAMN PHONE. This is another Vanessa Hudgens vehicle (so glad she got into Christmas films), but instead of playing two separate people like she did in the original Princess Switch — wherein she plays both a baker from Chicago and a princess from a fake European city who look identical and switch places during a bake-off in that town to walk a mile in each other's shoes, and also help the princess avoid an unwanted marriage to a prince-type guy...who the baker ends up falling in love with — she now plays three different V. Hudges. This is some fuckery. From what I can glean from the trailer, the Chicago-baker Hudgens, named Stacy in the film (and now married to that prince guy), goes back to the European town for the coronation of Duchess Margaret, who had been in love with Stacy's baker BFF, but they broke things off. So Stacy brings her BFF to the coronation to see if he and Margaret can rekindle things. Stacy and Margaret switch again to give her more time alone with the baker BFF. WELL. Turns out there's a third goddamn Vanessa Hudgens, Margaret's cousin — who looks just like her but is blonde and slightly Evil Queenish — who wants a switch of her take the throne. Drama ensues, as well as various romantic entanglements.

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square
Streaming Nov. 22

Dolly plays a Christmas angel (of course she does) in this musical (with 14 original songs) starring Christine Baranski, Jenifer Lewis and Treat Williams. Baranski is a Scrooge and Dolly tries show her the true meaning of Christmas, I assume by being Dolly.

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two
Streaming Nov. 25

This is a sequel to The Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn and Darby Camp. I'm just going to provide the Netflix description, because it sounds great: "It’s been two years since siblings Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy Pierce (Judah Lewis) saved Christmas, and a lot has changed. Kate, now a cynical teenager, is reluctantly spending Christmas in Cancun with her mom’s new boyfriend and his son Jack (Jahzir Bruno). Unwilling to accept this new version of her family, Kate decides to run away. But when a mysterious, magical troublemaker named Belsnickel (editor's note: Julian Dennison aka that Kiwi kid from Deadpool 2) threatens to destroy the North Pole and end Christmas for good, Kate and Jack are unexpectedly pulled into a new adventure with Santa Claus (Kurt Russell)." Sign me up.

Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker
Streaming Nov. 27

From Shonda Rhimes comes this film following the students of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy as they work to put on their annual production of The Nutcracker. Not a romcom.

Just Another Christmas
Streaming Dec. 3

A guy named Jorge is a grinchy family man who is stuck in Christmas forever. It's like Groundhog Day except he appears to black out for the rest of the year and only wake up on the following Christmas? This seems like a horror film and not a romcom. Per Netflix, "He soon realizes that he’s doomed to keep waking up on Christmas Eve after Christmas Eve, having to deal with the aftermath of what his other self has done the other 364 days of the year."

I'm going to assume COVID has lead to this dearth of new Netflix-filmed holiday entertainment (I have done zero research to support this theory). Like, where is A Christmas Prince: The Royal Toddler? (Thankfully, all three other films in the Christmas Prince saga — A Christmas Prince, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding and A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby are streaming on Netflix now; watch them.)

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