What the NEA means to us ...   07.24.09

I'd like to start by saying, simply, I <3 the National Endowment for the Arts. I've worked at three different arts organizations in the last 10 years (The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Mid-America Arts Alliance, and now SPACES) and all are regular recipients of NEA funding. For example, the SPACES World Artist Program (SWAP) has received NEA funding for the last six years.

Reason enough to love the NEA, right? They support fabulous art institutions that bring quality art to communities of all sizes across the United States.

But, as with all relationships, it's a little more complicated than that.

Rewind almost three years ...

I was working from my home office in Cleveland for Mid-America Arts Alliance, which is located in Kansas City, Missouri. As a fairly recent transplant to Ohio, I wanted to get to know the area, so I volunteered at the Cleveland Artists Foundation. The nice gallery manager there, Nicole Edwards, told me that there was a development manager position open at SPACES. Shortly after that, she started working for SPACES in a communications role, and I was hired for the development position.

We share an office, the same middle name (Louise) and the same taste in music. She's a really, really wonderful person to work with.

But we almost didn't live happily ever after ...

Things are tight, folks. We are a nonprofit, and I'd be kidding you, me, and a whole bunch of other people if I said that we aren't thinking a lot about where the next dollar is coming from. Fortunately, the National Endowment for the Arts used funds allocated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for job preservation. More precisely: to support the preservation of jobs that are threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn.

We applied and received funds to preserve the communications manager position. That means Nicole  -- without whom I wouldn't have this job -- can count on keeping her job.

I love the NEA ...

~ Posted by Sarah Hoyt, Sr. Marketing & Development Manager

Author: Christopher Lynn, Executive Director
Category: General

Budget Update from Ohio Citizens for the Arts   07.22.09

Below is a "re-printing" of an email from Ohio Citizens for the Arts. Thank you to all you corresponded with your representatives and policy makers to retain arts funding. Please continue your efforts and do all you can to educate your politicians about the arts and their importance to our communities.  I recommend reviewing the Ohio Citizens for the Arts Advocacy FAQ page.
The final curtain in the budget drama came down with a thud as the Governor signed the state's FY 2010-2011 budget.  In the worst economic crisis since the creation of the Ohio Arts Council, the good news is that there still is an agency.

Your advocacy efforts ensured we still have an Ohio Arts Council despite threats of extinction by some law makers.  Thanks to all of you who participated in this process.

The bad news is that the Ohio Arts Council will have fewer dollars to help Ohio's vital arts community in the coming biennium. We are deeply disappointed in the final budget allocations for the Ohio Arts Council, which total $13,188,580 for the biennium.  This funding represents a 47% decrease from the original appropriation of $24.9 million for the previous biennium and a 38% decrease from the final allocation of $21.3 million. We are disappointed that the members of the Ohio legislature and the Governor, who heard our message and told us they agreed that the arts are important and worth the state's investment, in the end did not provide adequate funding.

We must recognize that with tight budgets as far into the future as discernible, with the plague of term limits which restrict members to a few years of learning about the arts, and with increasing problems in the area of Ohio's economy and education, it is now imperative that we do much more on a constant basis to educate members of the legislature, possible members of the legislature, and the Governor about the importance of what we do to help solve Ohio's most pressing problems.  If you believe in the necessity of public support to keep our arts institutions and artists viable, we must redouble our efforts at communicating that which we know to a certitude to legislators.

Our policy makers must be made to understand the role the arts play in education.  We now have generations of tests which prove conclusively that children who are immersed in the arts do better across the board, in every subject and in their ability to learn.

The Board and staff at Ohio Citizens for the Arts have never been more proud of the arts advocates in Ohio.  During this budget cycle more than 25,000,000 emails were sent to the Governor and members of the Ohio House and Senate.  Arts advocates made personal visits with legislators at home and in Columbus. Arts advocates worked beyond the call of duty to enlist friends and colleagues to join in the advocacy effort.  Editorials, facebook, blogs, and websites all carried the call to action in support of the arts. We thank you for your dedication.

We must forge ahead in our efforts to educate policy makers about the value of and need for the arts in Ohio.  We must continue to deliver the message that the arts in Ohio are part of the solution.  The arts are economic drivers that generate revenue:

Creative industries contribute more than $25 billion to Ohio's economy annually
Creative industries support 231,200 jobs in Ohio's economy annually
Creative industries generate $1.06 billion in state and local tax revenues annually
Creative industries generate $1.78 billion in federal tax revenues annually

Ohio Citizens for the Arts is committed to help you, your organization, and your community to continue the fight for arts funding. Together we can educate and prepare legislators to be better equipped to make the right decisions about investing in the arts.

William P. Blair
Legislative Counsel
Donna S. Collins
Executive Director
Ohio Citizens for the Arts

Author: Christopher Lynn, Executive Director
Category: General

Naked Performance Art: always makes you wonder   07.18.09

When I met our upcoming artist-in-residence, Jií Survka (Ostrava, Czech Republic), I knew he would be a good fit at SPACES. Jií doesnt seem to be afraid to say whats on his mind, talk about difficult things, or be politically incorrect for the sake of strong ideas. Plus hes fun.

Weve been requesting images of Jiís recent work so that we can blast you with his amazingness and convince you to hang out with him and see his performance and exhibition this fall. You can see images of his work Massage de luxe from 2008 above (Jií is the guy standing over the painted body. He's kind of naked on top, too). It reminded me of a performance by Guillermo Gomez-Penas La Pocha Nostra: Mapa Corpo.

In both performances, the artist is a conductor, drawing responses and actions out of the audience. A body, somehow altered, becomes the focal point upon which visitors must act"this kind of engagement feels very powerful. I havent yet had an opportunity to discuss this work with Jií, but I do know that the body acted upon in Mapa Corpo was a female. For me, this brings up age old questions: When talking about misrepresentations of women, ignorance about cultures, sexism and colonization, does it help to use womens bodies? Does it move us forward? Especially if the director is a male? Im not trying to make generalizations, or critically judge either of the artists Ive mentioned. Im putting this out there to see what you all think---are there other performances where youve thought about these issues? What kinds of resolutions have you come to? Have you engaged with the performance and participated in some kind of action? How did it transform your experience and understanding of the work?

Ill be talking more about Jií as we prepare for his arrival in early August. And Im excited to tell you tales of his residency during the coming months. Its gonna be CRAZY!

Posted by Sarah Beiderman, Manager, SPACES World Artist Program

Author: Christopher Lynn, Executive Director
Category: General

As the world inTerns: Episode One   07.14.09

In this episode of the riveting, angsty, daytime drama, work-study intern, Nick Meloro, confesses all.

What is the truth about interning at SPACES? Where do I begin?  You might want the dirty secrets of the back room. Or maybe you think Ill tell you what is in the vault?  Or who danced with whom at Mambo Muerto? It is all juicy stuff; however, Ill start with an introduction:

My name is Nick Meloro and I am on the precipice of my senior year as an English major at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.  Ive been a work-study intern at SPACES for over a year now.

But what does that mean?  Clearly I work and I study, but thats hardly descriptive, or entertaining or accurate.  In my time here, Ive learned how to work a hundred year old elevator (which I thought I got stuck in earlier today), hang a painting, deflate an inflatable white elephant, install a wall mounted television and create a lovely platter of strawberries and cream puffs.  Sometimes this can all happen in one day at SPACES.

As the lone English guy among a barrage of fantastic CIA studio art lads and ladies who are interning, Communications Manager, Nicole Edwards, and Senior Marketing and Development Manager, Sarah Hoyt, have been so kind in including me in their work.  Ive edited for gallery publications and even worked on grant reports. Ah words"my element. A surprisingly fascinating aspect of the world of professional art is how it is financed and supported by its community. It is an art all its own.

In the non-profit world of SPACES, I quickly learned it is never a question of finding great art or artists in Cleveland, it is finding the means of supporting them and people interested in seeing them. Something to talk about later: artists are a temperamental species"they must be housed and fed and clothed. The nerve.  They like to be appreciated too.

Im getting off the topic.  Im talking about interning.  In my time here, SPACES has pushed my comfort zone, really.  Clearly Im comfortable with cream puffs, who isnt? Gallery Manager, Marilyn Simmons, however, enjoys putting me in boundary pushing positions. Many times, I, a terrible driver, am shuttling paints, or flowers, or Israeli artists across downtown Cleveland. Sometimes Marilyn asks me to carry a ceramic piece worth the equivalent of the tuition for my senior year across the gallery. I can only describe it as terrifyingly wonderful.

Yet taking these personal risks can be rewarding (yay I didnt break it!) and at the end of the pay period, I have a nice check for what seems less like work and more like, let us say going to the gym. I dont always feel like coming every day, but it is worth it to do so.  Im exercising my brain; it is challenging! It isnt always glamorous"there are the quintessential intern activities:  addressing three hundred envelopes, doing the recycling, etc.

However, there is a constant of creativity and imaginative, innovative thinking. SPACES is stimulating.  Im pumping up those muscles I dont often use. I push the synapses in my brain to reach further and deeper, and create meaning out of what I see and experience. And Im not even talking about the art yet.  It is all in a days work here at SPACES.

Until next time,

Nick, the English Guy

Author: Christopher Lynn, Executive Director
Category: General

Interview with SPACELab artist Evan Larson   07.09.09

Falling Shadow (installation detail), 2009, copper, plaster, 10 x 8 x 1.5 image by Tim Thayer

Arts writer Eleanor LeBeau talked with Evan Larson before the June 19 opening of his SPACELab exhibition Permeability,Transformation and the Neutral (on view through July 17 at SPACES).

What do you mean by the neutral in your exhibition Permeability, Transformation and the Neutral?
I dont mean to be evasive, but even defining the idea of the neutral would negate the central importance of experience in both my interactions with the gallery and the viewers open interpretation to the work.

But you must have some concept in mind when you talk about the neutral.
Im thinking about the gallery space being semi-permeable and receptive to all different types of creative activities, such as craft and what is now known as fine arts. I like the idea of trying to use the gallery space as a craft material, to collapse the subject-object relationship between the work itself and the gallery space, and to create an in-between space between the work and the institution of the gallery, or the natural history museum or the historical museum. So [in] the previous work to this work, I used a lot of different semiotic information or stand-ins for different cultures of display or museum presentation. Im using different strategies to conjure the sense of the basement display of work in a someones house, or maybe the kinds of stuffy oak cabinets that one might find in a natural history museum, or the kind of language thats used in those contexts and how that language shifts from an art space or museum space to the kind of language that we use in our own homes. At first my approach was really broad in trying to bring those communities of interaction together in my work. But here in this work Ive tried to really pare it back to the most essential aspects that concern me, which are craft and the idea of art--and the gallery space that Im interacting with here.

Does your work create the neutral [space], or does it evoke it?
Im collaborating with the gallery and the social culture of the gallery and the institutional traditions of the gallery and what we know about art or craft, and Im trying to orchestrate an in-between space where the viewer can question the relationship between the work and the gallery. I come from a craft tradition [Larson is a metalsmith by training]; I bring some structural forms from nature that have been used in the decorative arts traditions, and then Im using the material of the gallery space to construct these things.

I see the exhibition as a really pared back investigation of the question how do things become? If the tissue of the gallery wall becomes the artwork, and those things become one in the same, then we might even be asking ourselves, Then what distinguishes us from the rest of the world? If I take my hand and I make a shadow and it lands on my body, am I self-informing myself? Im looking at the gallery as having a life hood and looking at objects as having their own kind of life.

Are you talking about the ever-changing interrelationship between what German philosophers call the Innenwelt [the organism] and the Umwelt [the outer world as perceived by the organisms in it]?
I know the concepts from reading [Giorgio] Agamben. But I think pan-psychism [the philosophy that all energy and matter is alive and therefore has a soul] is a good lead-in to shaping another type of consciousness of other entities. So if I try to find a way to stop myself from saying that everything is thing, and say that everything is something that has sentience just like I do and its own rhetoric of energy exchange, then I can start to look at other interpretations about how these communities of interaction fold into one another. So, as I was saying earlier, I tried to strip back, and at first it was just the idea that, Well, is the wall pinching the artwork, or are the cloudy forms [in the installation] pinching the wall? Who is acting on whom? And then with the piece [cloudy form] thats folded, the wall is folding the piece; its pushing on it. So there are different states that are happening.

Do you see the objects you make as sentient beings?
Thats where that question arises: where does my tissue begin and another tissue end? If Im working on something, I am collaborating with it [the material]. That plaster has its own direct ways of being in the world. Its going to physically tell me how it wants to be, if I listen. The problem is that if we think of just things in the world, then everything becomes sort of disassociated from any responsibility. Im trying to train myself not to say thats a thing, and to realize that it has its own set of potential ways of communicating.

On one wall of your installation, you hung a sculptural piece that signifies a wall with an elaborately framed window"a wall on a wall. The framing evokes architectural detailing you might find in an older home. However, the space inside the frame"where we expect to find glass and thus a view beyond the wall "is blacked out, thus thwarting our expectations. Plus, the window is not a flat plane.
I wanted to push the boundary in my studio space, to push the boundary beyond the studio wall. I also wanted the form coming out of the wall to push into the wall, too, so you cant tell whether or not, in this case, the gallery wall is acting on the sculptural form, or vice-versa. I transported that piece out of my studio space and into a gallery space had to confront the history of that object being in another space, so it seemed reasonable to hang that wall onto another wall and to allow it to be what it was.

I bought a house at the end of last summer, and one of the things about the architectural space is this blackness and quietness. Id lived in Detroit for almost eight years, and the citys noise and energy wasnt there in the suburb where I bought my house, where theres empty, vacuous space. The chalkboard spray [inside the framed area] probably comes from my interaction with students and the way I project myself into the world.
What I really like about the blackness is that if you move away from the work a bit, it completely flattens the space and makes the area really ambiguous"it creates a neutral space.

So your work is really a poststructuralist deconstruction of the binary systems that interest you: subject/object; fine art/craft; institution/visitor; artwork/viewer.

Although the idea of binary theory is unavoidably part of my experience as an artist in this time, I dont consider it to be the central subject. The histories and contemporary dialogs that are germane to architecture, art and craft are three examples of active nodes within the work. However, these practice-based systems oversimplify the various levels of interaction that I hope to accomplish. Im asking mixed systems"like
materials"to stand in for action or indication of animacy in order to create a new permeable but unified structure. I use architectural elements such as the window to negate the relationship between architecture and gallery and artwork both optically and conceptually.

If I were to make this idea of the binary the central theme of my work, I would eliminate many of the tenuous threads of possibility, which I work to foster. I also fear this (the idea of the binary) theoretically would eliminate the viewers active role in the completion/contribution to the work and diminish the importance of my physical dialog with the gallery setting and its idiosyncratic space.

Jean Baudrillards Impossible Exchange is a very interesting piece of writing. Hes introducing the idea of a third party meaning. [For Baudrillard, objects/the world/reality elude the concepts and systems of thought we try to impose upon them; therefore we cannot know anything with certainty. For more information, go to]. Thats been really important in shaping how I think and how I project myself. What I sense from him is that if the idea of binary systems no longer works, when

Author: Christopher Lynn, Executive Director
Category: General

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