Looking Back and Dancing Forward. Celebrating the First Anniversary of… | by Cleveland Museum of Art | CMA Thinker | Jun, 2022

ByMary E. Alvarez

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Celebrating the First Anniversary of the CMA’s Community Arts Center

By Stefanie Taub, Director of Community Arts

In step with the start of summer is the one-year anniversary of opening the CMA’s Community Arts Center. Amid a global pandemic, the Community Arts staff, construction crews, exhibition designers, and artists worked to furnish and enhance the Community Arts Center (CAC) which opened almost exactly one year ago on June 11, 2021.

Ribbon cutting officially marking the opening of the CAC on June 11, 2021

Throughout the year, visitors to the CAC have included neighborhood families, artists, community leaders, out-of-towners, and school children. The first stop when entering the CAC is Rafael Valdivieso’ s mural with a fantastical landscape of brightly colored characters and images including the Cleveland Museum of Art in the center with a giant heart.

In Rafael’s words, “I believe the goal of the museum is to open windows of cultural exchange. Creo que el objective del museo es abrir las puertas al intercambio cultural.”

One of four murals commissioned to fill the space in the CAC by Rafael Valdivieso. Photo: Emmanuel Wallace for Cleveland Scene

Murals in each of the studios add the distinguishing character of each of the Cleveland artists who brought their talents to the center. Whether it’s the traditional Taino symbols abounding in Bruno Casiano’s mural, the spirit of Parade the Circle and essence of community in Derrek Brennan’s work, or Debra Sue Solecki’s orange octopus that jumps off the wall to showcase its tentacles, reflecting symbols of Clark-Fulton cultural groups, visitors can find new things to see each time they come.

Witnessing first-time visitors as they make their way to the Community Arts Gallery is something that never grows old. As they turn the corner to enter the gallery, one can hear gasps of awe at what they see. The inaugural exhibition in the Community Arts Gallery, Parade the Circle: Celebrating 30 Years of Art and Community, features a varied collection of puppets, costumes, and masks created by artists and the community that reflect diverse cultures and global art traditions. Many visitors remark that they recognize items in the exhibition as they have experienced Parade the Circle one or many times throughout the years. But seeing someone who has not been to the parade is very special. After exploring the larger-than-life creations, most visitors are eager to learn more about Parade the Ciecle and how to get involved with the festive tradition.

Drop-in artmaking activity in one of the CAC’s studios

Over the past year, the center has become a space with drop-in artmaking activities for the whole family including weekend Open Studios, artmaking sessions encouraging exploration of themes and materials led by studio artists; monthly Family FUNdays, games, movement-based activities, art making and even a family parade; and artist-led workshops. School children and community groups who visit during the week tour the gallery and make art in the studios. Commonly overheard is that the CAC is such a special and unique place in the neighborhood and that they plan to return with their friends and family.

Right now, the CAC is currently buzzing with energy as local artists create interactive or animated artworks that will debut during the Summer Arts Fest: Dance with Giants, a FREE, daylong kickoff for summer on Saturday, June 11, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Wade Oval. In partnership with University Circle, this day will be an opportunity to gather with family and friends for a unique, fun, and artful experience.

Summer Arts Fest: Dance with Giants will feature larger-than-life art installations created by local artists. Attendees can join in a host of hands-on activities: push a 10-foot-tall rhinoceros onto a printing press to produce a commemorative poster; add a suction cup to our oversized orange octopus; dance with our magical mushroom performers; or take a photo with our giant inflatable pink robot puppy. There is something for everyone in the family, with live music showcased on the Kulas Community Stage, artistic projects and games featured in activity tents, and food and beverages available for purchase. We are excited to see you there!

Looking to the next year at the CAC, I feel excited by the opportunities that lay ahead. The center will continue to grow as a community resource by augmenting existing programs for schools, artists, and neighborhood groups, as well as encouraging people to explore and express their artistic spirits.


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