No one can tell the story of our local artist communities better than the creators themselves. Learn more about the artists who have made greater Cleveland their home, and take your own lessons from their experiences.
The scene: The artist is on a small riser. He has just delivered an insightful, well-spoken, if not slightly snarky monologue, articulating a lightweight existential crisis. He does this while gesturing in tandem with images projected on the wall behind him. He sports vibrant, sapphire blue hair, distressed Converse high tops and a DIY t-shirt that reads “I Am Stupid.” And reveals another underneath, “We Are All Stupid.”
A fresh, new face in the city, dancer, teacher and arts entrepreneur, Leanna Mullen chatted with Arts Cleveland last week to learn more about our arts community. As a super dedicated artist and teacher, she is already taking on some incredible work by championing inclusivity through dance. Leanna is thrilled to be getting started as North Pointe Ballet’s newest dancer, saying, “I’m so excited to be a part of North Pointe’s mission to bring ballet where there might otherwise be physical, economic or cultural barriers.” It’s a philosophy that mirrors her own, in which she sees ballet as an art for everyone. She wants her classes “to be a place where every student feels welcome, no matter the student’s ability level or previous ballet experience.” In addition to working with North Pointe, Leanna is also teaching classes three nights a week at the Baldwin Wallace Community Arts School, channeling her passions for both ballet and community outreach. “I think specifically in my teaching, I strive for my classes to be an encouraging environment, breaking stigma around ballet being a cold or impossibly strict art form.”
Cleveland, meet Searius Addishin. An active performance poet, planner, program coordinator and educator, Searius finds himself back in the greater Cleveland area after a number of years of creative practice in L.A. Working 2 and 3 jobs in L.A. was the norm, he says, for many creatives, which left very little time to devote to making work. Being back in Cleveland and reinvigorated to push his craft to the next level, he came to Arts Cleveland looking to get reacquainted with our rich arts community. He took off running and started making connections across the city immediately! We’re excited to see him so energized by the incredible creative people and places we have to offer here and can’t wait to watch his artistic talents flourish. Cleveland is glad to have you back, Searius!
Based in Akron and just over a year old, VIBE Collective is passionately working to activate systems-level change for artists in Northeast Ohio. The community-based collective is comprised solely of working artists and activists, all volunteering their time to the cause of elevating the value of grassroots and marginalized artists in our region. We had the opportunity to talk with Amber Cullen and Nichole Epps, learn more about VIBE’s philosophies and their dedication to artists. We’re excited to connect with our fellow arts advocate neighbors in Akron!
Curator of the weird, deviser of hybrid media and Executive Artistic Director of Maelstrom Collaborative Arts, Jeremy Paul, is successfully blurring the boundaries of Cleveland’s creative worlds. MCA has emerged as a reinvention of its former self (the nomadic, theater company, Theater Ninjas, which produced for over a decade). With the shift led by Jeremy and the MCA Cadre over the last two years, “It has really been a massive transformation,” he says. “We built off of the ways we were already changing, but the way the company was structured, who we’re working with, the productions themselves have all shifted.” One of MCA’s most popular productions, Bricolage, pairs artists of completely different disciplines to collaborate and develop a new performative work.
Actress, producer and director Giorgiana Lascu is breaking onto the scene with some exciting new DIY film projects, along with an infectious zeal and enthusiasm for creating. “I’m good at making something out of nothing,” she says, as she prepares to launch her new production company, Old Coal Pictures.
Since 1984, traveling theatre troupe, Improbable Players, has been igniting conversations around addiction and alcoholism through performance and student workshops by actors in recovery. We were excited to learn that this Boston-based theater company will be starting a new Cleveland chapter in 2019. Shortly after moving back to Ohio from Boston, theater artist, Karen Snyder, knew Cleveland was a prime candidate for this work.
A Lakewood-based freelance writer who began her career primarily doing music journalism, Zaleski’s been published by the A.V. Club, NPR Music, Rolling Stone, Spin, Thrillist and Vulture. Locally, she’s written for Cleveland Magazine and other Great Lakes Publishing publications and for Crain’s Cleveland Business. She’s gradually expanded her repertoire to include business, culture, food and personality profiles.
Two enterprising young writers helped co-found what has grown into one of the most popular reading series in the region: Brews + Prose at Market Garden Brewery. Dave Lucas, PhD, a poet and SAGES Fellow in the English Department at Case Western Reserve University, and Mike Croley, MFA, a fiction and nonfiction author and visiting assistant professor of English at Denison University, had a plan to launch something new and different in the literary scene, built on the fundamental assumption that “literature is better with beer.”
In June of 2013, RA Washington opened Guide to Kulchur. To call his bookstore anything less than a community arts center would be an understatement. Yes, it features an exceptional and ever-expanding selection of small-press books, many by local authors, but it’s also the scene of community meetings, author readings, live music and performance events.
Kisha Nicole Foster, considered one of Cleveland’s pioneers of performance poetry, started when she was 19 and has been writing and reading her poetry for almost as many years. She began attending open-mic nights in 1999 at clubs such as the now-closed Humidor, Spy Bar and Kamikaze. “Open-mic poetry performance had a time in 2004, 2005 when it was still popping,” says Foster
Eugene Sopher’s jovial, lighthearted manner is directly reflected in his medium of choice – cartoons. At first pass, his work elicits smiles and snickers from the viewer. But, looking deeper, his cartoons seem to represent a darker reality of living in Cleveland. “All my artwork represents what I see. Literally, when I’m walking outside, I’m living in the news.” Eugene says, “I’m a realist. I don’t sugarcoat.” There are so many preconceived ideas of who black people are and black culture, and Eugene plays with this theme in his work, bringing these preconceptions directly to the forefront. Though, he does this in a way that disarms the viewer with humor.
If you’ve spent any time wandering around Cleveland, it’s likely you’ve gazed at (maybe unknowingly) graffiti or murals by prolific street artist, Bob Peck. Bob has been marking up public spaces in Cleveland for decades, but also takes his colorful and rhythmic line work to the canvas. Find out more about him on the Cleveland Artist Registry.
Most recently the film work I’ve created traverses the space between experimental film and documentary film. Much the way dreams pull the non-fiction of our day, (the things we did, the people we dealt with, the problems we faced) of our waking life down into the unconscious whirlpool twisting and turning over these aspects that stress and frighten us, perplex and delight us, my films convey non-fiction events and people in swirling, dreamlike films seeking the epiphanies and understanding that the unconscious, sleeping mind gives to the conscious, waking mind.
Visual artist, storyteller and filmmaker, Shaun Doyle, has piqued the interest of Instagram followers with his quirky and curious shadow box assemblages. These self-contained worlds, composed primarily of modern-day refuse and pop culture ephemera, don’t appear overtly nostalgic. But upon closer inspection, one finds themselves trying to decode vaguely familiar objects and icons in an unfamiliar environment; like trying to bring into focus a fuzzy childhood memory, when prompted by a toy or place or smell.
Dave Lucas is a gracious ray of sunshine in Cleveland’s literary scene (and just generally as a human being). Poet and author of Weather (Georgia, 2011), Lucas is an active force in the community both creatively and socially and was just named Ohio's Poet Laureate for 2018.
CPAC: How would you describe your work briefly?DAVE LUCAS: I write poems and essays, I teach at Case Western Reserve University and for other conferences and programs, and I am a co-founder of the Brews + Prose reading series at Market Garden Brewery and of Cleveland Book Week.
Visual artist, Darice Polo, is a calm force in the Cleveland arts and Puerto Rican communities. Quietly and diligently for the last several years, she has been building A Wise Latina Woman, her personal film essay. The piece focuses on her cultural history, as well as the story of the first Supreme Court Justice of Hispanic heritage, Sonia Sotomayor. “I’m using the film as an educational platform and as a learning tool. My primary goal is to educate and unite people.”
Imagine a bubbly girl on stage belting out shimmery, low-fi pop songs. Now imagine that same girl holding a doll, making explosive sounds in front of an audience at a dingy DIY venue. And again, this same girl wearing an ill-fitting blonde wig, portraying Deb, the divorced mom for a YouTube audience. This is Marcia Custer, performance and multi-media artist living and working in Cleveland, part of a growing collective of performance and body-based artists in the area.
If you’ve seen a show at Cleveland Public Theatre, embarked on a theatric journey with Theater Ninjas, or seen the band Forager lately, you’ve likely encountered the work of Eric M.C. Gonzalez. Classically trained composer and cellist, Gonzalez is capable of transporting his audience to strange realms through unusual sonic experience, explicit narrative and sound design. “I try to not to be overly literal; not too black and white with the mood I’m trying to create,” working to challenge and intrigue his listeners with oftentimes dark, unsettling soundscapes.