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Cleveland Artist Spotlights


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. Submit an Artist Spotlight

Mimi Kato

Ever heard of the glossy buckthorn also known as Rhamnus frangula? I hadn’t until researching some of Mimi Kato’s work.

As an artist-in-residence at SPACES Gallery, Mimi Kato spent the summer of 2013 preparing for her installation at the gallery focusing on the runaway growth of the glossy buckthorn. The glossy buckthorn, or Rhamnus frangula, has been identified by the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves as one of the 10 most invasive and difficult to control non-native plant species. Introduced from Eurasia as shrubbery for fences, the plant grows rapidly, reaching heights of 20 feet. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) website, “Once established, these species aggressively invade natural areas and form dense thickets, displacing native species.”

Donald Black Jr.

“The whole goal is ‘what do you want to say?’ Ultimately what you’re doing is about you, whether you are aware of it or not.” One of the most well-known local artist activists, Donald Black Jr. discusses his public work as a reflection of himself and his story in the community. 

Jaclyn Ford

“Music is always all around us. Even our organs are making a sound. Your heart is beating. Sometimes your stomach is growling. Even if it’s irregular, the client is already bringing their own instrument to the session just by being there.”

David Shimotakahara

“These artists are so adept at creating and working together and I think that’s what keeps them alive as performers. The company has been successful in performances because there is that energy. The artists are not just repeating and trying to live inside my idea of perfection.”

BUMMED OUT CITY now available

We wanted to let you guys know that we (Cleveland-based publishing co-op) have just published Scott Burr (Cleveland born, bred, and still resident)'s debut novel, BUMMED OUT CITY.

Valerie Mayén

Though Valerie Mayén did not use a sewing machine until she started to seriously pursue a fashion career at 26, her interest in fashion and design really started in middle school.  Mayén started shopping at thrift stores; she would hand-sew patches on items and soon began making her own garments.  

Stephen Yusko

Stephen Yusko’s studio is located on East 41st Street, where he uses a variety of blacksmithing, machining and metal-fabricating techniques to design and make furniture, vessels and sculpture. 

Meg Matko

As a Cleveland-based sculptor, Meg Matko’s biggest influences were actually performance artists like Marina Abramović and Carolee Schneemann. “When most people think of sculpture, the first thing that comes to mind is clay or marble,” but it doesn't have to be. 

Andy Curlowe

Andy Curlowe says that his early work was primarily paintings and some video work.  “I think I was working with each painting being a strict narrative.”  After graduating from arts school in Beverly, Massachusetts, he and his girlfriend (now wife) decided to move to Cleveland.  “I was really excited to make that venture from the Boston area, where there is this very established environment and move to Cleveland where there is this very “do it yourself” attitude and an endless possibility of creation.”  It was supposed to be a temporary move, but Cleveland ended up being such a great fit that they decided to stay.  “Been here a little over six years. Everybody’s really nice here.  The artist community makes me feel welcome.  I think you can just hop right into it because it is so approachable.” 

Gadi Zamir

“The wood has a story and I have a story and we work together to bring it to reality.”  This quote comes from 2013 Creative Workforce Fellow, Gadi Zamir. Gadi Zamir’s medium is wood and he creates works of art by burning it.  He does this using a blowtorch, adding color using fabric dyes and oil.  “Knowing where to emphasize the grain with the blow torch helps you create the imagery,” says Zamir.  

Olga Ziemska

“Nature is defined as anything that’s in our surrounding environment including rocks, trees, plants, and animals, but excluding humans and human creation.  This definition is teaching the next generation something that is actually about a massive separation and fragmentation.  I think that needs to be relooked at, redefined and corrected.” - Olga Ziemska  

Colleen Fraser

Colleen Fraser was unsure of what she wanted her major to be in college until she took a ceramics class in high school.  From then on, she knew her focus would be on art, so she decided to attend the Cleveland Institute of Art.  The tricky part for her was choosing between fiber arts and ceramics.  This decision was something she went back and forth on, particularly during her third year of college.  After choosing to switch her major from ceramics to fiber arts during the spring semester of her third year of college, she elected over the summer before her fourth year to switch back to ceramics.

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts - CMBA

For more information about Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, visit the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s website at For an application for legal assistance, email Jessica Paine at 

Dru McKeown

Dru McKeown is an architect by day, but his experimental work, often seen in pockets of Cleveland and specifically in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, showcase his meticulous practice with his sense of play and experimentation. He is self-described as an “architect who lives, works, eats and makes stuff in Cleveland - playing with the built environment since 2000.” 

Linda Zolten Wood

Linda Zolten Wood has long found wonder through art. Growing up, her mother served as a key point of inspiration: Linda recalls her mother painting a rock in their front yard and organizing impromptu art classes with neighborhood kids. The creative energy permeated throughout her childhood.

Cindy Barber

Cindy Barber and her partner Mark Leddy dared to dream a dream in 2000, when they opened the Beachland Ballroom in 2000. Thirteen years later, these visionaries have transformed an entire Cleveland street with their passion and energy. Find out how they helped to make the Waterloo Arts & Entertainment District.

Tonya Broach

Tonya Broach's love of theatre and performing is apparent as she shares some of her experiences. One of the best things about being an actor, she believes, is bringing her own perspective to a character. Sometimes she’ll see something she likes about the way another actor moves or responds to a situation, but she interprets each performance in her own way. Her natural talent for performing -- including a great singing voice -- serves Cleveland's theatre community well, and it's apparent that her vivid imagination, and the ability to empathize with the characters she plays, are seamlessly knitted with that innate capability.

Joanna Connors

Joanna Connors is a reporter at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, and has worked for 25 years as a copy editor, arts and entertainment editor, theater critic, film critic, columnist and reporter. She has also written for the Chicago Tribune and magazines including Seventeen, Glamour, Redbook and React. Her 2008 narrative, “Beyond Rape: A Survivor’s Journey,” attracted national attention and won multiple awards, including the Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism from Northwestern University, and the Dart Award for Coverage of Trauma from Columbia University.

Jackie Adamany

Jackie Adamany is a crafter, designer and owner of Handcraft Your Career, a consulting firm for designers, artists and craftspeople.

Krista Tomorowitz

Krista is leveraging her design skills to build her own business, and teaching a new generation of aspiring designers how to take their own work to the next level. This work was funded by an Artists in Residence grant. For more information about the exciting investments being made in and around the Waterloo Arts and Entertainment District of Cleveland, visit