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Northeast Ohio arts organizations take matters into their own hands

By Nicole Hennessy


The Collective Artists Network, which includes BayArts and the Beck Center for the Arts, was born out of the realization that smaller galleries and organizations get very little or no media coverage. With no other options and a desire to promote Northeast Ohio’s artists, the CAN Journal was born.

The first issue of CAN Journal was published in January 2012.

“Let’s make art work,” the first cover stated.

When it was first conceived by Liz Maugans, executive director of Zygote Press – a fine art printmaking workshop on East 30th Street – the Bay resident intended to produce the journal yearly. But since last January, it has grown to the point where 10,000 copies are printed quarterly. And membership has increased from 28 to about 40 organizations, with no signs of slowing down.

One of the first to join CAN, BayArts’ executive director, Nancy Heaton, said, “It’s very hard nowadays for smaller organizations to sustain themselves. You really need to connect.”

Through CAN, BayArts has achieved that. No longer on what Heaton describes as “its own island,” now when there’s a show in one of its galleries, people come from all over Cleveland, as far away as the east side, to attend the show.

She explained that when CAN started, the organizations, which pay a yearly membership fee of $100 and submit their own articles to the journal, thought, “Instead of complaining about it, let’s do it ourselves.”

Not only does the publication help get the word out about smaller galleries, it allows members to work together, sharing resources and collaborating on shows.

This is not a group of art entrepreneurs who are bitter about the lack of coverage they receive.

“My husband works for The Plain Dealer,” Heaton said. “It’s understandable. They had to cut costs, and like in every other case, it’s usually the arts that goes.”

Michael Gill, who edits the journal and has edited Scene magazine’s art section as well as the long-gone Free Times, agrees. He said publications’ “resources are stretched so thin that they can’t pay attention to small galleries with young artists who haven’t built a long track record of critical acclaim.”

That or, like the Free Times, they just don’t exist anymore.

This DIY approach to what Gill described as creating one’s own media seems to be a common trend. From self-published books, to bloggers reporting the news, to groups like CAN taking matters into their own hands, artists and writers no longer rely on mainstream publications to recognize their work – though it’s still nice when they do.

“There is such a solid art community in this town,” Heaton said in reference to Northeast Ohio. And it’s growing to the point where larger cities are beginning to take notice, and a lot of young people are moving back, taking advantage of inexpensive living and all the opportunities this growing scene presents.

While BayArts used to struggle with feeling separated from what was going on in neighborhoods like Tremont, Ohio City and the Detroit Shoreway area, it has much more support and recognition now.

“When we have a gallery opening, people come from the east side, people come from downtown,” said Heaton.

The next issue of CAN Journal will be available at BayArts and most arts-associated organizations throughout the area on Dec. 1.



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