Art House E.D. Laila Voss, staff member Emily Splain, additonal staff, volunteers, teaching artists, Board President Adam Stalder, Executive Committee and Board Members do an immense amount of work to keep AH moving forward. It is the nitty gritty work of being there and making incremental steps to advance the AH mission of being a neighborhood haven for the arts, center for creativity, and oasis in the push and pull or urban life.
Last spring staff mounted a show of artwork from Urban Bright, an AH program wherein teaching artists work with partner teachers in select Cleveland Public Schools. I was struck by the forward nature of the work, its diversity, and power. Digital prints done by students at New Tech West with teaching artist Augusto Bordelois were based on Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. These were wonderful statements of identity and invention. Kinetic sculptures fashioned from wire, duct tape, and burlap built under the guidance of Melissa Daubert were fresh and original. Silk painting created with teaching artist Peggie Wertheim demonstrated unusual sensitivity. Many additional mediums and forms were on display representing work accomplished by young people working with excellent teaching artists.
I had walked to the exhibit from my nearby home. I passed young people playing in the street, some homes in the process of renovation, some boarded up. Bullet holes pierced the siding on two houses, refuse was in the street, and here and there several homes displayed beautiful gardens in the early stages of growth. Walking through the door of Art House was like walking into an oasis. The Urban Bright Exhibit looked fabulous- it was done with an economy of means but all work was displayed to advantage with thoughtful care. In attendance were several groups of young people and families. Walking through and taking it all in I overheard a young man point to one of the silk paintings and proudly say, “I made this.”
This is what all of the work and effort put forth by the AH crew is for…that connection being made by a young person to their internal sense of self, of pride, of accomplishment, to their own personal expression and artistry.
A rough translation of “I made this” appears on Michelangelo’s Pieta (Michelangelo Buonarri, Florentine, made this). Art mythology describes a scene of the Pieta being installed with onlookers exclaiming they could not believe that anyone so young could have carved such a magnificent piece. Michelangelo, 24 at the time, overheard the remarks and responded with his famous signature.
Last spring on Cleveland’s near west side a young artist was showing his work to friends and family. The question came, “WHO made this?” The response, “I did -- I made this.”
For the endless hours put in by staff, volunteers, teaching artists, partner schools, board members- these moments present the payoff. Pride, ownership of one’s work, creativity and purpose.
Especially now, the human spirit in all of its complexity must be nourished and encouraged. Art House does this.