Friday, June 15, 2012

Stirring The Waters/ Between Two Bodies - An Exchange exhibition with the Sculpture Center in Cleveland Ohio Part 1 of 6: Planning

by Boston Sculptor Jessica Straus

Three years of planning and organizing an exchange between Boston Sculptors Gallery and The Sculpture Center of Cleveland, Ohio has finally come to fruition in the form of two exhibitions, "Stirring the Waters / Between Two Bodies" at each of our venues. The first of these shows, a group of 10 (Andy Zimmermann, Hannah Verlin, Marilu Swett, Margaret Swan, Jessica Straus, Julia Shepley, Michelle Lougee, Peter Haines, Laura Evans, Caroline Bagenal) has just opened at the Sculpture Center, and it looks fabulous!

Many folks have been asking me how these shows came to be so here's an account of the whole process: As a member of the Exhibition Committee at Boston Sculptors Gallery I was researching exhibition venues outside the Boston area where Boston Sculptors members could mount an exhibition to extend our reach beyond our own gallery walls and to gain a wider audience for our work. I was particularly interested in finding an organization that shared our mission of exclusively showing sculpture. And to this, I added the requirement that the venue have a similar focus on high caliber, contemporary work. Right away I discovered how unusual is our focus on sculpture. I was really excited when my Goggle searches pointed me to the Sculpture Center in Cleveland. I spent a lot of time looking at their website (, looking at each of their exhibitions, past, present, and future, and sensed a kindred spirit. There was just one wee thing that looked like a stumbling block for our having a shot at proposing an exhibition there; the Sculpture Center’s mission is to promote Ohio sculptors.

Nevertheless, I began a correspondence with The Sculpture Center's director, Ann Albano. She was incredibly gracious, but she did point out that they only showed sculptors with ties to their region. Hmm, would this be the end of the discussion? I offered her the possibility of an exchange with our gallery (which coincidentally has almost the same footprint, square footage-wise, as the Sculpture Center). I asked if this opportunity might indeed fit the Sculpture Center's mission of promoting Ohio sculptors in that an exchange would provide the opportunity for national exposure. Ann's response? "I'll bring it to my board and see what they think." I was so pleased to receive an email from Ann a while later, telling me her board approved the exchange and now we could begin the planning process in earnest. Hurray!

In the fall of 2009 I had the opportunity to travel to the Cleveland area--the perfect chance to visit the Sculpture Center and meet Ann Albano. I was immediately taken with the Center, a funky, quirky (in the best artistic sense), beautifully renovated space--two galleries, one in each of their two buildings joined together by a courtyard which displays sculptures by the Center's founder and benefactor, the late David Davis.


The Sculpture Center is less than a mile from University Circle, an area referred to as "Museum Mile" where one can visit, among other attractions, the Cleveland Museum of Art,

 the Botanical Gardens, and soon, the new Institute of Contemporary Art.

One of the two Sculpture Center's galleries fronts onto and has great visibility from Euclid Avenue, one of Cleveland's main thoroughfares.


I traveled back to Cleveland and the Sculpture Center in the fall of 2010 and met again with Ann. By this time we had had quite an email correspondence going as we began to work out the way this exchange would be orchestrated. There was so much to work out! I found Ann to be was incredibly thoughtful and insightful, someone who could zero in on the right questions to be asked. One of the first things we needed to figure out was how the artists would be selected for these two shows, a potentially tricky and complex process given that the Sculpture Center and the Boston Sculptors Gallery are structurally very different: Boston Sculptors is a cooperative, artist-run gallery whereas the Sculpture Center is a non profit that operates more like a museum without a collection, with the director serving as curator who selects artists for exhibitions.

Ann offered to curate both shows, selecting a group of Ohio artists who each had been showcased earlier as emerging artists at The Sculpture Center. Ann got to know the Boston Sculptors first through our gallery website and catalog and then she thoroughly investigated each of our individual artist's websites. Her goal was to make a dynamic exhibition that would be at once diverse and cohesive. Little by little as she narrowed her selections, a thread began to emerge for her that showed a regional flavor that would tie the work together.

Next entry: part 2 - Road Trip!

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