2731 Prospect Contemporary Art permanently closed on April 22, 2017

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Cleveland Sculptors Network: Can a New Initiative Raise the Art Form’s Regional Profile?

This article originally appeared on Cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Sculptors face a unique set of challenges: The cost of materials and shipping, the time it may take to create new works and the space that work occupies, just to name a few. The intricacies that define the medium can often become its greatest hurdles.

Ann Albano, executive director and chief curator of The Sculpture Center in Cleveland, remembers a year recently when no galleries brought sculpture to the renowned Art Basel fine arts fair in Miami because of costs and the state of the economy. The continued hesitance of some commercial galleries to sell sculpture adds one more roadblock for artists living outside of metropolitan areas.

Nathalie Miebach's The Ride Image

Nathalie Miebach’s “The Ride”

“This has not gone away,” says Albano. “It can be really hard for sculptors as they’re just starting out.”

This weekend, The Sculpture Center will launch the Cleveland Sculptors Network, a new initiative in attempt to break down those barriers. The project aims to connect new artists with mid-career artists through a free panel open to the public at Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern and a master review at the Sculpture Center, which they hope to repeat at least twice a year. Future reviews may also take place at contemporary commercial gallery 2731 Prospect.

Regional connection

Since The Sculpture Center was founded in 1989, its focus has always been on displaying art from across the region.

“The Cleveland art scene is growing so well, so there are a lot of exhibition opportunities here,” says artist and Sculpture Center fundraising associate Elizabeth Emery. “But once an artist here has done years of exhibiting, then what? This is our attempt to help emerging artists continue in their career development. This is just another step in the career process.”

The two-day event begins with a panel talk at Happy Dog on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. Panelists will include Boston-based artist, educator and Oberlin College graduate Nathalie Miebach, alongside Cleveland artists Emery and Kate Budd, whose works are currently on display at 2731 Prospect. It will be moderated by Kent State University’s Associate Professor of Sculpture, Isabel Farnsworth.

Topics will include transformation of materials, presentation of sculptures and breaking out of your region.

“It’s really important for those newer artists to have an opportunity to be on a panel with a well-known, mid-career artist,” says Albano. “We’re thinking of building resumes and building connections.”

In review

The following morning, Miebach will lead a group of sculptors selected from an open call in a more intimate review and discussion at The Sculpture Center. Miebach’s expansive work often integrates music, science and data – a varied approach with potential to resonate with newer artists who may still be finding their way around different disciplines.

2731 Prospect gallery owner Lauren Davies, who has worked in sculpture for many years, has been hosting regular public talks at her gallery and will likely host some master reviews in the future. She saw partnering with Cleveland Sculptors Network as a way to collaborate around what she considers “perhaps the most challenging and engaging of contemporary art practices.”

“Contemporary sculpture is expansive, slippery and not always easy to define,” says Davies. “This is also exactly what makes it boundary-breaking, challenging and viscerally engaging. Sculpture can perhaps exist more fully ‘in real life’ than an image contained within a frame. The physical presence of sculpture is both its mystifying power and also what can make it a hard sell in the art market.”

Applications for the meeting have come from all of Ohio’s surrounding states, The Sculpture Center reports. And while the network hopes to connect artists throughout the region, it’s also strengthening connections for artists at home in Cleveland.

“One good thing about Cleveland for sculptors is that studio space is more readily available, and that’s not true for New York,” says Emery. “Ideally for me, the goal is to continue working here, but have venues outside of Cleveland, and not feel like this is the only place I can exhibit.”