With a wide range of exhibits to choose from, this guide to Cleveland’s downtown art galleries will help you plan an outing to explore the city’s thriving visual arts scene.
Art Gallery at Cleveland State University
Though this great exhibition space is located on the ground floor of the CSU Art Building, the exhibits are not limited to student shows. In addition to the annual juried student art show, these three galleries present five or six shows per year that explore contemporary political and social themes. The thematically curated exhibits at the Art Gallery at Cleveland State University (1307 Euclid Ave., 216/687-2103; Mon.-Tues. by appointment, Wed.-Thurs. 10am-5pm, Fri. 10am-8pm, Sat. noon-8pm) cover a broad range of mediums and styles from local, national, and international artists. They are recognized by critics as some of the most visually stimulating in town.
The Bonfoey (1710 Euclid Ave., 216/621-0178; Mon.-Thurs. 8:30am-5:30pm, Fri. 8:30am-5pm, Sat. 9am-noon) has rightfully earned a reputation as one of Cleveland’s largest and finest art galleries. Established in 1893, it is certainly the most venerable. Located near PlayhouseSquare, the large space is filled with original 19th-century paintings, signed lithographs, photographs, pastels, glass, and sculpture. Rotating exhibits throughout the year bring in fresh merchandise. The shop also maintains a great selection of original art priced under $500, making it a must-stop on any home-design outing. Come here, too, for appraisals, art restoration, framing, packing, shipping, and installation.
Set in the nave of a former Roman Catholic church, Convivium33 Gallery at Josaphat Arts Hall (1433 E. 33rd St., 216/881-7828; by appt.) is a unique and beautiful space. The architecturally stunning building provides an appropriate backdrop for the works of established local artists. Like the church before it, the gallery and arts center serves to unite the community by presenting meaningful exhibits, hosting important events, and offering studio space to artists. Exhibits are often kicked off with popular Dinner with Art events, where guests feast on gourmet food alongside the artist and his or her work. The gallery keeps regular hours during exhibits; call or check the website for details.
Front Room Gallery
On the 3rd floor of an industrial-park building complex, Front Room (3615 Superior Ave. 4203A, 216/534-6059; hours vary) is not front and center in terms of visibility. But this artist-run gallery is ahead of the pack when it comes to finding talented emerging artists on the rise. Seemingly without boundary when it comes to geography and medium, the co-op exhibits work from local, regional, and national artists in disciplines as varied as collage, painting, video, and drawing on found paper. Shows can be solo runs or multi-artist affairs, but they tend to be fresh, current, relevant, and trendy.
Visitors to this 30-year-old artist-run gallery will feast on wildly creative experimental and noncommercial art exhibits from local, regional, and national artists. Through approximately four major shows a year, and spanning every conceivable medium, this leader in contemporary art showcases the talent of emerging and mid-career artists. Much of the art attempts to tackle the most important issues of the day, including political, social, and cultural themes. All events are free and open to the public, and the gallery’s lively opening-night parties are some of the best in town. The spaces at SPACES (2220 Superior Viaduct, 216/621-2314; Tues.-Thurs. and Sat. 11am-5:30pm, Fri. 11am-7pm, Sun. 1pm-5pm) are often rented out for private events, so it is always wise to phone before stopping by.
One of the newer and better visual art galleries in the city, Wooltex (Tower Press Bldg., 1900 Superior Ave., 216/241-4069; Mon.-Sat. 11am-3pm) is roomy, contemporary, and easy to find. Set in an old warehouse that has been converted to live-work space for artists, the gallery never has to search far for talent. The large space serves as a backdrop for high-quality painting, sculpture, video, and installations from largely local artists. Exhibits come and go every month and half or so. Like many other galleries in town, this one is used for private events, so it is always smart to call before visiting.
In its formative stage, this gallery was merely a small printmaking studio for its owners. In little more than a decade, it has developed into the most important nonprofit fine-art printmaking collaborative in the region. Located in an old warehouse in the artistically blossoming Quadrangle District, Zygote Press (1410 E. 30th St., 216/621-2900; Wed. noon-4pm and 6pm-9:30pm, Sat. noon-4pm, and by appt.) exhibits a full panoply of printed works of art, including letterpress, waterless lithography, etchings, relief, screen printing, and photo-crossover. Their exhibits feature the work of local, national, and international artists and printmakers.