Come this time next year, Ohio City will have a more contemporary feel.
The Cleveland Museum of Art and the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation will open the exhibition space Transformer Station on West 29th Street. Built in the 1920s as a power station for the Detroit Avenue streetcar line, the Transformer Station will be renovated and expanded into an 8,000-square-foot space for art programs, exhibitions and installations.
“It’s an opportunity to extend our reach to more Northeast Ohioans, specifically to this important and vibrant West Side of the city,” said David Franklin, the art museum's director, in a press conference this morning.
The Transformer Station will be the museum's first separate space outside University Circle. “Fundamentally, it strengthens our ancient mission of benefiting all the people forever,” Franklin said.
Fred Bidwell, co-founder and co-director of the Bidwell Foundation, said they chose the building to showcase art because of its industrial feel. And there's an huge crane on the ceiling that can lift 15 tons. Who doesn't need that?
“The diversity, the grit, the intimacy, the urbanity of Ohio City, with its dynamic art scene, we felt was a perfect place for this showplace for the contemporary art,” said Bidwell in the press conference.
The hopes are to have the Transformer Station open in late 2012. Franklin wants to encourage curators and collaborators to use the space as a laboratory and set up installations more spontaneously. This space will also allow young and local artists to show their work on the same floor as international artists.
City councilman Joe Cimperman, who represents Ohio City, thanked the Bidwells for opening the Transformer Station. “This neighborhood takes this gift very seriously,” he said. “We take you as gifts very seriously. We cherish what you’re doing here, and we are all too well aware that you could have done this anywhere.”
Cimperman predicted the gallery would become important to the neighborhood's future. “One day, in this building there will be children like me — who grew up on East 74th Street — [who,] but for the arts, would not be able to live the life they lived. So, if you want to know what you are doing today for this community, look 20 years from now to the generation that you are fostering.”