Friday, February 1, 2013

Cleveland Museum of Art and Bidwell Foundation Transform Historic Space

In the words of Transformer Station co-founder Laura Ruth Bidwell, "It's about time photo had its own space."

Nestled on the corner of Church Street and West 29th, this minimalist space is bringing a new vibe to the art scene in Ohio City.

Open to the public from noon to 9 pm today, with extended hours through the weekend, the Transformer Station invites visitors to explore the world of photography, as well as a piece of Cleveland history, free of charge. Where Cleveland Railway Company once powered streetcars running on Detroit Avenue, only the crane that once lifted the company's transformer into and out of the space remains.

Fittingly named, the Crane Gallery now holds the works of Vaughn Wascovich for its first exhibition, Bridging Cleveland. Using a handmade pinhole camera, Wascovich photographed the various bridges over the Cuyahoga then manipulated them with a mix of chemicals and creativity.

"They’re a love song to the Cuyahoga River," says co-founder, and Laura's husband, Fred Bidwell.


In the main gallery of the museum hang pieces from their collection, which Fred calls a personal overview of what's happening in photo-based art.

"Many of the works in here were delivered straight into storage," he says of the Light of Day exhibition. "So now they're seeing the light of day."

Viewers will find themselves amidst the works of established artists such as Hiroshi Yugimoto and Adam Fuss as well as young and upcoming artists. The Transformer Station, owned and operated by the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation,  established in 2011 to support artists and arts institutions, will create half of the gallery schedule. The Cleveland Museum of Art, a partner in programming the space, will develop the rest.

The visual experience is pure, with natural light streaming in from horizontal rectangular windows near the building's high ceilings and no wall labels or other adornments to distract. Even the benches, made from the re-purposed pecan floor of an old Chrysler plant, keep it simple.

"The building has to get out of the way of the art,” says Laura. “Simplicity is good.”


  1. Terrific article and review. Tells us all we need to know about this wonderful addition to the city.

  2. Awesome article. I can't wait to visit!