Cleveland Arts Prize Awards Ceremony

Submitted by Susan Miller on Wed, 06/20/2007 - 10:12.
06/28/2007 - 18:00
06/28/2007 - 22:00

The Cleveland Arts Prize is pleased to announce the winners for 2007. They are:


Emerging Artist (awarded to an artist living in Northeast Ohio who shows remarkable promise and has created a significant work or project):

  • Eric Coble, playwright, in the category of literature


Mid-Career Artists (awarded to mid-career artists who have received national recognition in addition to regional and local acclaim and have resided in Northeast Ohio):

  • Lewis Nielson, composer, in the category of music and dance
  • Christopher Pekoc, visual artist, in the category of visual arts


Lifetime Achievement Award (awarded to an artist who has worked in Northeast Ohio over several decades and whose career and achievements have brought great distinction to himself and the region):

  • Norman Krumholz, urban planner, in the category of design


Robert P. Bergman Prize (awarded annually to an exceptional individual who has shown passionate leadership and opened his or her field more broadly, and whose life and activities communicate the joys, excitement and deep human relevance of the arts; this prize is open to national/international candidates):

  • Thomas Schorgl, CEO of Community Partnership on Arts and Culture


Martha Joseph Special Citations (awarded annually to an individual or an organization that because of exceptional commitment, vision, leadership or philanthropy has made a significant contribution to the vitality and stature of the arts in Northeast Ohio. This contribution may be made through the conception and implementation of innovative arts events and programs; through the demonstration of visionary and/or strategic arts leadership; through extraordinary acts of arts patronage or arts advocacy; through dedicated and inspiring teaching; through the sensitive and effective nurturing of artistic talent; or through superb performance and/or mastery in an arts discipline:

  • Brendan Ring, owner of Nighttown
  • Cindy Barber, owner of Beachland Ballroom
  • Susan Channing, Director of SPACES
  • Toby Devan Lewis, arts patron and philanthropist

All of the winners have made significant contributions to the arts in numerous ways.  They were nominated through an open online process by the public and juried by a group of their peers. Jurors For a list of past Arts Prize winners visit  to learn about the illustrious group of artists already awarded to whose ranks this year’s winners are added. Biographical materials on this year’s winners accompany this release.

About the Arts Prize: In 1960, the Women’s City Club sponsored a series of talks to assess the cultural scene in Cleveland. In the final lecture of the series, composer Klaus George Roy suggested that Cleveland begin a tradition of identifying and honoring its own outstanding artists on an annual basis. Martha Joseph accepted Roy’s challenge and assembled the first Cleveland Arts Prize committee. For 30 years, Martha Joseph guided the Arts Prize within the Women’s City Club and led a drive to establish an endowment. The oldest award of its kind in the United States, the Arts Prize is a testament to the standard of excellence and quality of artists in Northeast Ohio. In addition to artists, the Arts Prize honors individuals who have expanded the community’s participation in the arts and helped make the region more hospitable to creative artistic expression.

The Cleveland Arts Prize Mission: The Cleveland Arts Prize identifies, selects and publicly honors those creative artists whose original work has made Northeast Ohio a more exciting place to live, and whose accomplishments have set a standard of excellence to which other artists can aspire. Artists are essential to a healthy community, and the arts need a supportive environment and an engaged public. Therefore, it is also the mission of The Cleveland Arts Prize to recognize the contributions of individuals and organizations that have expanded the community’s participation in the arts and helped make the region more hospitable to creative artistic expression.

An artist reception and awards ceremony will be held at the Cleveland Play House June 28, 2007, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets for the event may be purchased here.


For more information please contact the Cleveland Arts Prize at info [at] clevelandartsprize [dot] org.


Bolton Theater in the Cleveland Play House
8500 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH
United States
( categories: )

Arts Prize Afterparty

Midsummer Night's  "after party"   Please join friends and Arts Prize recipient, Chris Pekoc on Thursday, June 28th after the Arts Prize Award Reception for a evening under Cleveland's stars.    So....whether you attend the Cleveland Arts Awards or not…come to Convivium33 for a meet and greet ‘after party’ with current and past winners…. Food, wine and friendship. No RSVP required.  

The evening is Free and begins "after" 8:30 pm in Convivium33 Gallery's Courtyard.     Convivium33 Gallery is located
at 1433 East 33rd Street
Cleveland OH 44114
216.881.7838 gallery  FREE PARKING BEHIND THE CHURCH BUILDING ON 34TH STREET For "Arts Prize" Reception information visit-

Disrupt IT

Prized Artists

Prized artists

Sunday, June 24, 2007
Karen Sandstrom

Plain Dealer Reporter

Ever since the organizers of the Cleveland Arts Prize decided to try to raise the profile of the awards two years ago, a question has hung over the event.

Why does it matter?

"It's been a journey to say how can these prizes make more of an impact on the community, and there's been a lot of discussion about relevance," says chairwoman Kathleen Coakley Barrie.

The ceremony for this year's recipients takes place Thursday and becomes an answer unto itself. The three artists being honored -- playwright Eric Coble, visual artist Christopher Pekoc and composer Lewis Nielson -- all are working at a national level. Yet there are plenty of people in Northeast Ohio who still don't recognize their names.

The six special-prize recipients have unarguably contributed to Northeast Ohio in disciplines ranging from arts management and urban planning to the music scene and support for the visual arts.

In 1961, goldsmith John Paul Miller and composer Herbert Elwell were the first artists to receive an arts prize. Since then, more than 200 poets and novelists, sculptors and architects, dancers and choreographers, architects and musicians -- and arts supporters of all kinds -- have been recognized.

The leadership has changed, as have the ways jurors select winners. But the purpose remains the same as it was when the prizes were conceived in 1960. It's to name a group of men and women whose work seems to urgently demand not just national appreciation, but a nod from the locals, as well.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

ksandstrom [at] plaind [dot] com, 216-999-4810

Christopher Pekoc


Mid-Career Artist Award 2007 Visual Arts

Christopher Pekoc was given a major retrospective exhibition at Cleveland’s Convivium33 Gallery in January 2007, titled Christopher Pekoc – Evolution 1964-2006. Evolution is the key word, as Pekoc has progressed from the painting and drawing he studied at Kent State University, through airbrush, pastels, collage and photography, to the mixed-media work he does now, literally stitching together complex collages of materials and photographs. 


Pekoc, who has taught creative drawing at Case Western Reserve University since 1988, has twice been awarded fellowships by the Ohio Arts Council and his work has appeared in more than 100 solo and group shows at institutions, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Australia, the Ueda Gallery in Tokyo, several galleries in New York City, the Akron Art Institute and the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art.


His work is also in permanent collections at the Cleveland Museum of Art, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Czech Center of Photography, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, and his mural Night Sky is in the main hall of the downtown Cleveland’s Public Library. 


Plain Dealer art critic Steven Litt wrote, “Over the past decade and a half, Pekoc has consistently produced beautiful and compelling work that captures something essential about Cleveland's psyche.”

Artist masters one medium and then moves on

Sunday, June 24, 2007
Karen Sandstrom

Plain Dealer Reporter

It's hard to tell what might move an artist forward in his work. At one point in the life of Christopher Pekoc, it was an all-white apartment.

Back in the late 1980s, Pekoc had to move out of the studio where he had been making abstract paintings based on collages he assembled from images torn from magazines. The paintings themselves were large and done with an airbrush, and they had won him some acclaim. But Pekoc was beginning to tire of them and think of what he might do next.

When he lost his studio space, he moved in with his girlfriend, who had an apartment decorated with white furniture and carpet. She told Pekoc he could use an extra bedroom for his studio. Even so, he knew that the kind of mess he usually made would get him kicked out of the all-white apartment. So he started thinking about the work itself.

What if he stopped making paintings from the collages and made the collages themselves as the end product? What if he started sewing together his found images?

As Pekoc puts it, "I got kicked out anyway." But the need to change the way he worked helped the evolution of his art, for which he is being honored Thursday with a $2,500 Cleveland Arts Prize for midcareer artists.

Pekoc, 65, a lifelong Clevelander, is a product of Catholic high school and Kent State University (though he didn't graduate) and jobs at Republic Steel and his family's hardware store. As a young man, those experiences gave him an inkling that he might be an artist, and they informed his work as he progressed from drawings to paintings to the photography-based mixed-media work he's known for more recently.

At the beginning of the year, Convivium33 Gallery hosted a retrospective called "Christopher Pekoc -- Evolution 1964 through 2006." It covered a career during which Pekoc received a commission to paint the abstract mural "Night Sky" in the Cleveland Public Library, won honors in the Cleveland Museum of Art's May Show and saw his art become part of museum and corporate collections. He is represented by Bonfoey Gallery in Cleveland and the John Stevenson Gallery in New York. He is also a drawing teacher at Case Western Reserve University.

His work has been informed by events (including the 1970 Kent State shootings), images (including the enormous spaces and machinery in the steel mill) and other artists (Andrew Wyeth was an early hero).

But Pekoc seems to respond most to the challenge of new materials and methods.

At around age 20, he decided he needed to learn to draw and spent "two years doing nothing but black and white drawings."

Even then, he wasn't content to rely only on a pencil. He took photographs the way other artists might use a sketch pad. And he knew from working at his father's hardware store that he could buy graphite in powder form. He'd mix it with turpentine to create thick graphite washes that he applied to drawings with a brush.

Before long he yearned to work larger and in color. He bought an airbrush, began to experiment with acrylic paint and got strong results early on. His third airbrush painting, called "Street Fight" (1970), was based on a crumpled picture torn out of a Ramparts magazine in which a man lies in a pool of blood. The photograph was supposed to be just for practice with the airbrush, but the painting kept growing.

"I saw a potential there," Pekoc says. "When I made that photograph bigger, it had real impact."

The painting was entered in the May Show, where it got Pekoc some of the first real attention he'd had as an artist.

The 1972 May Show also accepted "The Kent Triptych, the Events of May 4 1970 Are Truly Without Precedent," a surrealistic painting that melded images of scuba divers, a man running with a gun and a young person hanging on to a microphone, his head snapped back as if from impact. The painting is now part of the collection of architect Peter van Dijk and his wife, Bobbi.

Pekoc's work often has a brooding quality, and he admits that as a young artist he was pretty moody.

"I didn't really understand how I was going to resolve the realities of family life with my need to create," he says. "There seemed to be a great disparity there."

Pekoc's 14-year marriage eventually ended, and his daughter and son have long since established their own lives as adults. But he continued to pursue new ways of using materials, though photography and photographic materials remained a source of inspiration.

And the artist managed to earn what he and his family needed to survive and remain focused on his art. He lived cheaply, and the universe was cooperative. Awards and commissions showed up at the right time.

"When I needed money, oddly enough it would be there," Pekoc says. "That sounds strange, but it was my reality."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

ksandstrom [at] plaind [dot] com, 216-999-4810

Lewis J. Nielson

Mid-Career Artist Award 2007 Music

Lewis J. Nielson is the director of Oberlin College Conservatory of Music’s Division of Contemporary Music, the Chair of its Composition Department, and a Professor of Composition.  He’s also a composer who is beginning to be recognized around the world. 


He has received several grants, including a Fulbright-Hays grant from the French government and one from the National Endowment for the Arts. 


His works have been performed by, among others, the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra in Prague and the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra in Moscow, and at such venues as Musique Expèrimentale de Bourges, the World Saxophone Congress in Spain, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art, and in Brazil.


Nielson won honorable mention in the International Society of Bassists’ Composition Competition 2000 for his Duo Concertant (Danger Man), a work for double bass and percussion. About another work, a New York reviewer wrote: “Lewis Nielson is a master composer, an American original. He deserves to be better known, and I think it is simply a matter of time.”

When the bad angel' whispers, the composer listens

Sunday, June 24, 2007
Karen Sandstrom

Plain Dealer Reporter

Composer Lewis Nielson steers clear of the keyboard when he's creating a piece of music.

"The best thing to do is get it in my head," Nielson says. "In a way, the compositional approach that's been attributed to Mozart is the best way to do it -- to hear it, then write it down. I find the keyboard to be a real impediment."

So there was Nielson, director of the division of contemporary music at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, thinking about a new composition, a 13-minute piece that would be called "Iskra."

For those less familiar with the American new-music scene, it is helpful to know that some of the mainstays of traditional music -- pulsing rhythms, pretty harmonies -- are not certain to be elements of contemporary compositions.

"Iskra" was shaping up as a more abstract piece developed for cello, flute and percussion, and it was going fine, Nielson thought -- right up until a mischievous muse started whispering in his ear. The "bad angel," as Nielson calls it, told him to drop a more traditionally structured song, with words, into the middle of the piece.

The song turned out to be an adaptation of tunes his grandmother used to sing, "which turned out to be Irish Republican Army songs," he says.

"It just sounds stupid the way I've described it, but it really worked," says Nielson.

The piece was performed in Oberlin last month.

Discovering the aurally unexpected is what fuels Nielson, a Cleveland Arts Prize winner in the $2,500 "midcareer" category.

Composer, teacher, producer

Nielson is chair of the composition department at the conservatory, a position that keeps him surrounded by young and extraordinarily talented musicians. He says that's good for his mind and his art, though making time to compose can be difficult.

"I'm very unhappy if I don't find some kind of time for working on composition or doing something artistically," he says.

He has won grants from the French government, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Meet the Composer program and has had works performed by the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra in Russia. His music has been performed at the Smithsonian Institution, the Nationally Gallery of Art and the festival of the American New Music Consortium.

In February, Nielson served as producer of the U.S. premiere of avant-garde composer Olga Neuwirth's modern opera "Lost Highway," based on a cult film by David Lynch. The opera was performed by the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble and conducted by Nielson's colleague Timothy Weiss, first in Oberlin and then at the Miller Theatre at Columbia University.

The opera used live singers and actors, video and electronic effects. Though the show didn't involve his own music, Nielson is proud to be part of the collaboration on the U.S. premiere.

"That was a very important thing to do," he says.

It also speaks to part of what goes into making Nielson passionate.

"For me, the most beautiful thing about music is the social aspect of it," he says. "People come together to listen to it, to play it and afterward to comment on it."

Classically trained, influenced by pop and rock

Performance is where it most comes to life for Nielson.

At 57, he is a child of the '60s, though perhaps he wasn't a typical part of the counterculture. He started piano lessons at 5 ("I guess I showed aptitude") and eventually added clarinet studies. From age 10 to 14, his family lived in England, where he studied at London's Royal Academy of Music. There he learned an array of musical skills, including ear training and elements of composition.

Childhood music lessons tend to center on the European classical canon, and that's what Nielson studied. But by the time he was a teenager back on American soil, his interests were swinging toward pop and rock.

"You can neither impress girls nor make a lot of money playing clarinet," Nielson says.

He taught himself to play guitar and listened with awe to some of the musicians of the day. It wasn't just an interlude. Even today, Nielson looks with respect on what American popular music of the '60s and '70s has contributed to world music.

"It could be inventive," he says. "It could involve sonically interesting things, like Jimi Hendrix's control of feedback in live performances. He was unbelievable."

He still loves Smokey Robinson and the construction of some of James Brown's songs.

"Within each four-bar phrase, there's all this asymmetrical stuff going on," he says.

During undergraduate studies at Clark College (1968-1972), however, he headed back toward classical studies, even as he began to sort out his place in a changing world. American soldiers were dying in Vietnam. A disaffected youth culture -- and Europeans, Nielson says -- regarded the United States as an economic and military superpower.

"I think what came to a lot of composers of my generation was that we weren't writing protest music or writing to change political viewpoints, but what we were doing was intrinsically important to American intellectual and artistic culture," Nielson says. "I felt what I was doing was of great value, period."

During the 1970s, Nielson studied for his master's and doctorate degrees in music theory and composition at the University of Iowa. He'd also had a Fulbright-Hays grant to study in Paris, at a time when Pierre Boulez, at the request of French President Georges Pompidou, was establishing IRCAM, a center for modern musical research. Nielson opened himself to all kinds of musical influences.

"It took awhile to get comfortable not only with what I wanted to do, but who I was and what I could do," he says.

His career since then has included work as both composer and conductor, though not as a performer. He eventually gave his clarinet to his daughter and claims to be lousy on violin.

"I wouldn't pay to hear myself play on much of anything right now," Nielson says.

His instrument has become his brain. He has confidence in his ability to imagine the kinds of sounds that can be achieved by humans interacting with their instruments. Creating new musical experiences drives him.

"My wife is always telling me, There's nothing predictable in your music,' and I think she's right," Nielson says. "But I want to challenge that. I don't want to take it for granted."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

ksandstrom [at] plaind [dot] com, 216-999-4810

Eric Coble

Emerging Artist Award 2007 Literature

Some people write plays for their whole lives without getting one produced.  In fewer than 15 years, Eric Coble has had nearly 40 plays produced. Coble’s play Bright Ideas, described as a “Macbeth-in-preschool comedy,” was produced Off-Broadway in 2002 and has gone on to several more productions around the country. 

Other works have been produced by theater companies including the Manhattan Class Company, the Kennedy Center, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland Play House, Great Lakes Theater Festival, Dobama Theatre, Actors Studio, Playwrights Horizons, Laguna Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alliance Theater, Stages Repertory, the Contemporary American Theater Festival and Actors Alley. 


His awards include the AT&T Onstage Award, National Theatre Conference Playwriting Award, an NEA Playwright in Residence Grant, two TCG Extended Collaboration Grants, Aristophanes Award for Best Off-Broadway Comedy, First Place in the Southwest Festival of New Plays, Heideman Finalist for Actors Theatre Louisville, Best of the CATCO Shorts Festival, and an Ohio Arts Council Grant. 


Some of Coble’s works are children’s plays, often adapted from books and other sources, while others are original – ideas that come from a vivid – and sometimes prescient – imagination.  Many of the dark concepts from his plays about the future, like 1994’s Isolated Incidents, eventually have come true – all the more reason to pay attention to his work.

A playwright with bright ideas

Sunday, June 24, 2007
 Karen Sandstrom Plain Dealer Reporter

It's hard to resist Eric Coble's humility. For instance, the playwright says that some of his early influences, during his upbringing on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, were 1970s sitcoms that "came in fuzzy from Albuquerque."

And sure, he has lots of ideas for new projects. But when he's just about to start one, he can find all sorts of ways to procrastinate.

"I'll happily do anything else," he says.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, raised in the American West and professionally seasoned in Ohio, Coble is the 2007 Cleveland Arts Prize winner in the $5,000 "emerging artist" category. He has had dozens of his plays produced locally and around the country. A long list of awards includes a National Endowment for the Arts Playwright in Residence program and an Ohio Arts Council grant.

He also has a page on Wikipedia, although when it was pointed out to Coble, he responded, "I have a Wikipedia page?"

A moment later, he allowed that someone else had told him this but that he hadn't gotten around to reading it.

Look beyond the common-man facade, however, and you see what looks like uncommon creative drive. Coble, 38, lives in Cleveland Heights with his wife Carol Laursen and their two children. She works for University Hospitals. He works his writing around the kids' schedules and his own involvement in the Cleveland Heights school system.

And despite the approach-avoidance he feels when he's starting a project, he brings discipline to the work.

"At any given time, I try to have about 12 projects going at different stages," Coble says.

Coble has long brought humor and popular culture to children's plays, short plays and longer pieces. In 2002, his comedy "Bright Ideas" skewered parents who bring their achievement mentality to efforts to get their offspring into the best preschool, with dire consequences. The play brought $70,000 to the Cleveland Play House through an AT&T: OnStage Award and ran Off-Broadway at the Manhattan Class Company. It also helped land Coble on the cover of American Theatre magazine for a story on playwrights to watch.

His children's play "Cinderella Confidential," produced at the Cleveland Play House Children's Theatre, infused the old fairy tale with an information-age sensibility.

Dobama Theater premiered "Ten Minutes From Cleveland," a series of short plays that take place in -- and tweak -- famed and beloved Cleveland institutions.

"Coble paints a picture of a city in flux, its population in transition, its icons vulnerable," wrote Tony Brown, Plain Dealer theater critic.

Where do all the dramas come from?

"I was telling stories when I was really little," Coble says.

Those very early tales had elements of -- well, television's Captain Kangaroo and Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland," but Coble had his own take. He'd tell the stories, illustrate them himself and his mother would transcribe the tales.

They might have been "the ramblings of a 3-year-old," as he puts it, but they seemed to foreshadow the career that began when he wrote a one-act play called "Tying Knots" during his graduate studies at Ohio University.

"A couple of teachers liked it well enough to keep working on it with me," he says. The piece was performed as part of the university's play festival and was "so well-received by my peers and my teachers that it made me think, Oh, I could take a stab at this.' "

Incredibly, one of his teachers had a Los Angeles connection who organized a staged reading for producers there. The hope was that either someone would pick up the play or hire Coble to write for stage or television.

Coble went out to see the reading -- and died a small death when he realized it was bombing.

"That must have been one of my last serious cases of writer's block, right after that," he says.

Fortunately, he kept going, and he has enjoyed a number of the other kind of experience, too: sitting in the theater when the actors deliver his lines perfectly as they bring their own talent to the characters.

"There's an undeniable electricity when everything's going right, when it moves from being a good show to a wow' moment," he says.

It feels like magic, he says. Whether it's Art with a capital A is another story.

"I view [playwriting] as a craft. I don't view it as an art," he says. "There are moments of grace and moments of art in it, but the groundwork is just getting in and doing."

His hope is to move his audiences -- emotionally but also perceptively.

"I don't care if I write anything timeless," he says.

But if you see a production of "Bright Ideas," and "it makes you think a little differently the next time you drop your children off at preschool, that's great. If that's art, fine. If that's craft, that's fine, too."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

ksandstrom [at] plaind [dot] com, 216-999-4810

Norman Krumholz

Lifetime Achievement 2007 Design


Norman Krumholz may be 79, but his work is far from over.  A Professor at ClevelandState University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs , Krumholz served as Planning Director of the City of Cleveland from 1969 to 1979 under Mayors Carl B. Stokes, Ralph J. Perk and Dennis Kucinich. During the Carter administration, the President appointed Krumholz as a member of the National Commission on Neighborhoods. 


The author of three books and of articles in many professional journals, Krumholz has served as the president of the American Planning Association (1986-1987), and president of the American Institute of Certified Planners (1999). He received the APA Award for Distinguished Leadership in 1990 and the Prize of Rome in 1987 by the American Academy in Rome.


Krumholz is the founder of the Center for Neighborhood Development and a former member of the board of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. 


The Levin College of Urban Affairs has endowed a scholarship for Krumholz, in honor of his 25 years of service to the university.  Current Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson appointed Krumholz to the city's seven-member planning commission.

An urban planner takes in the big picture

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Urban planner Norman Krumholz will receive a lifetime achievement award Thursday at the 2007 Cleveland Arts Prize ceremony.

In the field of urban planning, Norman Krumholz is nationally recognized for his leadership and ideas about maximizing city services. He's a big believer that residential neighborhoods should be given status equal to downtown business districts.

The Cleveland Arts Prize this year honors Krumholz with a lifetime achievement award.

"Equity planning" has been at the center of Krumholz's work since the 1960s and '70s, when he was planning director for Cleveland mayors Carl Stokes, Ralph Perk and Dennis Kucinich.

Krumholz, of Shaker Heights, is a professor at the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. His areas of specialization include urban planning, growth management and race and housing issues.

He served as president of the American Planning Association in 1986 and '87 and was honored by that association for distinguished leadership.

Cindy Barber and Brendan Ring

Martha J. Joseph Prize 2007

The business of owning and operating a nightclub is one of the riskiest. It takes nerves of steel, endless stamina, boundless patience and visionary instincts. It’s a ‘round-the-clock venture, where any number of things can go wrong at any time; its week-to-week success is dependant on everything from the state of the economy to the weather. You need to be able to figure out what kind of people are going to enjoy which types of music and then determine what artists will fit those bills, and then convince the right artists to play at your club, negotiate fees that are acceptable to both sides, and then try to get the people to actually come and hear those artists. You need to deal with City Hall and the local cops, the music union, temperamental artists, upset customers, and underperforming staff members. Then you have to actually hang out at the joint all night, talk to customers, fill in behind the bar, bus tables, sometimes serve as MC, pick garbage up off the floor, count the money …


Who would want to do all of that?  Brendan Ring at Nighttown and Cindy Barber at the Beachland Ballroom do.  And they do much more than that. 


In Ring’s case, he took over the venerable restaurant Nighttown a few years ago and added live music. But not just any live music; he took a huge risk and started booking the top names in jazz; then he added cabaret, folk and world-music artists. He kept the atmosphere casual and friendly, and the room intimate and homey; and he kept prices as low as possible.  Now Nighttown is nationally recognized as one of the best spots to hear live music; in fact, Downbeat magazine has named it one of the 100 Best Jazz Cubs in the World.


In Barber’s case, she opened her club in a neighborhood with which the vast majority of Clevelanders were not familiar, in a building that needed a lot of work, in an area – North Collinwood – where nothing else was happening.  But Barber – who had formerly served as editor of Cleveland’s Free Times newspaper and Northern Ohio Live magazine – believed in the neighborhood and she believed in the club. And she persevered through rough times, offering musical acts every night of the week that played practically every kind of music there is (even classical, once), until the Beachland became a household word to all potential club goers in the region. And in the process, she also went to work on her neighborhood; doing everything she could to spark economic development. Now several other businesses have opened nearby.

The Beachland Ballroom presence who draws others to her lakeside neighborhood

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Cindy Barber's Beachland Ballroom brings national and local acts to Collinwood.

Cleveland's North Collinwood neighborhood has been a draw for artists for more than a decade now, and journalist and entrepreneur Cindy Barber has helped keep that going.

Barber, a former editor of the Free Times and Northern Ohio Live magazine, became a club owner in 2000. Barber and partner Mark Leddy turned the Croatian Liberty Home into the Beachland Ballroom and started booking concerts. Barber is a Cleveland Arts Prize Martha Joseph Special Citation winner.

The Beachland is a sprawling building that Barber has worked to keep filled with touring acts representing a range of styles, from Americana to punk and indie rock 'n' roll, while nurturing local talent, too. She also has become involved in the neighborhood's economic development corporation, attracting residents, businesses and investors to the lakeside neighborhood.

There's a certain Ring to Nighttown and jazz

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Nighttown owner Brendan Ring brings touring jazz and world music to Cleveland Heights.

Nighttown, the Cleveland Heights restaurant and lounge, buzzes with action almost any night of the week. It seems that owner Brendan Ring's bet on live music has paid off.

Ring is a recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize's Martha Joseph Special Citation for service to the arts.

A Clevelander by way of Manhattan and -- originally -- Ireland, Ring bought Nighttown in 2002 and made an immediate commitment to schedule live jazz. Jazz can be a tough sell in Cleveland, but Ring liked the music and decided to spend the money on it anyway. His audiences have responded by packing the place.

Since then, his roster has expanded to world music. Live acts are scheduled virtually every night. Downbeat magazine named Nighttown one of the 100 best jazz clubs in the world, saying the place "has become Cleveland's best year-round bet for touring artists."

Susan Channing

Martha J. Joseph Prize 2007


When Susan Channing steps down as director of SPACES Gallery in the summer 2006, after 21 years, she will leave a legacy as strong as any arts leader’s.


During an era when most similar alternative galleries were closing all around country – from an estimated 300 to about 30 – SPACES not only endured, but it thrived.  Channing achieved a tricky balance of strong management; innovative programming and fiscal responsibility to ensure SPACES maintained its mission as an artist-run alternative gallery, while it grew from small storefront to nationally respected space in its own building (and a pioneering one in Cleveland’s Flats) that attracts 20,000 visitors a year.  


Often partnering with different types of institutions to expand SPACES’ audience, and with exhibits that explored various social issues, she also focused on featuring and mentoring young, emerging, developing and experimental artists. 


And while she made SPACES a leader of alternative galleries nationally, her own leadership impacted not just the gallery, but the region’s art community, and the region itself by not only providing artists exposure, but also introducing visitors to cutting-edge art from this region, around the country and the world.

Spaces director always a friend to artists

Sunday, June 24, 2007

After 21 years as director of Spaces, a nonprofit alternative art gallery, Susan Channing will retire this year with a firm reputation as a friend to artists and a strong fiscal manager.

Channing, of Cleveland Heights, has won a Martha Joseph Special Citation for her work.

Under her guidance, Spaces grew from a small, artist-run organization like many others that thrived in the 1970s into a gallery that attracts 15,000 to 20,000 visitors a year. She emphasized support and creative freedom for artists, and has been involved in many collaborations with other museums and institutions.

In 1994, Spaces started Space Lab, a program to encourage young artists to take risks with smaller installations.

"Occasionally they soar, and sometimes they crash," Channing said, and added that it's important to the spirit of the gallery.

Under her leadership, Spaces won a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation seven years ago to pay off the gallery's mortgage. That made room in the budget for other things, including the Spaces World Artist Program, which brings five national or international artists a year in for six-week residencies.

Toby Devan Lewis

Martha J. Joseph Prize 2007


Toby Devan Lewis could write the book on Progressive Corporation’s art collection.  In fact, she’s in the process of doing that right now.  And no one is better qualified than she, since for more than 20 years; she has been responsible for collecting its more than 6,300 works.  One of country’s largest corporate collections, it is also rated as one of the top by Art & Auction magazine.


Lewis has also overseen the creation of Progressive’s annual report, for which, since 1979, the company has commissioned an artist every year to design the piece, winning more than 500 awards in the process. 


Lewis serves on the boards of trustees of arts organizations including San Antonio’s ArtPace, Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Cleveland Film Society, the Cleveland Institute of Art, and New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art, to which she has given her largest gift to date, a $4 million donation. 


A constant supporter of young and emerging artists, Lewis recently created the Toby Fund, to give graduating Master of Fine Arts students at several schools grants of $10,000 each.

A supporter in the world of business

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Toby Devan Lewis has carved a career as a curator, adviser and philanthropist for the arts.

In the corporate world, Progressive Corp., the insurance company, is well established as a friend of artists. And for 20 years, the face looked a lot like Toby Devan Lewis'.

Devan Lewis is being honored by the Cleveland Arts Prize with a Martha Joseph Special Citation for support of the arts.

In 1983, Devan Lewis was appointed by her former husband, Progressive chairman Peter B. Lewis, to continue the work he had started in the '70s, when he began installing artwork to give employees a creative jolt. The collection, which contains more than 6,300 works, is considered one of the best corporate collections in the nation.

Devan Lewis, of Shaker Heights, also oversaw the company's award-winning annual report, which always features a commissioned piece of art on its cover.

She retired in 2004. She is on the board of trustees at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, the Cleveland Film Society, the Cleveland Institute of Art and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and continues to work as a philanthropist. Her Toby Fund this year awarded 10 grants of $10,000 each to students graduating with a master of fine arts.

Thomas Schorgl

Robert P. Bergman Prize 2007


It’s possible that Thomas Schorgl has saved the arts in Cuyahoga County, or at least many of the region’s arts organizations. 


The president and CEO of the Community Partnership for Arts & Culture (CPAC) since its inception in 1997, Schorgl worked tirelessly to build invaluable – and heretofore nonexistent – bridges, first between the arts groups themselves, and then between arts, civic, business and political leaders. 


Among Schorgl’s many achievements has been influencing the Cuyahoga County Commissioners to implement the Arts & Culture as Economic Development (ACE) grants, and his advocacy of programs like Sparx in the City, which has created more than $200,000 worth of work for more than 700 artists. 


But his greatest accomplishment so far has been his efforts in an undertaking that culminated in the November 2006 passage of Issue 18, a county tax that will produce approximately $20 million in support for arts and cultural organizations. Not only did he work on and with City and County officials, business and civic leaders, and State lawmakers (laws needed to be changed to allow for public support of the arts here), but he even drafted the legislation.


Helping artists get down to business

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Thomas Schorgl, president and CEO of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, has won the Robert P. Bergman citation for arts leadership.

Behind many successful arts initiatives in Cleveland stands Thomas Schorgl, president of the Community Partnership for Arts & Culture. The private, nonprofit agency, begun in 1997, helps arts and cultural organizations use strong business practices.

Schorgl, of Shaker Heights, is this year's winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize Robert P. Bergman citation for leadership in the arts.

Schorgl works to create links among arts, business and political leaders. Under his leadership, the partnership has created the Artist as Entrepreneur Institute, which helps artists beef up their business practices.

Most recently, he was an organizing force behind passage of Issue 18, the Cuyahoga County cigarette tax that is expected to raise $20 million for arts and culture over the next 10 years.