Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
Tour of Nottingham-Spirk Innovation Center Highlight of Recent Access to the Arts Event
Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Mon, 04/25/2005 - 17:28.
The interview and Luncheon took place at the College Club of Cleveland on Overlook Road in Cleveland Heights. The College Club of Cleveland was formed in 1898 to provide cultural and social programs for women graduates of four-year universities. Recently the by-laws were changed to admit men and those who have completed two years of college or professional training. Since 1951 The Club has occupied the former Alexander House, designed by Franklin Meade and Abram Garfield (son of the President) and built in 1905 for W.D. B. Alexander. The house has some remarkable Art Nouveau details such as the gilded wood tiles in the style of Charles Rennie MacKintosh found in the lower hall.
David Deming, Director of the Cleveland Institute of Art interviewed the two Johns â€“ both 1972 graduates of CIA. The interview was very focused, emphasizing their remarkable 40-year friendship and partnership that began at CIA. As freshmen they discovered that it was more productive working together than competing. In the course of answering Demingâ€™s questions, the partners recounted anecdotes from the past 4 decades that underscored their consistent talent for collaboration.
Nottingham and Spirkâ€™s early collaborations led to some unconventional school projects. A painting they created together (with both artistsâ€™ signatures) was featured in The May Show. At the end of their senior year, they competed jointly and won a shared scholarship to study in Europe.
Upon graduation they both received highly desirable job offers â€“ John Nottingham received an offer from Chrysler and John Spirk received an offer from Huffy; however, they decided to turn down the offers and start their own company. They designed their company logo on a napkin in a cafe in Milan.
Nottingham-Spirkâ€™s first major client was Little Tikes. The plastic toys Nottingham-Spirk designed for them turned Little Tikes into a 600 million-dollar company. Dirt Devil/Royal Appliance was another important early client. It was Nottingham-Spirkâ€™s idea to create bright red vacuum cleaners with onboard tools. More recently, the Dutch Boy Twist & Pour paint container Nottingham-Spirk created has received international praise. John Nottingham also designed a humorous demonstration that sold the product to Sherwin-Williams.
The Crest SpinBrush is probably Nottingham-Spirkâ€™s best-known design. It is a $5 electric toothbrush that has become the best selling toothbrush in the world â€“ manual or electric. In 1998 Nottingham-Spirk created a company called Dr. Johns Products with 1 million-dollars in start-up capital to produce the SpinBrush. It was immediately successful with retailers like Wal-Mart. In 2001 Procter & Gamble bought the company for $475 million and renamed the product the Crest SpinBrush.
Graham Grund, executive director of Access to the Arts made the closing remarks. A remarkable coincidence, in 1972 she was head of the Cleveland Institute of Art and signed John Nottingham and John Spirkâ€™s Diplomas. Viktor Schreckengost was named Honorary Chairman of this Access to the Arts event, though unfortunately he was unable to attend. He was head of the industrial design department at the time Nottingham and Spirk were CIA students. It was Schreckengost who had arranged Nottinghamâ€™s interview with Chrysler.
The new Nottingham-Spirk Innovation Center is just down the street from the College Club, so many audience members walked there and enjoyed the sunny, warm weather. John Nottingham and John Spirk both gave guided tours to groups that informally gathered around them, but visitors were welcome to explore the building on their own. The construction crew also answered questions about the building. A massive organ shrouded in plastic played Dvorakâ€™s New World Symphony. It was truly a unique atmosphere.
The First Church of Christ Scientist sat vacant on Overlook Road, perched on the ridge above Little Italy, for many years. It has been the fantasy of many CASE students and others who pass by to sneak in an open door and see the interior of the elegant and slightly enigmatic building designed by the prestigious Cleveland architectural firm of Walker & Weeks. One of the finest church buildings in Cleveland, the First Church of Christ Scientist was originally intended to be a more modest structure located on the site of Severance Hall at the corner of East Boulevard and Euclid. The congregationâ€™s plans and fortunes changed however, when John L. Severance decided he wanted the site for the concert hall he planned to dedicate to the memory of his wife. He offered the congregation a sum so generous they could not refuse. The money Severance paid for the site allowed them to build a much grander structure than what they previously could have afforded in a location that many would say is more dramatic than their first choice.
The Nottingham-Spirk Innovation Center is nearly complete. The exterior of the building has been cleaned. The new sign has been inserted in the pediment over the main entrance. Every space has been assigned â€“ even the tower, which is home to a family of falcons. The project manager explained that the building was in excellent condition when Nottingham-Spirk purchased it. The large room on first floor where the congregation used to gather has been divided by partitions into offices and meeting spaces. The soaring ceiling, painted to look like sky and the tall windows that surround the room flooding it with natural light create an inspiring work environment. Brass chandeliers hang from the ceiling, covered in plastic to protect them from the construction dust. All original lighting fixtures have been rewired and restored. In the basement, where the Sunday school was located, offices for engineers surround a spacious area for building models and prototypes.
The Nottingham-Spirk Innovation Center plan includes space for approximately 70 employees â€“ including many CIA interns. In addition to the economic impact their designs have had on the local economy, they have been very supportive to their Alma Mater, hiring many CIA graduates and interns. Both Johns are on the CIA board. Though they have already experienced phenomenal success, Nottingham-Spirkâ€™s Innovation Center is a unique and inspiring place that seems a natural source for creativity. Clevelanders â€“ and the world â€“ will be watching closely as they enter this new and exciting phase of their exceptional partnership.