Cleveland Museum of Art crosses the Cuyahoga with new space in Ohio CIty for contemporary art

The Transformer Station energizes arts community

CLEVELAND - One of the city's most revered cultural institutions, the Cleveland Museum of Art is building a bridge across the Cuyahoga River to embrace and energize the west side's diverse and lively arts community.

For the first time in its history, the art museum is establishing dedicated space for exhibitions and programming outside of the institution's walls in University Circle.

Called "The Transformer Station," the new contemporary art showcase will be built out of a transformer station that used to supply power to the Detroit Avenue streetcar line. The main hall of the building at 1460 West 29th St. features intricate brick detailing and soaring twenty two foot ceilings.

It was described as "a perfect shrine for art" by Fred Bidwell, who spoke at Friday's news conference. Fred and Laura Bidwell are longtime supporters of the arts, and collectors of photography-based artwork. They were looking for a place to showcase their own vast collection, but also to spotlight young, emerging artists and their work. Fred told the crowd that "we were attracted to this neighborhood because there is a real respect for the power of the arts and culture to improve our lives."

David Franklin, Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art , said the Transformer Station will "set up a new model for us, a new way of working with contemporary art and contemporary artists. We feel we want to be more closely aligned with the Cleveland contemporary arts scene and this gives us another opportunity to do that."

One of the local artists at Friday's event, Rita Montlach, said "it's so exciting for the community and it's much more than exciting for me. It's exciting for artists, people living in the neighborhood, and it's a wonderful addition to our arts scene which we really needed."

Process Creative Studio, an Ohio City-based architectural firm has drawn up a plan that includes restoration of the original building and an expansion, totaling nearly 8,000 square feet when it is completed next fall. Construction will begin immediately.

The Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation was established to encourage greater appreciation for contemporary art. The new Transformer Station will initially be owned and operated by the foundation, with the annual calendar of events shared equally by the Bidwell Foundation and the Cleveland Museum of Art. The foundation has promised The Transformer Station as a gift to the museum in fifteen years. This is in addition to the Bidwell's $1 million gift to the museum's capital campaign as it completes the expansion of the University Circle campus.

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