Steven Litt,, March 16, 2018

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A gigantic sculpture of a human hand, folded sections of chain link, and a vast facade mural will all go on view in Cleveland as part of the the inaugural FRONT International Cleveland Triennial exhibition opening in four months.

The exhibit, which aims to re-brand Cleveland and Northeast Ohio as a global center of culture that can compete with cities better known to the art world, will unfurl at cultural venues across Northeast Ohio with coordinated displays of works by more than 70 national, international and local artists.

But FRONT won’t be just an indoor affair. The exhibit will spill outdoors with public art installations, reaching pedestrians and drive-by viewers whose numbers could dwarf those counted by security guards at museums with individual FRONT exhibits. FRONT will also reach into unexpected venues, such as the Cleveland Clinic.

“My hope is that people will accidentally bump into FRONT during the summer and discover that contemporary art resonates with them in some way,” Fred Bidwell, the triennial’s founding CEO, said last week in an interview.

Latest from FRONT

The latest in a series of announcements leading up to FRONT, which runs July 14 to September 30, outlines how specially commissioned artworks will transform public spaces and building facades in Cleveland, along with traditional artistic venues and unorthodox locations.

The outdoor installations will include a recreation of an historic Op Art facade mural in downtown Cleveland by the late Julian Stanczak, a giant sculptural hand at Toby’s plaza in University Circle’s Uptown, and sculptures made of dramatically folded sections of chain link fence in Ohio City’s Hingetown neighborhood.

“FRONT is really an exciting new model for contemporary art in that it takes it out of the classic white box environment which can be intimidating and can feel exclusionary,” said Bidwell, a retired Akron advertising executive who has become a leading cultural entrepreneur in Cleveland.

FRONT hopes to encourage visitors to explore parts of Cleveland, Akron and Oberlin as a byproduct of seeking out the exhibit’s indoor and outdoor components.

Bidwell has estimated that the exhibit, modeled after European art festivals rather than commercially oriented art fairs in Europe and the U.S., could attract 300,000 viewers, of whom 75,000 would come from out of town, pumping $50 million into the Northeast Ohio economy.

The exhibit will address the theme, “An American City,” through exhibits and installations examining what FRONT calls “such salient topics as gentrification and community equity.”

On Friday, the city’s planning commission enthusiastically granted conceptual or final approval to a series of newly or recently announced FRONT initiatives including outdoor installations downtown and in Ohio City and Glenville, and a series of six outdoor concerts.

The commission granted conceptual approved to FRONT’s designs for signs to be installed around town with a distinctive pattern of three undulating red stripes describing the letter F as if it were part of a waving flag.

“When you look at what FRONT represents, it’s really the entire ecosystem of what public art is supposed to do,” said Freddy Collier, the city’s planning director. “It really needs to be sort of a lesson in many respects about how we go about public art in the city overall.’

“Judy’s Hand Pavilion,” by Chicago artist Tony Tasset at Case Western Reserve University’s Toby’s Plaza, just east of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.

Jointly developed by FRONT and the Putnam Collection of outdoor art at CWRU, Tasset’s project will involve creating an oversize, highly accurate fiberglass representation of the hand of the artist’s wife, painter JudyLedgerwood, which will double as a shelter and gathering spot.

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