Cleveland Institute of Art celebrates completion of its $75 million Uptown project with parade
Posted August 29, 2015 in Articles
Author: Steven Litt
As they have done every day for decades, members of the Cleveland Institute of Art community journeyed Friday from their East Boulevard campus to their facility on Euclid Avenue.
This time, however, it was a one-way parade to mark the end of an era in the institution's history.
After holding the last freshman convocation in Aitken Auditorium in the college's Gund Building at 11141 East Blvd., officials ceremonially closed the doors on the old facility, a factory-modernist style building completed in 1956, and launched a procession to their new facility at 11610 Euclid Ave.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, who spoke just before the parade, said, "art and culture go together to help define who we are as a city and as a people."
Accompanied by the New Orleans-style Revolution Brass Band, students, faculty, administrators, alumni, donors and trustees marched to Euclid Ave., where the four-year art college will operate in a single, unified facility for the first time in 39 years.
The college recently completed a six-year, $75 million expansion and renovation of the Euclid Avenue facility, whose original structure was built in 1915 as a Ford Model T factory designed by the renowned Detroit architect Albert Kahn.
Founded in 1882, the college has operated in the two University Circle locations since it began holding classes in the former auto factory in 1976.
In 2013, the college sold its 4.1-acre East Boulevard property, including the 1956 building, to the Cleveland Museum of Art and Case Western Reserve University for $9.2 million.
Those two institutions eventually plan to share the property, possibly for a joint art history program, but have not announced plans.
William Griswold, the art museum's director, said recently that in the interim, both institutions would use the building for office space. CWRU officials did not respond to a request for comment.
By unifying its operations on Euclid Avenue, the Cleveland Institute of Art hopes to cut operating costs and raise its national and international profile.
During the parade, some 200 freshmen wore bright green t-shirts and carried banners. They and others marched east on Bellflower Road, south on Ford Drive and east on Euclid Avenue, taking a jog through the restaurant alley east of the Museum of Contemporary Art Clevelandto arrive at the college's new front door.
Grafton Nunes, president of the art college since 2010, marched and danced in the gray academic gown he earned for a master of philosophy degree at Columbia University and sported a velvet Bavarian fedora that once belonged to his father, Grafton Nunes Sr.
"It's an homage to my dad," Nunes said during the celebration. "He would have been so proud to be here today."
Assistant Professor and performance artist Jimmy Kuehnle marched inside a roughly 20-foot-tall purple and orange inflatable sculpture he called "Walking Fish."
As he grinned and sweated and struggle to keep the towering structure upright, Kuehnle said he chose the name "because fish don't walk very well and neither does this."
The Euclid Avenue expansion, designed by Stantec of Philadelphia, contains 80,000 square feet of studio, office and gallery space. Like the old building the art college left behind, the addition is named for Cleveland banker, philanthropist and longtime college supporter George Gund II, who died in 1966.
The Euclid Avenue facility includes a new, 300-seat, state-of-the-art theater for the popularCinematheque film program.
The college is $1.6 million shy of completing the capital campaign for the project, which serves as a capstone to the $150 million-plus Uptown district. That eight-acre development, centered on Ford Drive and Euclid Avenue, includes apartments, restaurants, shops and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. Uptown was recently named a runner-up for the 2015 Rudy Bruner Award, a prestigious honor in urban development.
Chris Ronayne, president of the nonprofit University Circle Inc., the development corporation that helped guide Uptown, joined the festivities Friday.
"We are now at the center of a neighborhood with the Cleveland Institute of Art becoming another anchor," he said. "It's a wonderful move."
Michael Schwartz, the former Cleveland State University president who chairs the art college's board of trustees, said, "I w
as never really sure we'd see" the completion of the art college's unification.
"I never saw people work so hard in my life," he said. "It was amazing."
For 18-year-old Maria Buckman of Fairfax Station, Va., who aspires to major in animation, Friday's convocation and parade were inspiring.
"It was a lot of fun and interesting to see all the older people and how much the older building meant to them," she said, referring to alumni who showed up for the event. As for the Euclid Avenue facility, she said, "it's super nice. Everything's clean and modern."
Jill Snyder, director of MOCA Cleveland, who also attended the festivities, said, "it's so important to take these moments to celebrate." She said the opening of the completed art institute project "completes the cultural piece of Uptown."