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FRONT Triennial Aims to Change Cleveland's Brand With Art

[Rob Bales/Shutterstock.com]

Artists from around the world are due to use Northeast Ohio as their gallery this summer.  Photographers, painters, filmmakers and installation artists will create works that reflect on issues facing American cities. 

FRONT International Triennial is the name of this three-month event, and it’s the brainchild of local arts leader Fred Bidwell.  Bidwell said he got the idea after opening his Transformer Station gallery on Cleveland’s west side, which helped spark redevelopment in a struggling neighborhood.

Fred Bidwell (David C. Barnett / ideastream)

“I thought, if arts and culture could bring so many people and so much investment to a neighborhood, could an even bigger idea bring people to a city?” he said.

FRONT is modeled on the biennial and triennial tradition of contemporary art shows in Europe.  Bidwell said staging an international art event every two or three years allows time to work out the complex logistics, fundraise and keep it fresh.  The name came during a brainstorming session.

“Words like ‘frontier’ and ‘frontline’ and ‘forefront’ kept coming to mind,” he said.  “FRONT is the perfect name for an event that wants to be on the leading edge.”

Art will be on view throughout the region at over 20 locations from July through September.  The focus of this year’s event will be on “The American City.”  The international artists will base their works on urban issues that are shared globally.

“Many of the political, economic, social and racial issues that the world is talking about are all at the frontline here in Cleveland,” said Bidwell.

For instance, Chinese artists will explore the topic of deindustrialization.

“People in Cleveland will see what’s happened here through the eyes of an artist from China,” he said.  “It’s going to be fascinating.”

Along the way, Bidwell hopes to shake-up some preconceptions about Northeast Ohio for the visitors.

“I think the story is still a little bit about rock & roll, food, and sports,” he said.   “And what FRONT is going to do is change people’s opinion about the brand of Cleveland.”

Listen to the entire interview about FRONT International




David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.