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FRONT cancels 2025 triennial for contemporary art in Cleveland

Charmaine Spencer's "Reconstruction" is on view at Transformer Station in Cleveland, which serves as a hub for the international contemporary art exhibition around the region from July 16- October 2.
Carrie Wise
Ideastream Public Media
Charmaine Spencer's "Reconstruction" on view at Transformer Station in Cleveland for the second edition of FRONT in 2022.

The FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art will not present a third edition in 2025.

FRONT’s board of directors made the decision to cancel the next festival in response to difficulties raising funds.

“The big idea behind FRONT from the beginning was to be bold, to be ambitious, to do something at a world class level,” said Fred Bidwell, founder and executive director. “Anything short of that really was never the concept.”

The triennial debuted in 2018 featuring artists from around the world reflecting on what it means to live in an American city. Art was displayed at venues around Northeast Ohio, from museums and galleries to non-traditional settings like hospitals and libraries. In 2022, the second iteration of FRONT focused on how art can heal and bring change.

The next iteration of the three-month art festival required $5.5 million, and funding priorities have changed in the last few years, Bidwell said, noting that some funders are “shifting some resources away from arts and culture towards social justice, community development and health and welfare.”

“When the needs are so urgent, I can understand how priorities have changed for at least the time being,” he said.

In 2022, FRONT awarded fellowships to four artists of color in Northeast Ohio, which included $25,000, travel and professional opportunities as well as a spot in the 2025 triennial. While FRONT can’t deliver on the latter, Bidwell said he is working to find exhibition platforms for the artists. The stipend and travel support will still be honored for Charmaine Spencer, Antwoine Washington, Amanda King and Erykah Townsend.

“They’re very talented. They’ve done some amazing work,” Bidwell said.

About 75,000 people attended the 2022 triennial, delayed one-year due to the pandemic, compared to 90,000 people in 2018. FRONT reported visitors were more engaged in 2022, visiting more exhibition venues during the festival.

In reflecting upon the first two triennials, Bidwell said he was pleased with the attendance, economic impact as well as national and international recognition and press coverage.

“We Clevelanders love that attention, and we deserve it,” he said.

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.