New Cleveland Arts And Community Hub Moves Ahead Amid Pandemic

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A new arts and cultural hub is taking shape on Cleveland’s West Side. The former home to generations of the Astrup Awning Company will now host a mix of arts and community organizations in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood.

The $13 million redevelopment project aims to bring something positive to the neighborhood, with artists as agents of the revitalization, according to building developer Rick Foran.  

In 2013, three kidnapped women escaped their captor from a home just down the street.

“We feel like we're changing, hopefully the perception here,” Foran said. “We're part of the change occurring in this district.”

The three-story building is now called the Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression. The multi-year project received federal and state tax credits as well as a tax increment financing agreement, or TIF, from Cleveland.

While construction has continued during the pandemic, building tenants have had to adjust some of their plans because of lost revenue this year. Even so, several are looking to the future with a physical presence inside the Pivot Center on West 25th Street.

Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression in Cleveland

The Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression on West 25th Street in Cleveland's Clark-Fulton neighborhood. [Carrie Wise / ideastream]

Inlet Dance Theatre

Inlet Dance Theatre has been a part of the community for 20 years, but the contemporary dance company has never had its own studios until now.

“We've got stuff stored in Brunswick and in University Circle, and we've been rehearsing all over the city,” said Bill Wade, Inlet’s artistic director.

The company now has storage space as well as two large studios with a dividing wall that opens, creating a larger performing space. While the pandemic didn’t derail Inlet's move, three years in the making, the company adjusted its plans for the space into two phases.

“This is really unfortunate timing, but I feel very solid about this building choice, and, you know, who my neighbors are going to be,” Wade said.

LatinUs Theater Company

LatinUs, the Spanish-speaking theater company, is another organization moving to its first home. The non-profit will present plays from its new black box theater, once it is safe to do so. The group plans to also utilize the space for community programming and rentals.

"I have so many plans for the theater during, you know, extracurricular time for the kids of the area," said LatinUs Executive Artistic Director Monica Torres. 

LatinUs Theatre Company's new black box theater

Kivin Bauzo, Monica Torres and John-Rivera Resto stand in LatinUs Theatre Company's new black box theater space inside the Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression. [LatinUs]

Torres started LatinUs just three years ago, and it’s growing, with some paid staff and stipends for actors. But that growth has slowed due to COVID-19, and they’ve scaled back some of their building plans, too.

“All the big foundations that gave us money that support us, they have, you know, more important things to do at the moment, because of the Covid,” she said. “They scaled down in the money that they were giving to the arts.”

LatinUs is already planning for its next production in 2021, “La Casa de Bernarda Alba,” featuring 10-12 actresses.

ICA

ICA, the art conservation center, plans to lease space at the Pivot Center and sell its current building less than two miles away. The move would help the non-profit with current parking issues as well as its bottom line. Earned income is down 40 percent this year and expected to be shaky in the coming years due to fallout from the pandemic, according to ICA Executive Director Julie Riley.

“Many of our clients have not even opened back up again, and when they do, they've cut staff. They're in a crisis mode,” she said.

ICA conservation work

ICA conservation work done at its Ohio City location. The non-profit plans to sell its building and move to the Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression. [ICA]

ICA would also have 40 percent more lab space at the Pivot Center and easier access for deliveries and the public, Riley said.

Founded in Oberlin in 1952, the 70 year-old organization is in the business of restoring objects so their stories can be told well into the future. Recent projects include Harry Houdini’s top hat and Mary Todd Lincoln’s cape.

Next generation

This building’s own legacy dates back more than a century. The Astrup Awning Company began as a sail-making company in the late 1800s, and the operations moved to this site in 1883, according to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

Historic Astrup Awning work in 1800s

Women working at the Astrup Awning Company on West 25th Street in 1892. [Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection]

The original building burned and the company rebuilt a new structure around 1920. With the recent redevelopment, it’s poised to serve the community again.

Other tenants include, Cleveland Missing, a nonprofit started by Gina DeJesus, one of the women who escaped captivity from a nearby home, as well as the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and Cleveland Museum of Art.

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