Cleveland Connection Blurs Lines

Opening Sat 8/10 @ 6 – 8pm

Cleveland Connection is an exhibition at The Gallery at Lakeland Community College juried by local, award-winning artist Dana Oldfather and featuring 70 works by almost 40 artist-members of the Cleveland West Art League (CWAL) and Ohio Art League (OAL). 

This show is the last of CWAL’s traveling summer exhibition series, which featured shows like Cleveland vs Pittsburgh at this year’s Waterloo Arts Fest (and later traveled to Pittsburgh for their First Friday Art Walk) and Tall Walls at Loren Naji’s Studio Gallery.  They’re quickly becoming the most active arts organization in town.  The OAL is also a very active non-profit art organization based out of Columbus, consisting of over 600 member artists. 

This ongoing collaborative relationship between CWAL and OAL allows viewers to see work from all over the state, and for local artists to get their work into new venues out of town. Cleveland Connection consists of 29 CWAL members and eight OAL members.  The show consists of works created with various media including acrylic and oil paintings, sculpture, photography, mixed media, graphite, pen and ink and more.

Local self-taught artist Dana Oldfather juried the exhibition. Her work is represented by Bonfoey Gallery — one of the top commercial galleries in the city.  She recently had her first solo museum exhibition at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown.  Her work is featured in many prominent public and private collections including The Bellagio Hotel & Casino, Eaton World Headquarters, The Cleveland Clinic, The Progressive Art Collection and Jones Day.  She has won numerous awards including this year’s Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council.

Of selecting the exhibition, Oldfather says:

“Choosing award winners for the Cleveland Connection exhibition was a difficult decision, as I imagine choosing a best in show must be for most jurors in an open call situation where no terms are stipulated for submissions other than the general geographic location of an artist’s studio.

“When judging the merit of a more realistic painting against the merit of a more abstract painting, against a photograph, against a drawing, if we’re really trying to be objective, there are only a few quantifying factors that we can apply universally. Further complicating the matter, for the better in my opinion, are the varying degrees of realism, abstraction, and the combination of the two found in contemporary artwork making it difficult to label a work as either one or the other. I think the blurring of this line is extremely beneficial to contemporary art culture. It forces a viewer to think more critically about an artwork since one cannot easily put it in a box and slap a label on it. For the artist, it blows open the door to infinite realities and creative possibilities.

“I believe the ability to view and apply abstract ideas to realistic art, and the ability to view and apply elements and techniques of realism to abstract art, is one of the highest forms of art making and art appreciation. All this being said, when deciding which piece in a large group exhibition, containing a wide variety of media & genre, achieved the most success, the criteria of merit ultimately boils down to what attributes of an artwork matter most to the viewer, or in this case, the juror. As an artist, and as a painter specifically, what is important to me varies drastically from what may be important to another observer as the core of one’s aesthetic is shaped by one’s life experience and exposure to art.”

Cleveland Connection is definitely worth the drive out to The Gallery at Lakeland. Oldfather successfully presents the diverse variety of work being made in the area.  The show is ambitious in both scale and scope, offering a wide spectrum of creativity and self-expression.  If there is one common thread throughout current Contemporary Art (especially locally), it’s diversity. Sometimes exhibitions juried by a single artist can be biased towards the artist’s aesthetic preferences, leading to a one-sided show. However, Cleveland Connection effectively represents the diversity of our local art community.  There is sure to be something of interest to everyone.

The exhibiting artists include: Luke Ahern, Stephan Aman, Joe Ayala, Jason Benning, Justin Brennan, Agnes Burris, Michael Chesney, Chad Cochran, Dan Corrigan, Maria DiFranco, Diane Farr, Mark Fohl, Hilary Gent, Meredith Hahn, Sarah Hahn, Matt Hostelley, Misty Hughes, Leslie Edwards Humez, Matthew Hunsaker, Morris Jackson, MJ King, George Kocar, Rickey Lewis, Jessica Newel, Nennifer Newyear, Chaz O’Neil, Bob Peck, Melinda Placko, Kelly Purcell, Cathy Rogers, John A. Sargent III, Michael Sienerth, Debra Sue Solecki, Judy Tackacs, Nico Train, Margarita Vilshaneskaya, and Donald Woods.

This event is FREE and open to the public.

[Pictured, top to bottom, art by: Debra Sue Solecki, Luke Ahern, Joe Ayala, and Dan Corrigan]

The Cleveland Connection juried art exhibition, presented by Cleveland West Art League and Ohio Art League, opens with an artist/award reception on Sat 8/10 from 6 – 8pm @ The Gallery at Lakeland, Lakeland Community College, 7700 Clocktower Dr. (Building “D”, first floor), Kirtland, OH. Additional hours: M-F: 9am-9pm, Sat-Sun: 9am-5pm. For more info contact Mary Urbas, Gallery Coordinator at (440)525-7029 or or


Josh Usmani is a 27 year old local artist, curator and writer. Since 2008, his work has been featured in over 50 local and regional exhibitions.







Post categories:

Leave a Reply