FRONT International 2022 Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art Kicks Off This Saturday

Jul. 14, 2022

Free exhibitions all across the city are on tap all summer

By Shawn Mishak for Cleveland Scene

The second edition of the free, summer-long, region-wide festival, FRONT International, opens this Saturday July 16th with 30-plus exhibition sites in Cleveland, Akron, and Oberlin featuring work by more than 100 national, and international artists, and runs through October 2, 2022.

FRONT kicks things off with a block party on Cleveland Public Square, hosted by DJ Red-I and featuring performances by Free Black, Sadhu Sounds, Hello!3D, Da Land Brass Band, Blakk Jakk Dance Collective, Mellow Man Funk, The Katy, and FRONT 2022 artist Asad Raza.

FRONT participating artists are working in a variety of mediums including painting, drawing, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, photography, video, text, performance, and other media. Also incorporated will be ongoing exhibitions and public installations working in tandem with online and time-based programs.

'Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows' is the theme for this year’s event, which is drawn from the 1957 poem “Two Somewhat Different Epigrams” by Langston Hughes, who moved to Cleveland in his childhood and stayed connected to the region throughout his writing career.

“The exhibition bears witness to the region’s past and present scars, from the environmental degradation caused by industrial production to police violence and urban fracture…Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows emphasizes collaborative creative processes, working closely with institutions across the region, and connecting artists with local communities.” according to a press release.

Prem Krishnamurthy, FRONT Artistic Directors said, "After a one-year delay in these challenging times, it’s even more gratifying to witness Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows finally coming to life. The exhibition is a testament to the commitment and collaboration of our participating artists, partners, and communities."

FRONT will be introducing two major projects this year, the first of which is a first-of-its-kind public mural by Julie Mehretu. The mural will be her first work of public art and will overlook the historic Old Stone Church and the recently renovated Public Square in downtown Cleveland.

The city-block wide and 21-story-tall mural is part of FRONT’s Canvas City program that started in 2018, which aims to transform Cleveland’s skyline into the world’s largest outdoor exhibition of museum-grade contemporary and abstract art.

Mehretu will conduct her research during the run of FRONT 2022 with the aim to install the work, with Brooklyn-based mural painters at Colossal Media, by 2023.

“Even though this ambitious project is beyond the planned budget and scope of FRONT 2022, our board has enthusiastically supported this initiative and FRONT trustee Scott Mueller has pledged a challenge grant of 50% of the project cost to make this important project possible,” said Fred Bidwell, FRONT’s Executive Director. “We are pleased that we are able to attract an artist of Julie Mehretu’s stature to create a work that will be an iconic symbol of Cleveland’s complex history and its hopes for the future.”

FRONT is also introducing an Art Futures Fellowship that will award three recipients $25,000 for emerging Northeast Ohio based Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian American and Pacific Islander visual artists.

The fellowship will be awarded on a three-year cycle to three recipients living and working in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Portage, or Summit counties. The Fellowship recipients will have access to support and career-development services from FRONT and partner institutions, including Assembly for the Arts, and will also have the opportunity to participate in one domestic and one international research trip organized by FRONT.

Recipients of the fellowship will also be offered the opportunity to develop a project for FRONT 2025 and to serve on the FRONT 2025 Artistic Team. Awardees will be announced at the FRONT Gala on Thursday, July 14, 2022.

“I am excited and honored to spearhead this initiative on behalf of FRONT,” said FRONT Director of Artistic and Community Initiatives Deidre McPherson. “We want to help increase visibility and representation of visual artists of color to help our region's arts ecosystem be more reflective of its diversity. Our goal is to utilize the wealth of resources we have access to as an international art triennial and leverage them in ways that equitably invest in helping artists of color from our region to have sustainable careers locally and beyond.”

There will be a number of artists flying in from all over the globe for this year’s events, and it will be an opportunity for artist-led workshops, conversations between artists and curators, and other programming. Major organizations and institutions like Cleveland Museum of Art, moCa Cleveland, Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA), Oberlin College, The Sculpture Center, Transformer Station, at Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic are participating in this large-scale festival along with other sponsors and affiliates. The aim of this year’s FRONT is to bring people and communities together through art and experience.

“As a convener of regional arts institutions as well as an event with an international profile, FRONT aims to strengthen and elevate our local creative communities through increased visibility and support for our arts ecosystem,” said a spokesperson from FRONT. “We’re grounded in the belief that art can be a catalyst for positive social change and greater understanding between communities, and emphasize sustained engagement in the region.”