While working with one of our studio artists on his recent exhibit, I was reminded how artists show us what we look at every day in a new light, making visible something we wouldn’t otherwise notice. Leslaw Tetla was the 2016 Cleveland State University Visiting Polish Scholar and Kosciuszko Fellow and he spent this fall creating new work in the Waterloo Arts studios. He studied the Collinwood neighborhood – the rows of small houses with front porches – and in his artist statement Dr. Tetla explains, “The porch can be considered a special kind of space, still a private part of the house, but already immersed in the public space. The idea of the porch is the sign (perhaps also proof, or even testimony) of openness to others and an invitation to meeting.” His paintings, photographs and installation draw attention to these porches, the ones I have passed every day without notice. Now I see not only a porch but also, in this time of uncertainty and angst in our country, a symbol of hopefulness and coming together.
Over the years, Waterloo Arts has served as a kind of “porch” for the community of Collinwood. A place where neighbors gather and artists tell our collective story. It was built by spirited individuals who thought art was not a luxury for better times, but essential to any good neighborhood and that encouraging a robust art scene would have myriad residual benefits – energize the economy, engage students, and convene neighbors. They were right. During these past 15 years, the identity of Collinwood as an arts and artist friendly neighborhood has galvanized the community and spurred investment. Waterloo Arts is dedicated to creating an inclusive, welcoming culture, but we don’t underestimate our audience. Since the inception of Waterloo Arts, the gallery has mounted ambitious exhibitions, including addressing social justice themes of vacancy, race, and gender. This commitment to showing thought-provoking work that compels a deep regard for our shared human experience has attracted other artists, residents, and businesses to join what is becoming a flourishing arts district. In short, believing that art transforms individuals, transformed our neighborhood.
Please consider partnering in our endeavor to keep the arts thriving in Collinwood by donating to our annual fund. Maybe at this time more than any other in the recent past, it is important to invest in the things we value. Art has the power, like nothing else, to bring people of different backgrounds together, to encourage empathy, to create new platforms for discourse, to give voice to the less powerful, and to ignite hope. Artists help us make sense of the world and connect us to those we share it with and together we can support artists as they learn, grow, and present work for all our benefit.
Many thanks and warm wishes for a peaceful holiday season and a joyful new year.