Arts Meets Politics

When the delegates, conventioneers and media come to Cleveland in July, it’s not going to be all politics, all the time. Local and visiting artists are a part of the picture, too—some because they want to be a part of the action, others because they want to lift their voice along with so many others.

And when it comes to Cleveland’s museums and galleries, its curators and directors see this as an opportunity for thought-provoking and relevant exhibits to showcase our region’s arts renaissance. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happening in the world of Cleveland’s art scene during the Convention, what you can see and how you can participate.

Louder than Words: Rock, Power and Politics: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Opens May 20

John Lennon’s guitar from the historic “bed-in” in Montreal. Bruce Springsteen’s outfit from the cover of “Born in the U.S.A.” The songs of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot. These are some of the artifacts featured in the Rock Hall’s newest exhibit, Louder than Words: Rock, Power and Politics, on display this summer. The exhibit is a collaboration with the Newseum in Washington, D.C., and explores the power of rock to change attitudes about patriotism, peace, equality and freedom.

The American Dream: Transformer Station, Hingetown
July 19

The American Dream Project is a temporary public art installation, taking place the second day of the Republican National Convention. The 4,000-pound ice sculpture of the words “The American Dream” will be created with the intent to disappear over the course of the day on July 19. The artists, Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese of Brooklyn, N.Y., of Ligorano/Reese have completed similar installation events in previous political convention cities, melting “Democracy” in 2008 in Denver and St. Paul.

Ligorano and Reese are reaching out to Cleveland community journalists, poets and writers to take part in a writers’ residency on site with the installation. During the event, videotaped street interviews will be shot with the assembled public about the issues relating to the sculpture. This media will be posted on, along with live streaming of the event.

The Fixers: SPACES Gallery, Ohio City
May 20 – July 21

In the world of journalism, fixers are the locals who help visiting reporters find their way around and connect with sources. “The Fixers” video series is a collaborative public art project that asks what Clevelanders would tell delegates about how public policy impacts the lives of urban Americans. In the video appearing at SPACES Gallery, “The Fixers” asks Clevelanders to tell their stories on what it's like to ride public transit, how young people address violence in their neighborhoods, efforts to increase healthy food access, and much more.

Cleveland artist Kate Sopko, with filmmakers Robert Banks, Angela Beallor, Chelsie Corso, Tom Laffay, Elizabeth Press and Paul Sobota, produce “The Fixers” with the goal of seeking out Clevelanders who operate like fixers, and asking what tour of Cleveland they would give Convention delegates if they had the chance.

Bellwether: SPACES Gallery, Ohio City

Bellwether is a data collection project, designed to dig deeper into the true political desires of the voting population of Ohio—a state that is regarded as vital to the endgame of both parties, but whose citizens are often treated as faceless, nameless votes. Artist Roopa Vasudevan (Shanghai, China and Brooklyn, N.Y.) is collecting social media data related to 2016 U.S. presidential candidates, from the first debates through the nomination conventions.

Using language processing techniques, Vasudevan will create physical artifacts that co-opt the design language of the presidential campaigns, and reflect how Ohio residents perceive the candidates. Sounds a little vague and awesome, right? Roopa Vasudevan will give a free, public presentation on her work from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 9.

Everything She Says Means Everything

In 2004, photographer Spencer Tunick photographed 2,754 naked Clevelanders lying down on East 9th Street. It’s a gorgeous, otherworldly artwork that was displayed at the Cleveland Museum of Art for a number of years. He’s coming back to photograph 100 nude women holding large mirror discs, “reflecting the knowledge and wisdom of progressive women and the concept of 'Mother Nature' into and onto the convention center, cityscape and horizon of Cleveland.”

Want to be a part of Tunick's next photo shoot? You can by signing up here.

Intersection: Art + Politics: The City Club of Cleveland
July 19
With all of the cool arts-driven engagement happening, The City Club of Cleveland sensed a need to convene a conversation. So, on July 19th, as “The American Dream” melts, you can join an afternoon symposium about all of these exhibits and works, and others. Thanks to Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream, cool refreshments will be served. Watch for details.