Northeast Ohio’s Thriving Art Scene

One of my biggest pet peeves (aside from using the terminology “pet peeves”) is when I hear a Clevelander say, “There is nothing to do in Cleveland.”  They couldn’t be more wrong.  Between the sports, concerts, and foods, it is not a matter of not having anything to do; it’s a matter of not having enough time to do it.  Now that the most obvious has been listed, let us look at what has been greatly overlooked:  Northeast Ohio’s long standing art scene.

Of course there is the glorious Cleveland Museum of Art.  Located in the heart of University Circle, it’s the home of rotating exhibitions, concerts, films, and so much more for the past hundred years.  Keeping true to the museum’s mission, The Cleveland Museum of Art continues to stand, “for the benefit of all the people forever.” The benefits include allowing the people of Northeast Ohio to take a journey around the world through paintings, sculptures, and history. Did I mention that general admission is free?

If the world is too far for your eyes to travel, there is something a little bit closer to home.  Nestled in Downtown Cleveland on Euclid Avenue, The Boenfoey Gallery consists of the city’s most prominent local artists and has done so for the past 120 years.  That’s right; local artists. You might even know them.  Two of the youngest local contemporary artists of the gallery are Frank Oriti Jr. and Dana Oldfather.  Both born and bred of the Northeast Ohio region, these two talents contribute their own unique works to the gallery.

First featured at The Boenfoey Gallery in 2011, Frank Oriti Jr. states his motivation stems from the “blue collar work ethic” found deep in our Cleveland roots.  His work is a consistent stream of realistic portraits of family and friends, those he holds relatively dear to him struggling to fit into the American dream. The detail of his work in each piece is so defined, it leaves one wondering are you staring at them or are they staring at you?  With visually penetrating work so pronounced, he has found himself the recipient this year’s Cleveland Arts Prize, Emerging Artist Award. His piece, ‘Uniform,’ is depicted below.

Dana Oldfather, on the other hand, offers an array of color bursting works dripping emotional paint.  She describes her art as, “mixed media paintings depicting a biochemical organism and landscape as one.” Oldfather’s debut at the gallery, which she considers a rare honor, surfaced in a three-person exhibition in 2008. Since then, she has been a repeat contributor to the gallery. Yet if one skims through the city of Cleveland you will find her work hanging out and about elsewhere.  Her work has found its way on prominent local organizations’ walls such as the Cleveland Clinic and one of the city’s leading law firms, Jones Day. Below, you will see Oldfather’s piece, ‘Suspended Mountains.’

Both of these artists display the amazing talent emerging from Northeast Ohio.  They each have their own diverse style offering a candid look into what our city’s people’s perceptual reality consists of.   The Boenfoey Gallery offers the wall space for this diversity to flourish and be appreciated. So the next time, when in question of what to do, take a stroll downtown to the Boenfoey Gallery and take in the fact that Cleveland is full of beautiful minds sharing their thoughts on a canvas.


Sarah S. Amer is a returning veteran studying Communications at Cleveland State University.

“Cleveland: There’s no place like home.”

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