Heights Arts exhibition explores changing urban landscape

Euclid Avenue, a photographic diptych by Darlene Beiter.

Over the last year, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Travel + Leisure, Fodor’s and The Wall Street Journal are among the national publications that have sung the praises of the changes transforming Cleveland and its environs. In this spirit, Heights Arts’ new exhibition, Impermanence, explores the nature of change within the city's environment of civic architecture, streets and residences.

Organized by guest curator and photographer Daniel Levin, Impermanence celebrates place, use and time in the Heights, University Circle, Little Italy, Ohio City and downtown Cleveland through pairing photographs that show the same view of a site at different historical times. This “then-and-now” perspective enables the viewer to notice both dramatic and subtle changes that have occurred to some of our iconic community institutions and streetscapes, and to more commonplace subject matter, such as home interiors. The exhibition includes some unexpected images of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Arena District and Coventry neighborhoods, which are sure to trigger a flood of memories in long-term Cleveland residents, and delight newcomers.

These black-and-white photographic diptychs began with research by the exhibition’s photographers to unearth dynamic, original images through private collections and numerous archives in Northeast Ohio, including the Cleveland Public Library’s Photograph Collection; the Cleveland Memory Project, accessible online through the Cleveland State University Library; and Western Reserve Historical Society’s photography collection.

“The public can access any of these organizations for a glimpse into the visual history of Greater Cleveland,” said Levin. “At the Cleveland Public Library, participating photographers were given white gloves and boxes full of photographs to look through. It’s a wonderfully addictive experience.”

Using an academic approach known as “rephotographic survey,” each of the photographers reexamined these often-brittle photographic prints, first finding the original location and then determining details such as time of day, season, and position of the original photographer.  “Where the camera is positioned, plus its angle of view and depth of focus, must exactly match the original composition,” explained Levin. “In some cases, it took real effort on the photographer’s end to get to the exact location where the original image was recorded. You may find you are now standing in the middle of a street, or an obstacle may now be in your way. In a few of the photographs, there is little to recognize from the old image. In others, there are surprisingly only slight changes in the scene, despite decades or up to a century of time passing. Either way, these photographs are magical.”

The 11 Cleveland photographers represented in the exhibition are Darlene Beiter, Andrew Cari, Beverly Conley, David Hagen, Mark Holz, Nathan Migal, Chuck Mintz, Karin McKenna, Emily Smith, Victoria Stanbridge and Brian Swaney

Impermanence opens on Friday, March 6, with a public reception 6–9 p.m. It is on view at Heights Arts, 2175 Lee Road, through Saturday, April 18, during normal gallery hours (Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and Saturday 1:30-9:30 p.m.).

Mary Ryan

Mary Ryan is on staff at Heights Arts, a nonprofit community arts organization.

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Volume 8, Issue 3, Posted 11:32 AM, 02.27.2015