Heights couple creates unique works of art
Two Cleveland Heights residents—Matthew Hollern and Pam Argentieri—are well-known around the world for the jewelry and other art they create using metals and other materials. Some of their work is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and in the Vatican Archives in Italy.
Hollern and Argentieri have been making artwork together since they first met in 1990 at the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA). Two years later, they got married, and have lived on Kingston Road in Cleveland Heights since 1992. In addition to creating works of art together, Hollern and Argentieri both do individual projects as well.
Hollern, 51, grew up in Madison, Wis. He got into art as a young child. “I remember doing art projects in the first and second grade,” he said. “I was really into carving and ceramics. Then, in high school, my homeroom was a jewelry classroom, and I really got into that.”
After high school, Hollern attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison and majored in art and French. He focused on jewelry and metalwork, and spent his junior year in France. He then attended the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1989. He subsequently moved to Cleveland and began teaching at CIA. “I lived in Little Italy and had a studio at the Murray Hill School for about three years,” he said.
Argentieri, also 51, grew up in Shaker Heights. “I’ve always been involved with art, starting as a little kid,” she said. She attended Beaumont School, which she said had a great art department. She went to college at CIA, and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1987. In her senior year at the institute, she won the school’s top award, the First Agnes Gund Scholarship for international travel and went to Florence, Italy, where she studied jewelry design at the Studio Arts Center International. She then returned to Cleveland and set up a studio.
Both Hollern and Argentieri have had their work exhibited at various museums and galleries around the world. Argentieri’s work was part of a May show at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Hollern's work has been exhibited at the Design Museo in Helsinki, Finland.
One of the most memorable events of their artistic careers occurred in the fall of 2001, when they were commissioned by John Carroll University to design a Global Champion of Freedom award for Pope John Paul II. The couple designed the award and then attended the presentation to the Pope. “We had an audience with the Pope,” Hollern said. “It was really amazing.”
Hollern and Argentieri have designed chalices and wine cups for churches in the area. They also created a special edition of mezuzahs for Park Synagogue on Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights.
In addition to designing pieces of jewelry, and accepting commissions for religious and secular items—such as awards for medical institutions—Hollern and Argentieri also make a variety of other objects, including vases, candlesticks, teapots and urns. Their artwork can be seen on their websites: www.argentieridesign.com and www.matthewhollern.com.
This past May, Hollern received CIA’s Schreckengost Teaching Award, which honors professors for teaching excellence over a period of at least 10 years. Hollern has now been at CIA for 26 years, and is chair of the Jewelry and Metals Department. Students, alumni and faculty determine the winner of the award.
“Matthew has influenced and shaped the lives of many successful artists over the years, supporting them and mentoring them as students and as working professionals in the field,” said Christopher Whittey, vice president of faculty affairs and chief academic officer, when he presented Hollern with the award at CIA’s commencement ceremony on May 16. “Undoubtedly, he passes all of his experience to his students, putting them in a position of leadership and empowering them both personally and professionally. He has truly dedicated his life to passing along his incredible talent to his students.”
“It was really wonderful to win this award,” Hollern said. “It meant a tremendous amount to me.”
Hollern and Argentieri both love living in Cleveland Heights. “I like walking around the different neighborhoods,” Argentieri said. “I walk all of the time. I also love the different areas like Coventry, Lee Road and the Taylor Fairmount area. And there are so many beautiful homes here.”
Hollern also loves walking, and occasionally walks from his house to CIA. “Cleveland Heights is really something,” he said.
James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.