CH artist Kuehnle's interactive work is focus of Akron exhibition

Jimmy Kuehnle on one of the bikes he designed and created. Photos by James Henke.

Jimmy Kuehnle’s work frequently comprises huge, three-dimensional sculptural pieces, depicting bicycles, clothing and other items. Some of his work is also performance art—pieces he can ride or otherwise interact with physically.

Kuehnle, 37, lives in Cleveland Heights and is an assistant professor in the foundation department at the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA). He has won many awards for his work, which he has exhibited both nationally and internationally. Kuehnle’s work is currently on view at the Akron Museum of Art, in an exhibition titled “Jimmy Kuehnle: Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle,” open through Feb. 19.

The Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC) named Kuehnle a 2016 Creative Workforce Fellow, awarding funds for a project that connects artists to the Greater Cleveland community.

Kuehnle said he plans to use the money from the CPAC award to enhance and advance recent bodies of work that include large inflatables in public spaces and in museums.

“These inflatables offer traditional art audiences an interactive, engaging and ephemeral experience, while at the same time providing the general public views of them from outside. They also enhance the general ambiance of the urban environment,” explained Kuehnle.

Born in Atlanta, Kuehnle moved with his family to St. Louis when he was 3, and he grew up there. He took four years of art classes at Desmet Jesuit High School, and became involved with the school’s poster club, a group that made posters for football games and other events, which hung in the school lobby. “It was my first experience of doing art and presenting it to a large audience,” Kuehnle recalled.

Kuehnle earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Truman State University, in Kirksville, Mo. As an undergraduate, he and some friends created the Tom Thumb Gallery in the house where they lived. “There was really nowhere to display art, so I decided to set up my own gallery in my house,” he said. “We would do two or three exhibits every semester, and we also had events there.” The gallery still exists.

After graduating from Truman, Kuehnle traveled to Japan, where he taught English for two years. He returned to the United States and earned a master’s degree in fine arts at the University of Texas at San Antonio, in 2006. He then received a Fulbright Graduate Research Fellowship, and he went back to Japan to research public art and practice sculpture.

In 2010, Kuehnle became a visiting assistant professor of art at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The following year, Kuehnle was hired by CIA and moved to Cleveland. He lived on East 124th Street for about a year, and then moved to Cleveland Heights.

“I wanted to live on the East Side, so I could ride my bike to work,” he said. “In August of 2012, when I was looking for a new place to live, I picked Cleveland Heights. I love the community, and I like all the arts here, at places like Dobama Theatre and the Cain Park Arts Fest.”

Kuehnle married fellow artist Mimi Kato in 2004. Kato was named a CPAC Creative Workforce Fellow in 2013.

James Henke

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. He is on the board of FutureHeights, and is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee.

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Volume 10, Issue 1, Posted 10:17 AM, 01.03.2017