Bridging mediums to further the arts

The new-music ensemble No Exit will perform at Heights Arts, 2175 Lee Road, on Friday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. In recent years, No Exit has appeared frequently at the gallery, so it can be easy to forget that two decades ago, neither organization existed at all.

In 1999, participants in a Cleveland Heights civic visioning process identified the potential of the arts to positively impact the community. Soon after, the nonprofit Heights Arts was formed by a group of residents intent on tapping that resource. Two decades later, strategic collaborations, such as the one between Heights Arts and the No Exit, have enhanced the regional arts scene and invigorated the community.

When Heights Arts executive director Rachel Bernstein, a classical cellist and teacher, succeeded founding director Peggy Spaeth in 2013, she envisioned that the newly expanded gallery space could become a known destination for both visual art and music. Bernstein recognized that having a grand piano permanently on-site would help that cause, and the gallery soon acquired one with the assistance of a generous benefactor and No Exit pianist Nicholas Underhill. With the piano as a practical and symbolic bridge between the visual arts and music, a close working relationship blossomed between Heights Arts and No Exit, grounded in a shared philosophy of making art accessible to everyone.

“Our collaboration with No Exit and its musicians has grown over the past years into a friendship between like-minded people with very similar missions,” said Bernstein. “We all together strive to make the arts freely accessible to the community and to offer high-quality programming featuring local artists. No Exit helps us fulfill a mission to bring different types of music to the public—in this case, challenging the status quo about what classical music is. Our partnering is perfect, as a No Exit concert at Height Arts draws in new audiences and provides a stimulating, satisfying experience for all.”

No Exit Artistic Director Timothy Beyer affirms the benefits of the symbiotic relationship: “Partnerships like the one that has developed between No Exit and Heights Arts are foundational for a vital arts community to really thrive. In a typical classical music concert hall, there is always a barrier of space, of formality, of distance. The casual and intimate setting of Heights Arts does away with that stuffiness and allows listeners to connect fully. They experience the musicians and the avant-garde musical performance viscerally and on a very personal level. As a result, with each concert we hold at Heights Arts, our audience keeps growing, diversifying and becoming more engaged. We are extremely grateful that we share with Heights Arts a philosophy and dedication to making high-quality meaningful art accessible to the general public.”

No Exit’s Feb. 15 concert at Heights Arts is titled Cleveland Composers Series II, and will feature five world-premiere works by local composers Keith Fitch, Buck McDaniel, Christopher Auerbach-Brown, Nasim Khourassani, and Greg D’Alessio. All compositions are new and were commissioned by No Exit.

As with all No Exit performances, the concert is free, friendly, and open to the public.

Laura King

Laura King provides administrative services to support Cleveland Heights' No Exit.

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Volume 12, Issue 2, Posted 4:59 PM, 02.01.2019