Blank Canvas CLE is new Lee Road arts center

Blank Canvas CLE's owner, Michael Newman, welcomes artists with a diversity of styles.

A hub of art-making, art-purchasing, and community-building, Blank Canvas CLE is a collective that opened in the Cedar Lee district in February. Owner Michael Newman, a University Heights resident, started the business because of his love of art and community.

With a range of products at every price point—from vintage baseball cards and graphic art giftables to wall art and custom framing—Blank Canvas CLE makes original artwork accessible to all. Newman invites local artists to approach him about exhibits and showcase events. “We will have monthly shows, with constant movement of works on display,” said Newman.

Signature pieces that have a commercial vibe—such as Cleveland skylines with graphic art overlays—are an affordable draw that brings in customers, who then get to experience the rotating exhibits by local artists.

“Commercial products help support the fine arts,” Newman said of his marketing philosophy.

More than a gallery—which happens to have saloon-style displays wherein the walls are packed end-to-end—Blank Canvas CLE is an intentional social space for all ages. Newman designed Blank Canvas CLE to host affordable and accessible art-making, networking, and video gaming parties.

Gaming tournaments cost an average of $5 per hour, per participant, and can be booked online via the company’s website.

While cultivating support for artists, the collective’s location a block from Heights High provides the opportunity for young people to spend time together, and to be known within the community.

The decision to be based in Cedar Lee was simple, said Newman. “I've lived in Shaker and Cleveland. The Heights have unity and diversity. It is a city where small businesses are supported,” he said, noting that he has especially appreciated the support from other merchants.

Customers like Carl E. Story, a Cleveland Heights resident who stopped in to discuss an order, appreciate Blank Canvas CLE’s “artistic vibe.”

“Everything here looks original. The passion and the authenticity that [Newman] brings is easily recognizable,” said Story, who stumbled upon the collective when in the district to see a movie. “It automatically gave me that feeling—that I want this guy to do well.”

Upcoming events include a family-friendly drawing lesson, Drink n Draw Jr., July 12, 6 p.m.; Ujamaa Circle’s book release celebration for Dana Grant’s book, Learn from My Truth, July 19, 6 p.m.; Icebreaker, a networking social for artists and community members, July 20, 6 p.m.; a pie-a-thon with Cleveland Soup and Bread Experiment, July 24; and a special showcase of Little Italy artist Hannah Mannociah’s clothing brand, snakes + acey’s, opening July 27.

For more information, stop in at 2174 Lee Road, or visit

Shari Nacson

Mostly a mom, Shari Nacson, is a freelance editor, social worker, and nonprofit consultant who makes her home in Cleveland Heights. More than anything, Nacson is inspired by kids and adults who build connection through kindness.

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Volume 12, Issue 7, Posted 10:27 AM, 06.28.2019