Heights Arts reimagines daily activity

New Poet Laureate Ray McNeice.

As with every other area business and organization, Heights Arts has had to change plans. 

“We had our opening for the Members Show on March 6,” said Heights Arts Executive Director Rachel Bernstein. “That was just as we were learning about the pandemic, and recommendations were changing daily. We were already planning to cut our hours back the following week, which we did. By the following Monday the governor was ordering the general shutdown, and we closed to the public until it is safe to reopen. We’re evaluating programming possibilities, but in light of the situation, it’s a question of our small staff capacity and available resources. Of course, this is true for all arts organizations and most small businesses—we are all in this together.”

Various events that had been scheduled for April are now postponed. This includes the Cavani Quartet concert that had been scheduled for April 11. The 20th-anniversary exhibition Evolution is moved to July 10 through Aug. 23, and Steven Calhoun’s Spotlight exhibition is now June 26 through Aug. 10. The Close Encounters concert, May 3, and the Joseph von Kerkhove Spotlight exhibition, scheduled to open May 8, will most likely be postponed. 

Four events have been canceled: the "Members Show, Ekphrastacy," on April 2 (though Heights Arts may come up with a way to present online poetry readings); the annual Show Off exhibition, featuring work from Cleveland Heights High School students, June 12 through July 5; and the Posing the Question exhibition, July 10 through Aug. 23, along with its accompanying ekphrastic poetry event.

“We’re very saddened that we need to cancel the student show and postpone the 20th anniversary exhibition,” said Bernstein, “but we’re very hopeful that we’ll be able to present Evolution in the summer, and that all the artists will still be able to participate. Meanwhile, we’re exploring all kinds of creative ways to reimagine what our poets, visual artists and musicians do. Plans are in the works for links to live or recorded poetry readings, and we have already begun showing our current Members Show online." Heights Arts will also provide new ways for artists to connect with the community via www.heightsarts.org; and on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, all with the @HeightsArts handle.

“To send out a little good news,” Bernstein said, “I’m thrilled to announce that our Heights Writes community team has chosen Ray McNiece as the next poet laureate of Cleveland Heights.” The two-year appointment begins this month. McNiece will be the 10th poet serving the community in this capacity.

“I have high hopes for being poet laureate,” said McNeice. “In the short term, we will find ways to respond creatively to our no-contact situation. I’ll be doing some workshops using Zoom, for example, which lets you do the live stream while also showing the printed poem on screen. But for me, nothing like that will ever replace the visceral experience of being in the room, making eye contact with the audience, and having that immediate synergy between the poem and the listener. It’s so in the moment. But until we can get back to that, we will improvise.”

Greg Donley

Greg Donley is chair of the Heights Arts exhibition community team.

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Volume 13, Issue 5, Posted 10:19 AM, 04.07.2020