BAYarts exhibition explores Cleveland's endurance

Julie Cikra's "Migration" is one of the works in her solo show of the same name at BAYarts.

Cleveland is cool again, or didn't you know? Artist Julie Cikra has noticed that Cleveland now has promising potential in the eyes of new generations who are invested in building up the city. For her first solo show, "Migration," Cikra explores this very theme. "I wanted to comment on the state of my resilient, little homestead." And the message presented might surprise some who are still not ready to embrace this plum of a city.

Working out of Cleveland's West Side, Cikra's job puts her in a place that's key to local arts. Since 2010, Cikra has been with BAYarts, and she now holds the title of Education Assistant and Class Registrar. Inspiration has not been difficult to harness in this environment of community love and artistic support.

"I have the pleasure of working in an artistic atmosphere each and every day and I cannot discount how that has helped me to develop the tone of my exhibition," Cikra said. "Each day I am surrounded by some of Cleveland's well known artists and some of our Cleveland's most diligent students. It's a perfect cocktail of inspiration and focus. Looking around at what inspires the artists of the Greater Cleveland area made me realize that it is in fact, those same artists that are a huge part in what makes Cleveland so exceptional. The true grit, resilience and perseverance of the spirit of Cleveland's inhabitants which makes this city what it is."

But what has changed about Cleveland? First, it's important to recognize what Cleveland has been known for. Problems. And Cikra knows exactly what those problems have been. "We aren't topping population charts, we aren't a tropical oasis for vacationers, and we've tumbled through economic turbulence. It's not a place not everyone would say they are proud to be from."

But hometown pride is actually what colors the theme of Cikra's art here. With waitlists being created for living in a downtown life, and Ohio City being a stylish, new neighborhood, the artist says, "To me, this movement back to the city is worth celebrating."

Cikra doesn't disregard the past history of the city. One of her pieces is an acrylic painting, titled "Ninety Seven Years." The subject there is the Detroit-Superior Bridge (aka Veterans Memorial Bridge) which Cikra says "is not only aesthetically beautiful, but also has a remarkable existence," adding that it is "a strong, resilient structure that has weathered the test of time."

The steel and reinforced concrete bridge was constructed in 1917 and remains important to this day. "This bridge connects our city's entertainment and civic districts with the west side of Cleveland. To me, a west-sider, this bridge represents the bright transition Cleveland is going through. Twenty five years ago, this bridge connected Clevelanders' habitats to the city. Now it's harder to define that line. Today, that bridge is simply a connection piece from one side of the Cuyahoga River to the other."

The opening reception for "Migration" is Oct. 10 from 7-9 p.m. in BAYarts' Dianne Boldman Education Gallery. The show runs through Nov. 6. Visit www.bayarts.net, as well as the BAYarts Facebook and Twitter pages (@bay_arts) for images and ongoing coverage of the exhibition.

For those with an interest in the past, present and future of Cleveland – this show is not to be missed.

Jessica Stockdale

BAYarts Marketing Manager

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Volume 6, Issue 20, Posted 9:43 AM, 09.30.2014