One of Cleveland’s most controversial art exhibitions has returned for another round. This marks the 21st Cleveland State University’s “People’s Art Show.” The show always leaves an impression, regardless of whether it’s a good or bad one.
The main catalyst for the controversial works is the lack of rules or requirements. As long as the works are not illegal or dangerous to viewers, the show will exhibit them. Understandably, this has resulted in some artists using little to no discretion when making their works.
The show was created in 1983 as a populist experiment, which allowed normal people rather than judges and curators to decide what they want to exhibit.
As Art Gallery Director Robert Thurmer clarified, “The show was conceived to serve ordinary people free from snobbery, elitism and pretension—no curators, no professionals and no taste police.”
The Galleries at CSU’s website also promises that the show is a “non-juried, free and open celebration of creativity, diversity and imagination” and that “all people are invited to exhibit; no entries will be refused.”
The only other requirement is that you have to deliver your piece in person, which is something those who are uncomfortable presenting a particularly scandalous piece should keep in mind. Additionally, each person is permitted to submit a maximum of two pieces.
Initially the art show was a yearly event, but it became a biennial event to reduce the “shock inflation.” This is unsurprising, as a show with such few restrictions is bound to raise cause a stir.
In fact, in the past, some works have generated enough debate to be featured nationally in places like the New York Times, and Thurmer was once contacted by Howard Stern to discuss some of the issues on a live radio show.
Despite the controversy, the art show has remained an incredibly popular local event, allowing viewers to delve into the hearts and minds of their friends, neighbors, colleagues and strangers.
This year’s show will feature 350 artists with over 500 artworks. The local artists’ works promote the idea that artistic ability is a fundamental aspect we all share and that being a famous, professional artist is not a requirement for creating profound works.
The mediums range from anything to everything. Many artists prefer to use the conventional tools and mediums, like acrylic, oil, pencil and sculpture. Others are a little more liberal in their methods, using nontraditional tools like shrinky dink and scratchboard.
Even though an “amateur’s” piece may not be successful in traditional ways, each artist manages to capture something that no one else can, something that is unique and not replicable. There can be great beauty in these diamonds in the rough.
This wide variety of works is representative of Cleveland residents and even of the city itself, a successful hodgepodge of strengths which lie in the diversity of backgrounds, ideas and fundamental beliefs. The show itself manages to capture something other art shows overlook.
There’s a good chance those who attend this eclectic show will find something to fall in love with and something to fall in hate with.
“People’s Art Show”
Location: The Galleries at CSU, 1307 Euclid Ave.
Open Oct. 30 – Dec. 4