Previewing Cleveland’s “FRONT International 2022” contemporary art exhibition

Lelia Durand, Staff Writer

Cleveland is a hotspot for those interested in art, with the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and ARTneo, to name a few. 

In 2016, FRONT Exhibition Company—a multi-venue contemporary art exhibition—was formed to plan, organize and produce the first edition of this triennial exhibit. This came two years after a study was conducted that researched and evaluated the viability of a contemporary art festival in Cleveland. The study concluded that a recurring festival involving multiple arts and cultural institutions would enhance the visibility and excellence of contemporary art in Cleveland while also driving economic growth in the region. 

“FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art” is a free public exhibition event that takes place across Northeast Ohio. The display is composed of artist commissions, performances, films and public programs that take place across Cleveland, Akron and Oberlin every three years. The first edition of “FRONT International,” called “An American City,” was launched in 2018 and featured more than 120 artists from around the world in 28 different installation sites across the area. 

This inaugural edition generated over 90,000 visitors from more than 25 countries and brought $31 million to Northeast Ohio. Some of the artwork remains in place today, including Tony Tasset’s large-scale structure, “Judy’s Hand Pavilion,” which was installed at Toby’s Plaza. “The Hand,” as it is otherwise referred to by many Clevelanders, is a must-see destination for tourists as well as a well-known landmark for Case Western Reserve University students. 

Building on the success of the first edition, FRONT has been planning and preparing for the second edition of the exhibition. Oct. 8 marked the opening of the “Grand Prototypes, Humble Tools,” a preview exhibition for the second edition of “FRONT International.” It is available to the public until Jan. 2, 2022 and is taking place at Transformer Station in Ohio City.

FRONT partnered with Artsy to launch an online auction leading up to Oct. 8 and kicked off the opening with a reception that included music, refreshments and live screen printing of artist-designed t-shirts.

“Grand Prototypes, Humble Tools” provides a special opportunity to learn about what goes into the making of such a large-scale art festival. The show displays existing artwork along with projects in development for “FRONT International 2022” and will undergo changes as artists revise and reconfigure their work. It explores art’s role as an agent of healing, a concept that is especially relevant with the COVID-19 pandemic, the environmental crisis and the ongoing U.S. social crisis.  

For CWRU students who are interested in contemporary artwork along with students merely looking to get off campus, “Grand Prototypes, Humble Tools” provides a great opportunity to do so. The second edition exhibition, “Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows,” is scheduled to take place July 17 through Oct. 2, 2022.