Cinematheque Event Celebrates Career of Co-Founder John Ewing


  • Photo by Rob Muller
At 6 p.m. next Tuesday (Feb. 23), the Cleveland Arts Prize (CAP) presents A Night at the Cinematheque, a special celebration of Cleveland Cinematheque co-founder and director John Cameron Ewing. If you’ve ever been to the Cinematheque, you’ve probably seen John Ewing making announcements before each film screening. Although he’s been a fixture at the Cinematheque since its inception, you may not know about his impressive career, singlehandedly shaping film in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio for more than three decades.

The evening begins with an exclusive screening of local filmmaker Ted Sikora’s latest documentary on John Ewing, followed by a special Q&A with Ewing and Sikora, moderated by Grafton Nunes, president and CEO of the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA), as well as rare 35mm film stills projected onto the Cinematheque’s screen. The night will culminate with a screening of one of Ewing’s favorite films, Late Spring. A Night at the Cinematheque is hosted by CAP Vice Chair Howard Freedman. Additionally, the evening will include a special announcement regarding the 2016 CAP Special Honoree.

“The Cleveland Arts Prize is proud and excited to be hosting this event at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque,” says Cleveland Arts Prize Executive Director Alenka Banco. “CAP fundraisers spotlight past recipients, so it is a unique opportunity for the public to reconnect with some pretty special individuals. John Ewing received a special citation from CAP in 1995 and continues to have impact in his field today. Cleveland is fortunate to have him. The Cinematheque is celebrating 30 years! Thank you John for your unwavering commitment.”

In an era predating the VCR and cable TV, Ewing had a passion for showcasing films outside of Hollywood: experimental, foreign and/or independent films – both old and new. In 1985, Ewing co-founded the Cleveland Cinematheque at Case Western Reserve University, before moving it to the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Russell B. Aitken Auditorium in 1986; where it averaged more than 250 films annually before moving to a new facility (more on that in a moment). Also, in 1986, Ewing became the coordinator of film programs at the Cleveland Museum of Art. For thirty years, he has excelled at both institutions, selecting films that create a dialogue with the community and current events.

“The reparatory cinema movement in the 1960s gave rise to a new hybrid of curator-historian-impresario, a person who combines a deep knowledge of the aesthetics and history of film with a showman’s sense of a dynamic presentation, creating series of film-going experiences that communicate the range of styles, ideas, beauties and shocks made possible by this most comprehensive and powerful of contemporary art forms,” explains Nunes, who himself was once a film writer and producer. “John Ewing embodies the best of this hybrid breed, exhibiting the depth and breadth of a Roger Ebert and the showmanship of a PT Barnum. For over 30 years, John has blessed Cleveland film-goers with his passionate love and encyclopedic knowledge of cinema. It is appropriate to honor his contributions while celebrating a new space that is finally worthy of his efforts and the artform he advances.”

After 29 years, the Cinematheque moved into its new, state of the art facility in the Cleveland Institute of Art’s unified campus on Euclid Avenue last fall. Named after the late philanthropist and founder of Progressive Insurance, the new Peter B. Lewis Theater cost approximately $1.5 million and includes a 4k projector (allowing for film and digital formats) and equally impressive surround sound.

By the time Ewing received a special citation from the Cleveland Arts Prize in 1995, he’d already brought more than 2,000 films to Cleveland, a number that has since more than doubled. More than 1,500 of these screenings have been Cleveland or Ohio premieres. In addition to his outstanding film selections, Ewing has engaged the community through guest speakers, special events, radio interviews and commentary, offering insightful context to enhance the viewing experience.

In 2010, he was awarded the prestigious Order of the Chevalier (Knight) of Arts and Letters from the Republic of France. The award recognized his significant contributions to French culture through the Cleveland Museum of Art’s film program and the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Cinematheque. Previous winners include David Bowie, Jackson Pollack, Leonardo DiCaprio, Uma Thurman and Robert Redford.

Tickets for A Night at the Cinematheque are available at three price levels: Academy, $75 per person ($160 tax deductible); Golden Globe, $125 ($85 tax deductible); Oscar, $200 ($160 tax deductible).

(Cleveland Institute of Art) 11610 Euclid Ave, 216-421-7000,

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