Fred Bidwell and Others to Launch Major Triennial Art Exhibition in Cleveland in 2018


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  • Courtesy CMA, Solstice

In two years, a Rust Belt version of big-time art gatherings that dot the calendar and the globe will officially launch in Cleveland. "Front International: Cleveland Exhibition for Contemporary Art" will run July 7 through September 30, 2018. That's far off, but the planning to get to today, when news of the triennial art exhibition was first made public in a New York Times report, and 2018, when the city will host what organizers hope will be a spotlight on Cleveland's role in the arts world, has been and will be immense. 

Fred Bidwell, who was the interim director of the art museum in 2013 and 2014, is the main figure behind the project. According to the NYT report, he's "quietly recruited many of the city’s and region’s art museums and organizations to participate." It's a gamble, to be sure. Celebrated and historic exhibitions around the world still garner most of the attention and newcomers continue to sprout up. He hopes that by gathering some 50 international artists and holding the event in Cleveland — a little off the beaten path — well-deserved attention will fall on the city.

“Cleveland, as a Midwestern rust-belt city — I hate to use the term but others will, so I guess I have to — has an interesting story to tell,” Bidwell told the  NYT. “And I think this has the potential eventually to be an important slot on the international cultural calendar.”

The event is estimated to cost an astonishing $4.2 million, with “only” about $500,000 coming from public sources. Organizers hope the project generates $35 million in direct economic impact – estimating local visitors to average $500 in spending and visitors from outside Northeast Ohio to spend $1,176 each, according to

Guidance will come via Michelle Graber, an artist out of Chicago, and Jens Hoffmann, "a globe-trotting curator and writer who works for the Jewish Museum in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit."

Participants include the usual suspects in the city's arts world — the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Akron Art Museum, Oberlin, etc.

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