Cleveland Artists Compete to Display in New CrossCountry Mortgage HQ in Superior Arts District

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"Don't Panic - The Owl," by Bob Peck + Rich Cihlar - COURTESY CROSS COUNTRY MORTGAGE
  • Courtesy Cross Country Mortgage
  • "Don't Panic - The Owl," by Bob Peck + Rich Cihlar

CrossCounty Mortgage recently announced its $46 million acquisition and renovation of a 168,000-square-foot campus at 2152-2160 Superior Avenue. The new headquarters project, one of Cleveland's largest in the past decade, will create more than 600 full-time jobs in the city. Part of the CCM plan includes an artist competition where artists are chosen and pitted against one another in a quarterly, year-long event to win the opportunity to display their artwork in the headquarters located in the Superior Arts District.

Artists Jenna Conforti, Scott Goss and Bob Peck + Rich Cihlar are the first round contestants and were a part of a swanky launch party in the currently bare-bones factory building. Speakers included Ward 7 councilman and mayoral candidate Basheer Jones, Lt. Governor Jon Husted. CCM President and CEO Ron Leonhardt also spoke about the move and the renovation.



The artists were on site with displays showcasing their work, including live paintings by collaborative contestants Bob Peck and Rich Cihlar. Peck spray painted an abstract background in typical Peck style, with dashes and streams of sprightly colors exploding with energy. Cihlar then tapped in, utilizing stencils to add layered images which slowly revealed themselves. Within a couple of hours, they managed to complete two complimentary pieces, one with a bird and one with the Guardians of Traffic, always a Cleveland crowd-pleaser.

One could tell by the people stopping to watch the process that these two were very much a source of intrigue to the event-goers. It was obvious that the two had been long-standing collaborators, with seemingly effortless execution of their work.



Peck’s pieces have been a staple across the Cleveland art landscape since he took the city by storm in the fall of 2000, when he began collaborating with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. There, he’d present about graffiti as part of hip-hop culture seminars. Since then, Peck has been included in over 100 gallery shows and painted dozens of murals throughout Cleveland and Akron for major corporate clients, local businesses, and nonprofits.

“When I first heard the info about a mural competition I thought, 'I haven’t heard those words together in a long time around here,'" said Peck. “I used to help Cleveland Public Art with a graffiti event called City Xpressionz back in the day, (2002-2003), and graffiti artists would compete there. I personally like the idea of art competitions. I think if done right and if the participants go in with the right mindset, they can be a fun challenge and keep everyone on their A game. Coming from a graffiti background, every piece I used to paint when I was younger was essentially competing against every other graffiti writer’s, whether friendly or otherwise. Rich and I are hoping to win, but if we don’t, we’ll look at the competition and see what we can improve on or decide if our work simply wasn’t a good fit in the end.”

Scott Goss was also on hand and doing some engraving and reverse glass painting. His work was distributed as gifts to the attendees via a fancy CCM emblemed box with two coasters made by Goss inside.

Jenna Conforti had an impressive display of her abstract and conceptual multimedia pieces and was on site making an impression on the attendees. Conforti is one half of what is referred to as ‘Contrast High’ and which is described as “…a creative collective of Gina Scordos and Jenna Conforti. We are genre-less artists – we don’t subscribe to one medium, we know that expression is limitless and we dare you to look beneath the surface. Our only defining element is “Contrast.””

The competition will accept proposals on a quarterly basis and select three artists per round. The public will be invited to vote for their favorite artist in each round at PainttheDistrict.com.

The building itself formerly belonged to affiliates of the 113 year-old Tap Packaging + Design, a producer of folding cartons and boxes which was formerly called the Chilcote Company.

Founded in Cleveland 16 years ago, CrossCountry Mortgage is currently based in Brecksville. Construction on the new headquarters is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

With all of the available space, there should be plenty of room for Cleveland artwork, although there has been no definitive word about the ultimate location of the winners' work and whether or not the the acquisition of local art will extend beyond the competition. Other local corporations (Progressive) and new residential developments (Worthington Yards, Tinnerman Lofts) have incorporated local art into their built environments in an effort to garnish them with a sense of local history.

The CCM campus will also include a multi-purpose atrium, an open-air courtyard and a modern, commercial kitchen in an adjacent building which will supply food to CCM’s conference and event center. In addition, the campus will incorporate a 4,600-square-foot training center to train employees in multiple aspects of the mortgage industry.

“This is another outstanding example of continued progress toward the revitalization of an historic neighborhood, and it brings new growth opportunities to Northeast Ohio,” said J.P. Nauseef, JobsOhio president and CEO. “We appreciate the close collaboration with our partners and CrossCountry Mortgage to help the company continue its success in Ohio.”

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