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Community-minded Artful lands in Coventry neighborhood


 Artful acquired a Chandler & Price letterpress, hand-forged by the Cleveland company in 1899

After a year-and-a-half search, the founders of Artful have finally found a home in the former Coventry School building at 2843 Washington Blvd. in Cleveland Heights.

Artful was founded in February last year by friends and local artists Shannon Morris and Brady Dindia to create an affordable space for local artists to come together and create, collaborate and sell their works. They’ve spent their first year introducing the concept of Artful to the community, assessing needs and looking for a space.
 
Now they are moving into the second phase of establishing Artful as the east side community for artists.
 
Morris, executive director of Artful, points outs that the Heights area, including Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and University Heights, has the largest population of artists in the greater Cleveland area, yet very little studio and work space.
 
The preferred location was always Cleveland Heights, but organizers scoured the city for the perfect home for Artful. They found the, 5,376-square-foot space on the second floor of the 60,000-square-foot former school through the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, which owns the building.
 
“They were very helpful and accommodating,” says Morris of the school district. “We went to go look at it and we were just like, ‘duh.’ Then we brought in our architect [John Williams of Process Creative Studios] and he said, ‘this is a no-brainer guys.’”
 
Artful will share the second floor with Ensemble Theatre. Morris says the abundant, large windows and swooping tall ceilings make a perfect creative environment. “There’s a lot of natural light and peaks throughout,” she says. “It feels so open and accessible.”
 
Currently the space is wide open, with enough room for at least 17 studios, a classroom, gallery and a programming area. Artful is pre-leasing studio space so tenants can configure them as they choose. Morris says a 10x10-foot studio will rent for $150 a month, which utilities and Wi-Fi.
 
"It's so exciting, but so scary at the same time,” Morris confesses.
 
Programming will be a critical component of Artful’s mission, especially after achieving 501(c)3 non-profit status last September. For instance, Artful has been working with a financial advisor, who will conduct classes on how to navigate financials and set up a business as an artist. The organization will also work with area gallery owners to determine what they're looking for in local artists.
 
“It’s about combining ideas with businesses and the community and working together,” explains Morris. “If the artist community is healthy, the whole community is healthy.”
 
Over the last year, Artful staff has kindled relationships with the neighborhood businesses along Coventry, especially Big Fun, the Grog Shop and B Side Liquor Lounge and Arcade, as well as Ensemble Theatre.
 
“It’s good to get young, fresh-minded things happening,” Morris says. “Community and arts working together make it fun.”
 
Artist Stephen Manka, who is known for his various public art around Cleveland, is working on a public art piece for Artful’s new home.
 
Artful is currently running a fundraising campaign to raise $75,000. An anonymous donor has agreed to match $25,000 of the funds raised. If they meet their goal, Artful can operate successfully for the next year.
 
Morris is particularly excited about a Chandler & Price letterpress the group has acquired. It was hand-forged by the Cleveland company in 1899. “It’s museum quality; it’s the real deal,” she says of the vintage press, adding that they plan to use the antique. She’ll be traveling down to Roanoke, Virginia to pick it up soon. “I think it’s so cool to bring it home to Cleveland.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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