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Former Fleet retail space to emerge as 12,000-square-foot artists' mecca

Magalens first floor gallery space

Ben Domzalski’s family has long been a staple of the Slavic Village business community, operating the tax and accounting firm Commercial Enterprises on Fleet Avenue since 1952.
 
So when his father and business partner, Jeff Domzalski and Chester Cuiksa, bought the old Magalen Furniture building at 5203 Fleet Ave. three years ago, Domzalski voiced his idea of what to do with the 12,000 square foot space – the largest building on Fleet Avenue.
 
“[Jeff and Chester] believed it could carry a great influence on development of the Fleet Avenue commercial district,” recalls Domzalski. “Both being Fleet Avenue merchants for over 40 years, they were very concerned with the direction of the neighborhood, Fleet Avenue in particular, and wanted to do what they could.”
 
Domzalski immediately saw a way to bring arts to the community. “When I first saw the building I saw its potential for gallery and studio space,” he recalls. “I felt very strongly the size, unique features and location could help this building become a true destination.”
 
In January, Jeff and Chester gave Domzalski control over the space and, he promptly started making plans to convert it to The Magalen a mixed-use art gallery and studio space.  
 
Domzalski’s inspiration came from listening to Cleveland Public Theatre founder James Levin speak ten years ago about community development through the arts. “His words stuck with me,” he recalls. “Artists beautify their surroundings, they are patrons of the local establishments and, most importantly, they're courageous as seen in Waterloo, Tremont and Gordon Square. Each of these areas focused on arts first.”
 
Domzalski calls the artists who helped shape those areas “courageous” because of their influence on revitalizing neighborhoods. “Artists are courageous because of their willingness to venture into new neighborhoods, ones where development has yet to happen or is currently happening,” he explains “They're at the forefront of neighborhood development.”
 
He says he hopes Slavic Village will be the next such example in Cleveland. “As the Magalen grows and we open the studio spaces, I hope for more artists to move to Slavic Village, and in turn attract more people to the neighborhood.”
 
The two-story Magalen dates back to 1908, when the front section and a rear carriage house were built. The two sections were later connected by additional rooms and a loading dock. For decades, the space housed a neighborhood staple, Magalen Furniture.
 
While the front area, with large windows overlooking Fleet Avenue, will serve as a gallery and event space, the rear areas will provide two studios for artists and the second floor area will service as meeting space or additional studios, according to Rachel Hunt, events curator for the Magalen.
 
Hunt shares Domzalski’s vision of how the Magalen will give Slavic Village a boost. “The Magalen will be the only multi-use arts facility in the area that is run not only by management, but by the artists,” she explains. “It will eventually be available for use by artists with studio spaces 24/7. We've been inspired by other art facilities in the Cleveland area and want to bring Slavic Village up to date with what other desirable communities such as Waterloo and Ohio City are doing for their neighborhoods.”
 
Although the entire project will not be complete, the Magalen gallery will be open in time for Rooms to Let this Saturday and Sunday, May 21 and 22. The event transforms Slavic Village homes slated for demolition or restoration into galleries and art installations.
 
The Magalen will host an after-party during its gallery debut, Reimagined, from 5 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 21. Four artists will be featured, including Michael Marefka, Dustin Nowlin, Riley Kemerling and Maggie Duff.
 
The gallery will also be open on Sunday for pickup of purchased works. Otherwise, regular gallery hours have not yet been set.

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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