New HeART of Cleveland book tracks the pulse of the local art scene

With the kickoff of the FRONT Triennial last week, Cleveland has become an insta-darling of the international art world. So what better time to debut The HeART of Cleveland, a coffee table book containing over 100 colorful examples of the diverse array of artists who hail from and/or have resided here?

"[The book] reinforces what Clevelanders have always known: that we live in a city with so much to offer no matter what you are looking for,” says author Scott Kraynak, also an artist and photographer.

Kraynak should know—the Cleveland native has spent the last four years working tirelessly to track down the artists and pieces included in the book (which range from essays to paintings to poems to photos). The result? A compilation that could be viewed as a love letter to the city.

“Of course, Cleveland isn't perfect,” says Kraynak, “and there is always work to do, but I feel that this book is a great reflection of not only the positive aspects of our city, but also how Cleveland has inspired so much great art and artists.”

Artists like expressionist painter Douglas Max Utter, mixed media artist Corrie Slawson, printmaker Liz Maugans, and notorious cartoonist R. Crumb, who became a pen pal of sorts for Kraynak.  

“I have been a lifelong fan, so I was thrilled when he responded to an email from me about this project," says Kraynak. “He not only responded to my questions about his time in Cleveland, but his answers were written beautifully, eloquently, and were very thought out. They are not positive memories of his time in Cleveland, but his words fit perfectly in the foreword where I try to touch on where Cleveland has come from, fought through, and improved on itself.”

The idea initially sparked for Kraynak while wandering the massive Grand Canyon—where he previously worked as a ranger—worlds away from the hometown he never stopped convincing skeptical strangers to love, too.

“Here I am at one of the most awe-inspiring places on the planet, and my mind is still on Cleveland,” he remembers.

So, almost 2,000 miles away, he started sending emails, followed by the complex, tedious process of piecing everything together. The process of putting the book together was a familiar one for Kraynak, who'd previously self-published two books (Animal Crackers, which Kraynak describes as a “children's book for adults showing what it would look like if wildlife committed the same heinous acts on us as we are doing to them,” and Unconquerable Desires, a photography book).

And for his third act, Kraynak is thrilled to showcase Cleveland's creativity in The HeART of Cleveland.

“I've had numerous friends take their vacations to visit me in Cleveland and they have always been blown away at what an awesome city Cleveland truly is,” says Kraynak. “I don't think having a regional sense of pride is an issue with most Clevelanders—we know what we have and are extremely proud of our city. I think that this book reinforces that pride, and for readers who are not Clevelanders, this book should further reinforce just how special this place is.”

Along with the book's launch, the featured pieces will also be part of an art exhibition kicking off with a book release party this Friday, July 20, at E11even 2 gallery (located in 78th Street Studios) and running through August 21. 

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