Update: After this story was published, Abattoir Gallery's owners announced March 17 that they are postponing the opening exhibition due to the health crisis. The tentative new date is Saturday, May 16, 6 to 8 p.m.
When Lisa Kurzner and Rose Burlingham walked into the 1886 Hildebrandt Building, 3619 Walton Ave., last fall, they immediately knew the family sausage factory-turned artist and entrepreneurs space was the right home for Abattoir Gallery.
The two women will now open Abattoir’s inaugural exhibit in the building on Saturday, April 18, featuring painters Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson and Kaveri Raina.
Kurzner and Burlingham were taken by the building’s unique history, the current artists who now fill the many spaces within the factory walls, and the Hildebrandt family’s dedication to Cleveland's Clark-Fulton/La Villa Hispana neighborhood.
The Hildebrandt Building“Rose and I were so taken by the building and the spirit of the building,” Kurzner says. “It was really about connecting with the building, and it was the right fit.”
Joe Hildebrandt, whose family still owns the building, showed Kurzner and Burlingham an 800-square-foot space on the ground floor, in suite C102, that he thought would make a good gallery.
“He said, ‘I’m looking for a gallery to complement the work that’s being done by individual artists in the building,” Kurzner says. “He said, ‘You guys seem to know what you’re doing, so let’s work together, and I’ll do renovations.”
Kurzner says the space was filled with motorcycle parts and gear and had very little light, but they saw the potential and signed a lease.
With the space cleared out, the original glass block that lines one wall lets in plenty of natural light, says Kurzner. Hildebrandt built a small closet to hide the gas meter, ensured there was room for a small office and storage space, and removed an old heater and sink.
Additionally, Kurzner says Hildebrandt plans to remove the duct work and replace it with a contained heat and air conditioning unit, as well as install track lights in the gallery area.
Kurzner and Burlingham plan to paint the floor dark gray—Kurzner says the current dark red brick-colored floor will distract from colors of work on the walls.
“I think it will be a nice hub for the artists in the building and, eventually, the community,” she says.
In keeping with the spirit of the Hildebrandt Building, which originally was the Hildebrandt family’s sausage and smoked meat processing facility, Kurzner and Burlingham named the gallery Abattoir—the French word for “slaughterhouse.”
“It’s a nice sounding, slightly obscure, word that relates to the history of the building,” says Kurzner.
Painting by Kaveri RainaWith the mission of highlighting regional artists within a national and international context, Kurzner says they chose Jónsson and Raina for their abstract textile arts work. Both artists use painting as their medium, but in the Abattoir exhibit, Jónsson weaves compositions of silk thread on oversized looms, Kurzner says, while Raina paints on burlap and incorporates the texture of her surface by working both sides of the canvas.
“Both women are using the fabric in very expressive works,” Kurzner says, adding that Jónsson is a native Clevelander with renowned shows in most of the city’s bigger galleries but hasn’t had a local show in five years. Raina lives in Brooklyn and features her largest work at the Maryland Institute of Art.
In addition to exhibiting inspiring works, Kurzner says she wants Abattoir to also have a strong community presence. “We’re going to develop programs and support artists in the building, as well as the issues around the community itself,” she says. “We’re looking for art and the issues that art raises as well as what’s going on in the community—finding the most impactful art and thinkers. We want to create a space to incorporate the thinkers and doers in the art world.”
Abattoir Gallery’s inaugural opening is scheduled for Saturday, April 18, from 6 to 8 p.m., at 3619 Walton Ave, Suite C102, Cleveland. The event is open to the public, and the exhibit runs through Wednesday, May 20.