The FRONT Triennial returns to NEO for a summer-long artistic experience

The FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Arts is a summer-long arts festival that occurs every three years in Cleveland, Akron, and Oberlin. The 2022 festival opens this Saturday, July 16 and will saturate the region with artist commissions, performances, films, and public programs. 

Jacolby Satterwhite (b. 1986, Columbia, SC; lives Brooklyn, NY), Dawn, 2021. HD color video and 3D animation with artist-designed wallpaper on masonry wall, Cleveland Clinic. While COVID-19 delayed FRONT in 2021, the event used the postponement to build momentum for the much-anticipated event, which will feature 100 world renowned artists working in a variety of media—coming together to interpret the Langston Hughes-inspired theme "Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows" at 30 sites in three cities.

The inaugural 2018 FRONT Triennial brought 90,000 visitors from more than 25 countries and brought $31 million in new economic activity to the region, and organizers say they expect participation to grow in this second installment. 

“There is quite nothing like this massive artistic collaboration,” says FRONT executive director Fred Bidwell. “This triennial celebrates the diverse creative expressions and views that are reflective of our theme of art as an agency of healing.”

FRONT runs from July 16 through Oct. 2, so there’s plenty of time to plan a visit. 

With more than 30 venues across three different cities, one might wonder how to begin and navigate the FRONT experience.

“There is no wrong way to approach FRONT, but we’ve heard visitors say they wanted some guidance in how to navigate this experience,” says Bidwell. “We created the FRONT PNC Exhibition Hub at Transformer Station and clustered the exhibits so visitors can immerse themselves in one city neighborhood or venue or hop around and pick the exhibits that interest them. There’s no wrong way to approach FRONT, and there’s certainly enough to suit every interest.” 

 Here’s a guide to help plan your visit and navigate the events and exhibits throughout the tri-city area. Maps of the locations in the three neighborhoods are available on the FRONT website.

Cleveland—Ohio City

FRONT PNC Exhibition Hub, 1460 W. 29th  St.
Everything involving FRONT 2022 begins at the FRONT PNC Exhibition Hub at the Transformer Station, in Ohio City’s Hingetown neighborhood at the corner of West 29th Street and Church Avenue—the trendy neighborhood destination known for its breweries, craft restaurants, coffee, tea, and unique shopping. 

“The vibe and location of Hingetown make the neighborhood a perfect starting point to begin the FRONT 2022 journey,” says Bidwell. “From the food and drink to the artistic expression found in the neighborhood, it all sets the tone for this summer festival.”

“We heard our visitors say that they wanted a starting point for their experience to orient themselves to the themes of the show and to plan their visit,” says Bidwell, “We are thrilled that PNC Bank has again agreed to be a lead sponsor of FRONT and to make it possible for us to partner with Transformer Station to create the best possible visitor experience.”

The Cleveland Museum of Art will play host to world-renowned contemporary artists Firelei Baez, Julie Mehretu, Maria Hassabi, Matt Eich, Michele Rizzo, Nicole Eisenman, Tyler Mitchell, and Yoshitomo NaraStop by Jukebox—nearby at 1404 W. 29th St.— for a cocktail and a bite before traveling on to you next stop. Other Ohio City venues include Bop Stop, 2920 Detroit Ave., which will feature musician Martin Beck on Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16; and SPACES, 2900 Detroit Ave.

Cleveland—Downtown
Once you’ve checked in at the Exhibition Hub, move east across the river and visit North Coast Harbor on the shores of Lake Erie at 601 Erieside Ave. before moving to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, 1100 E. 9th St. Then head into the heart of downtown to the Cleveland Public Library, 425 Superior Ave., and the Justice Center at 1300 Ontario St. to check out artist Isamu Noguchi’s iconic 1976 sculpture “Portal.”

Cleveland—University Circle
In Cleveland’s cultural arts center, 12 institutions will have exhibits and performances, including moCa Cleveland, 1114 Euclid Ave., the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11115 East Blvd, Karamu House, 2355 E. 89th St., The Sculpture Center, 1834 E. 123rd St. and Cleveland Institute of Art’s Reinberger Gallery, 11610 Euclid Ave,  Other sites in University Circle include Wade Oval; Cleveland Clinic Miller Family Pavilion, 9500 Euclid Ave.; The Alexander McGaffin Memorial Tower and Carillon, 11205 Euclid Ave.; Samson Pavilion, 9501 Euclid Ave.; the Syrian Cultural Garden, 1191 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive; and Quincy Gardens, 9001 Quincy Ave.

Akron
There are five locations related to FRONT 2022 in the Akron area—both downtown and on the University of Akron campus. 

Stop by the Emily Davis Gallery at the university’s Myers School of Art, 150 E. Exchange St., before stopping in at the National Museum of Psychology at Cummings Center, 73 College St. Then head into downtown Akron to the popular Lock 4, 200 S. Main St., for a bite to eat, or to enjoy the historic architecture and the sounds of the waterfalls; or head to Quaker Square, 135 S. Broadway St., for shopping in the historic district. 

The Akron Art Museum, 1 S. High Street, returns to FRONT as an anchor venue and will house a large-scale group exhibit featuring 17 artists. 

Oberlin
In Oberlin, there are three locations to experience FRONT 2022, beginning with Allen Memorial Art Museum on the Oberlin College campus, with the exhibit “Bakunin's Barricade: Ahmet Öğüt.” This is the first time Bakunin’s Barricade has been on exhibit outside of Europe. Artist Ahmet Öğüt has created site-specific “barricades” that feature works from the Allen collections in recognition of anarchist Mikhail Bakunin's proposal that paintings from the National Museum in Dresden be placed in front of barricades during the 1849 socialist uprising to deter Prussian troops from stopping the protest.

Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA) will present new work by artists Alexandria Couch and composer Joe Namy, as well as works by Tony Cokes and Paul O’Keeffe—two of the artists being featured across multiple venues and connecting the constellation of FRONT exhibitions.

A favorite hangout and eatery among locals is the Feve, 30 S. Main St.—offering something for every palette.

For more information and directions to all of the exhibits, programming, and public art around the 2022 theme, “Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows, visit the FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Arts page. The festival runs from Saturday, July 16 through Sunday, Oct. 2. 

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 20 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.