Today 78th Street Studios is regarded as one of Cleveland’s primary art meccas with more than 60 creative businesses housed in its cavernous 170,000-square-foot complex, but a decade ago, there were less than 15 businesses inside the space. When it opened in April 2009, contemporary art gallery HEDGE Gallery became one of them.
“There were many undeveloped parts of the building, and the idea of developing my business in a larger complex and community that was also in the process of evolving was one of the main reasons I chose this location,” explains gallery owner Hilary Gent.
A decade later, HEDGE Gallery is thriving within 78thStreet Studios—and its surrounding neighborhood of the Gordon Square Arts District. The gallery currently represents 15 Northeast Ohio artists and hosts regular exhibitions in their 3000-square-foot gallery space.
This Friday, April 19, HEDGE Gallery will celebrate the milestone by opening the Douglas Max Utter exhibition “Falling from the Sky of Now,” and Gent says it is no coincidence that the gallery’s anniversary will feature the work of this expressionist painter and Cleveland Heights native. “It is truly an honor to have his work in the gallery. His work has inspired me for a long time,” says Gent.
Utter has been a prolific artist for decades, with more than 40 solo shows and a body of work across many mediums full of emotionally charged pieces that draw in the viewer. When Gent and Utter first met, she knew he was something special: “I was attracted to the gorgeous color fields on the surface of the canvas.”
Although Utter has been creating work in Northeast Ohio for over 30 years, Gent insists the exhibition is not a look back but indeed a look forward. The exhibition will include never-before-seen oil paintings from the 1970s and 80s, along with Utter’s more recent work. A full-color catalogue is also being produced by HEDGE Gallery in tandem with ARTNeo, the Museum of Northeast Ohio Art, and William Busta.
“[The exhibition] is a window into his life,” Gent continues of the 2013 Cleveland Arts Prize winner. “The show is not a retrospective, but a look into the future.”
Just as Utter’s work is continuously evolving, so is Gent’s vision for HEDGE Gallery as she eyes the next 10 years. “It can be intimidating going to art galleries. I want to make art accessible and to help educate [others] that art is incredibly important.”
Gent is encouraged by Northeast Ohio’s thriving art scene and wants people to be able to enjoy art and artists here in Cleveland, explaining that, “You do not have to go to New York or Los Angeles to invest in fantastic art" and pointing to 78th Street Studios’ monthly Third Fridays events.
Douglas Max Utter’s work will be on view until June 7, 2019. HEDGE Gallery will host an artist talk with Utter on May 9, 2019, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., providing an intimate gathering and open dialogue of the artist’s process.