Ensemble Theatre has been part of the beating heart of the theatre scene in Cleveland Heights for over 25 years. Their mission of producing classic American plays, as well as contemporary plays of big ideas and fascinating characters is unique in all of Cleveland. This is the only theatre who brought us the regional premiere of the Pulitzer-winning epic Kentucky Cycle (rave reviews and sold-out houses), followed up with Eugene O’Neill’s epic The Iceman Cometh (rave reviews and sold-out houses), and will be diving into the Pulitzer-Winning epic Angels In America this season. They mix these huge experiences with small character dramas by writers with Cleveland and Ohio roots such as Rajiv Joseph, Charles Smith, and myself. No other professional theatre attempts such scope and diversity EVERY SINGLE SEASON. And then to encourage the next great American writers, Ensemble hosts Stage Wrights, an ongoing opportunity for new writers to hear their words aloud and get feedback from professionals, with one script every year going on to a full production.
“There are other theatres in Cleveland that offer one of these elements or another, but none are as committed to ALL of these facets — American classics, world premieres, new writers, professional and novice actors, professional and novice directors, small productions, huge productions — year-round, every year.
“And to have all that sitting right next to Coventry Village, where audience members and artists can randomly meet and exchange ideas over meals, drinks, while shopping, where kids from the neighborhood, families coming for the Coventry Peace Park, and aging theatre lovers can all meet to experience art, many without having to get in a car…
“That’s a gift. A rare and invaluable gift that this city — this Home Of The Arts — has a chance to embrace and build on.
“I hope we take it.
“There have been countless breath-taking moments on Ensemble’s stages; images and characters that will live in the memory for the rest of audience’s lives. There are countless more to come. Let’s make it happen.”
Eric Coble’s plays have been produced on Broadway and Off-Broadway, in all fifty states and on several continents. His many awards include the AATE Distinguished Play Award for Best Adaptation, an Emmy nomination, the Chorpenning Playwriting Award for Body of Work, the AT&T Onstage Award, National Theatre Conference Playwriting Award, an NEA Playwright in Residence Grant, a TCG Extended Collaboration Grant, the Cleveland Arts Prize, two Cuyahoga Arts and Culture Fellowships, and four Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Grants.
When we moved back to Cleveland after 15 years in Florida and a six-month artist residency in Italy, we immediately started a studio residency at Negative Space Gallery. We thought that would be plenty of lead time to find a permanent studio space in Cleveland. Unfortunately, there were two factors we hadn’t considered: gentrification, and accessibility. Many of the Cleveland buildings that had been homes to artist studios were being converted to ‘upscale’ locations for ‘respectable’ tenants. But even more damning for us was the lack of accessible studio spaces. Twenty-seven years after the ADA, it was still impossible to find a studio space that would work for a wheelchair-using artist.
“Our residency at Negative Space ended, and we had nowhere to paint for months. We were miserable. Then a friend sent us a link to ARTFUL. We were so excited! But surely there would be a catch. Maybe we would only have access to the studio during ‘normal business hours.’ Or there would be a strict ‘no children’ rule. Or a ‘no oil painters’ rule. Or a ‘no controversial subject matter’ rule. Or, you know, we wouldn’t be able to get to the second floor.
“It turned out there weren’t any catches. ARTFUL didn’t just meet our needs — it exceeded our expectations. We couldn’t sign the lease fast enough! Here’s what makes ARTFUL the perfect studio home for MANDEM:
1) Kid-friendly! ARTFUl goes above and beyond for artists with children (and artists who are children).
2) Accessibility! The space is totally navigable by wheelchair. Recently there were four wheelchair users hanging out in the studios together. This speaks volumes. Disabled people are systematically blocked from the fine art world; ARTFUL is holding the door open for them.
3) 24-hour access! Artists with day jobs, artists working multiple jobs, artists with families can access their studio at the times that work for them.
4) Privacy! Artists need to be able to make a mess behind closed doors sometimes.
5) Community! As much as we need a private studio with a door, we also need community. ARTFUL is the perfect mix! We can have a cup of coffee with other artists in the Flex Space. We can share ideas and tools and information.
6) Networking Opportunities! Networking assistance is often inaccessible to people who aren’t from a select social/economic group, but ARTFUL is opening doors that are often closed to marginalized artists.
7) Kitchenette! We can save our time, energy, and money for art.
8) Letterpress!!! Did you pull this bonus right out of our daydreams? We anxiously await training classes so we can fulfill a long-time inky dream.
“So thanks, ARTFUL. You’re exactly what we were hoping to find when we moved back to Cleveland.”
MANDEM is a conglomerate three-bodied artist identity fronted by Maize Arendsee (MFA, Studio Art) with co-artists Kitsuko and Moco Steinman-Arendsee.
Coventry P.E.A.C.E. park is an essential community asset, Dr. Erick Kauffman
The Coventry P.E.A.C.E. playground was created 23 years ago by a group of passionate and engaged citizens, in collaboration with the school board and city of Cleveland Heights.
Since that time, Coventy P.E.A.C.E., a nonprofit organization, has endured. Its volunteer members are stewards of the park, caring for the grounds, gardens and play equipment through biannual park work days.
Coventry park is really a campus, as it encompasses the multi-use Coventry School building, the park itself, the ball field, the P.E.A.C.E. arch, the Coventry Village Library and the south entrance to Coventry Village.
The park serves at times as a soccer and Frisbee field, a summer movie theater, an amphitheater for Shakespeare plays, a great sledding hill for little kids, a gathering place for a drum circle, a concert venue, a place for outdoor yoga classes, a reading garden for library patrons, a place to meet neighbors, a place to make friends and a place where one can just “be.” Per square foot it is the most-used ground in Cleveland Heights.
Coventry park is a stunning green space. Green space is vital to our well-being as individuals and as a community. Once we lose it, we don’t get green space back, ever.
Coventry park is a vital asset to Cleveland Heights. It is one of those things that makes Cleveland Heights—“Cleveland Heights.” Loss of the park would harm the soul of our community.
The members of Coventry P.E.A.C.E. are committed to the preservation of the park and green space. We look forward to working with the school board, the city and other citizens to find a way to make the park and green space an enduring asset of our community.
The future of this great space will depend on the involvement of engaged community members. I hope that you will be one of them.
Originally published in the Heights Observer. Erick Kauffman, a Cleveland Heights resident, is president of Coventry P.E.A.C.E., parent of Heights High graduates, a family physician and community health center medical director.
A statement of support for the Campus proposal from Cindy Zawadzki
The arts culture is deeply rooted in Cleveland Heights and each year it grows. Artful grew out of that knowledge and the need to provide visual artists with affordable work space near home. From origami artists, to oil painters to fine craftsmen, Artful has welcomed an impressive number of talented citizens in a variety of mediums into it’s studios. Where once these artists were isolated or forced to work outside CH, now they are part of the vibrant Artful community. Artful provides artist and creative businesses with the opportunity to collaborate and network with each other by providing a common workspace, the opportunity to contribute to gallery shows and the classroom space necessary to interact with the community through workshops and demonstrations.
“The energy the Artful artists, volunteers, and board members bring to every event is inspiring. These people are not only kind and talented but dedicated to our Cleveland Heights community.
“The Coventry neighborhood is special because it is the heart of creative Cleveland Heights. The Coventry elementary building is the anchor, filled with dynamic non-profits that serve our community in very meaningful ways. By creating the Coventry Peace Campus, we acknowledge the importance of arts in our community and strengthen our commitment to making Cleveland Heights a community alive with arts and culture.”