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Collinwood Rising is a special initiative working to cultivate the growing art community in the North Shore Collinwood neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland. This effort aims to engage neighborhood residents by encouraging them to think creatively about urban vacancy in their community. Northeast Shores Development Corporation, the local community development corporation, is spearheading this effort to improve North Shore Collinwood’s Waterloo Arts and Entertainment District and repurpose vacant space into art space.

ArtPlace sat down with Brian Friedman, the executive director of Northeast Shores, to talk about his plans for success with Collinwood Rising and his hopes for the neighborhood as a whole.

ARTPLACE: For Collinwood Rising to be a success, what do you have to do really (really) well?

FRIEDMAN: With Collinwood Rising, the clearest path to enduring success is through our neighborhood residents and business owners. We are working very hard with this initiative to engage residents and business owners and ask for their input so that the people that know North Shore Collinwood best will feel empowered to play their own part in recapturing vacant space. If they feel that they are a part of this program and are involved in its outcome, they will be excited about and engaged with the changes being made.

Though we’re working on creating an artist community in the neighborhood, we hope that those people who are a part of the neighborhood, but not necessarily artists, will also feel involved in Collinwood Rising.  The plan that formed the basis of this initiative was developed with extensive input from residents, so they’ve already had the opportunity to consider how they would reimagine vacant lots, houses and storefronts. When the residents are engaged in this initiative, the community will become even more inviting to artists. Also, the residents will welcome art as a community asset and be excited about the creative ways that we will be able to repurpose vacant space. Currently, we’re working to engage residents by conducting an annual survey and holding exhibits, pop-up shops and arts-based activities throughout the neighborhood.

ARTPLACE:  How do you expect that the North Shore Collinwood community will change as a result of Collinwood Rising?

FRIEDMAN: As a whole, we want the entire North Shore Collinwood neighborhood to be revitalized. We want it to be a better place to live, work, and visit than when we began. Art will have a permanent place in the neighborhood because of its ability to make the neighborhood safer, more visually interesting and just generally more vibrant than it was before. The Waterloo Arts and Entertainment district will be at the heart of the transformation – it will give everyone that is a part of the North Shore Collinwood community something to be proud of.  From my vantage point, at the end of the day, the bricks and mortar investments are important, but not as important as providing residents and storeowners with a sense of optimism, pride and community. North Shore Collinwood, like many neighborhoods in “Rust Belt” cities has suffered from decades of industrial decline and the pervasive perception that it is a place that you don’t want to be. Collinwood Rising and other Northeast Shores initiatives are about celebrating the history of the neighborhood and empowering individuals to play a role in thinking about how we can build an even better place to be in years to come.

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