Collinwood Rising is a collaborative effort to transform North Shore Collinwood, a neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland, by growing a grassroots art movement. The initiative aims to combat urban vacancy and invigorate the community of North Shore Collinwood by engaging artists in the community and increasing the vibrancy of the neighborhood’s Waterloo Arts and Entertainment District. Collinwood Rising will be converting vacant spaces into an artist-inspired playground, a performing arts incubator and artist live/work space and commercial storefronts.
Northeast Shores Development Corporation is leading this multi-organization initiative. ArtPlace spoke with Brian Friedman, the executive director of Northeast Shores, to discuss his vision for Collinwood Rising and the North Shore Collinwood community.
ARTPLACE: Have you gained any political traction with your efforts? If so, with whom and how did you do it?
FRIEDMAN: Luckily, we already have a great deal of political traction, and we’re constantly gaining momentum on that front. Collinwood Rising grew out of a HUD-funded strategic planning effort that was carried out in 16 target areas throughout the city of Cleveland, all examining how vacant properties could be converted into community assets. In the Collinwood neighborhood, this planning process focused heavily on art interventions. Local government agencies, including the Cleveland Department of Economic Development, the Cleveland Department of Community Development, the Cleveland Land Bank and the Cuyahoga Land Bank, have been tremendously supportive of Northeast Shores' efforts and have been helping the organization as it moves forward with Collinwood Rising. Perhaps no one has been a more supportive champion for the program than our neighborhood’s primary local representative, Councilman Michael Polensek, who has been one of the city's most integral and outspoken advocates of aggressive intervention in neighborhood vacancy. Councilman Polensek understands the value of putting vacant property back into productive use and using it as an opportunity to reimagine our community as an even better place to live, work, and visit.
ARTPLACE: Have you gained traction with any other leaders in your community? How?
FRIEDMAN: Northeast Shores has engaged and partnered with local stakeholders, residents and community leaders over the years that have collectively assisted with our progress in reaching goals around neighborhood revitalization efforts. Sometimes this support comes from nonprofit partners like Neighborhood Progress, Inc., a tremendous community development service organization that is laying citywide groundwork for strategic neighborhood-level investments like Collinwood Rising. Sometimes this support comes from individual community leaders. Recently, for instance, we’ve been fortunate to work with local restauranteur Alan Glazen. Alan has launched Project Light Switch, an initiative to bring several restaurants online in our arts district in 2013, at least partially in response to the major arts investments being made in the neighborhood.
With support from local officials and other local leaders, we’re poised for tremendous success, but none of our advancements would be possible without our grassroots neighborhood leaders … The residents and workers whose passion for the neighborhood makes our work possible. Existing Block Watch groups and participants continuously help to make and keep North Collinwood safe and walkable, while community stakeholders and committees have played a tremendous role in assisting with planning the aesthetics of the neighborhood, including our Waterloo Streetscape Plan. Our goals would not have been met without the skills, expertise and continuous dedication of these people. Their contributions have definitely made a difference within the community. More individuals are beginning to take notice, take pride and are contributing and doing their part to help us paint the picture of what Collinwood can truly be artistically.
Collinwood Rising has a new website providing more information about the project.