Something New in Something Old
June 2013 Issue
June 2013 Digest
Modern furniture in Amish Country; green schools; a powerhouse-turned-art-gallery; sewer-tile creations.
In 2011, northeast Ohio art collectors Fred and Laura Bidwell were interested in purchasing a former firehouse with the purpose of opening an art gallery. But even more enticing to the couple was the space next door — a striking structure with classical proportions and intricate brick detailing. Located in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood, the building was constructed in 1924 as one of 16 transformer substations built by the Cleveland Railway Co. to provide power for a portion of the city’s streetcar line. Today, it’s been transformed into a modern outpost for contemporary exhibits presented in partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Fred Bidwell, a member of the CMA board of directors, asked museum officials if they’d be interested in collaborating on experimental exhibits in sculpture, painting, video and digital media that couldn’t be mounted at the museum’s home base in University Circle. The opportunity was too good to pass up.
“We’re interested in inspiring the artists living and working here,” says gallery manager Danielle Meeker.
Through Aug. 23, the Transformer Station is featuring “Todd Hido: Excerpts from Silver Meadows.” The exhibit showcases the Kent photographer’s images of isolated landscapes and female portraits. The space is also showcasing photographs from the Bidwells’ collection. — Christina Ipavec
The Transformer Station is located at 1460 W. 29th St., Cleveland 44113. For more information, visit transformerstation.org or call 216/938-5429.
The freedom of summer brings to mind the free-spirited nature of folk art — which, by definition, has been created by untrained, unschooled makers. With simple tools, they have produced an array of impressive, and often whimsical, works of art, sometimes from surprising materials.
Consider sewer tile — porous clay pipe that has been molded, glazed and fired for the purpose of plumbing water and waste underground since at least 4,000 B.C., and in the U.S. since the 19th-century work of building America’s infrastructure began. During the industrial revolution, sewer pipe was big business in Ohio, thanks to our plentiful deposits of the dense red clay. Workers in Ohio’s sewer pipe factories took a few liberties with “extra” clay, creating wonderful works that they gave as gifts or took home for personal use. Production of “end-of-day” pieces peaked in the first quarter of the 20th century, and have become a niche collectible today.
Inspired by the fine ceramics of English potters, sewer tile makers commonly produced dogs and lions in the “Staffordshire” fashion. Another popular form was the tree trunk, usually formed as a vase, but also as lamps. Garth’s has seen a range of designs, from eagles and squirrels to a humidor and even chairs. For more information on sewer tile collectibles, visit garths.com/collecting
Ohio Finds features fascinating objects brought to the attention of Amelia and Jeff Jeffers, co-owners of Garth's Auctioneers & Appraisers, an international firm outside Columbus.
Poorly lit classrooms. Mold. Polluted air.
According to the National Education Association, at least one-third of America’s 80,000 public schools have unhealthy environmental conditions.
But Ohio is leading the way to change, building and retrofitting schools to become healthy, comfortable and energy-efficient: Currently, the state has 549 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) registered and certified K–12 and higher-education green schools. Which makes Ohio the No. 1 state for green school activity, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
The Maple Heights City School District in Cuyahoga County is one of the latest to provide a measurable green environment for students. Business manager Jeff Eble says six schools were razed, then replaced with five that follow the USGBC LEED for Schools rating system. (The district received Ohio School Facilities Commission funding for the new buildings, as well as local tax support.) Three of the district’s elementary schools have received LEED Gold certification. The latest, Barack Obama School and John F. Kennedy School (two schools in one building complex) received the honor this year.
Maple Heights’ new high school is pending certification. (LEED recognition includes certified, silver, gold and platinum.)
Eble says it is too early to assess all the benefits of the green schools. But the district can look to Pleasant Ridge Montessori in the Cincinnati Public Schools district to see the impact.
Charlie Jahnigen with SHP Leading Design was the lead architect for the school. His main goals were to create an energy-efficient building, provide daylight conducive to learning and establish a healthy indoor environment that supports the Montessori curriculum. Opened in 2008, Pleasant Ridge is the first publicly funded LEED school in Ohio, earning a silver-level recognition.
“Creating the sustainable school also created what I call ‘unintentional consequences,’ ” says Jahnigen, who grew up in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood. “Real estate rates went up in the area and people were selling houses faster. Also, the school’s enrollment nearly doubled. There was a total transformation in the community. We thought we were just building a good building. But the school is a wonderful community asset.”
Eric Mauch, Pleasant Ridge’s community resource coordinator, says attending an environmentally designed school is becoming “the norm for students now.” The students, faculty and staff have created a community garden (with an outdoor classroom), reduced waste within the school and have received a grant for roof solar panels. Their efficiency will be monitored as part of the classroom curriculum. Next up: rain gardens. — Jill Sell
What’s a custom furniture designer like Ron Corl, who describes his style as “modern, funky and kind of wild,” doing in Millersburg, a center for traditional and Amish-made furniture?
Corl, originally from the Akron/Canton area, migrated to his rural property because it was family-owned land and because he could be in closer touch with nature, his No. 1 inspiration.
“I can see a curved branch of a tree and that curve will show up somewhere in a piece of furniture,” says the owner of Ron Corl Design. “My wife calls me Popcorn Head. I’m always coming up with more ideas than I can ever use.”
But the ones he does incorporate result in extraordinary pieces generating national interest from the furniture industry. The Dragonfly Martini and Wine Bar is (left) among his most popular creations. It was inspired, Corl explains, by watching “a dragonfly’s party, one summer day down by the creek.” The freestanding piece features a leopardwood dragonfly with curly maple wings festooning cherry doors and drawers.
Other items he’s crafted include a Falling Leaves vanity for a tree-hugging client and a live-edge (the natural edge of a wood slab) headboard for a bed. Many items are reminiscent of pieces seen on the AMC series, “Mad Men.”
Corl brings a number of skills and interests to the table. He was a self-employed antiques dealer, musician and woodworker for three decades before following his passion for design. The craftsman contracts an Amish family to turn his ideas into furniture.
“With modern furniture, everything is stripped down and clean-lined and I’m really good with that,” says Corl. “But the majority of it doesn’t function that well, especially the sofas and chairs, which are very uncomfortable. I look at ideas that will make comfortable pieces. Then, if I can cover the piece with [faux] purple zebra skin, so much the better.” — Jill Sell
For more information, call 330/828-6631 or visit roncorldesign.com