Seeing the building from behind, I wondered if I’d typed the right address into my GPS. Turning down 78th Street, nondescript industrial buildings dotted the neighborhood until we saw one that seemed to stretch across a block or two. The rust brown, bricked structure felt imposing and gave little hint as to what was waiting inside until you turned into the parking lot.
We noticed the street lamps looked like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss story – an oversized capsule shape on top, painted in bold colors with lightbulbs jutting out randomly.
Emblazoned on the side of the building over two stories it was marked American Greetings Creative Studios.
At one point, the building housed the Cleveland card company. But its wood and steal bones hail from the building’s original use as a car production shop for the Baker Electric Motor Vehicle Company dating back to 1905.
It’s no wonder the building now welcomes artists of all types into each corner of the expansive 170,000-foot space.
We weren’t quite sure where to go when we walked into the building’s main glass doors. We found that’s part of the fun of the 78th Street Studios – you never quite know what you’ll find around the next corner, whether it’s bright-colored walls affixed with rows of paintings or heavy metal doors that lead to another gallery with steel sculptures.
Within the building there are over 65 creative businesses, including galleries, music studios and even the Alternative Press Magazine. Some of the larger galleries are open daily, while others welcome guests more sporadically. Every Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. the 78th Street Studios hold an open house where visitors can explore the space and meet the painters, sculptors, musicians and other artists that make the place a creative mecca.
To make the most of what 78th Street Studios has to offer you really should visit during one of their Third Fridays. Held – you guessed it – every third Friday of the month from 5 to 9 p.m. most of the galleries open their doors, along with outside vendors who come in to showcase and sell their work. Nearly every hallway and back corner is filled with artisans – and visitors. Around 2,000 show up on any given Third Friday, which usually includes live music and food from area eateries.
During our visit on a recent Saturday, there were only a few occasional visitors that we passed as we went from floor to floor. We headed downstairs first to the ramp level, which includes ARTneo, the museum of Northeast Ohio art and architecture, which had a special exhibit of ceramic artwork.
Although it wasn’t open, we could spy rows of gaming machines in various states of repair as we passed the Superelectric Pinball Parlor.
On the first floor we meandered among mix of studios, showrooms and even a woodshop before making our way to the second floor, my favorite.
As we walked through the twists and turns of the hallways, we noticed a mix of portrait work, paintings and sculptures tucked in various spots along the way.
I spent my time looking at wall-sized depictions of motorcyclists that I learned were commissioned in 1973 by an avid enthusiast who sent artist Shirley Aley Campbell around the world to capture the images and then paint them. One featured a larger-than-life woman motorcyclist perched on a pink bike, fittingly decked out in a pink uniform, looking like something out of a 50s film, while others showed riders seemingly in motion on the wall.
If you go: Admission to the studios and Third Fridays is free. I’d highly recommend grabbing something to eat either before or after your visit at nearby Local West, where everything is made to order, including the spicy hot Voodoo Chicken Sandwich that is best eaten with a pile of their fresh-cut fries.
For more Ohio exhibits, Find It Here at Ohio.org.