Imagine this in University Circle... MoCA has, and NEO will soon see a fantastic reality

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Fri, 10/27/2006 - 11:50.

Steven Litt shared very exciting news today in the Plain Dealer - the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) has announced their choice of architect to design their relocated facility in University Circle, and the potential for something spectacular is astounding. The choice is Foreign Office Architects, of London, which Litt calls "one of the hottest young architecture firms in the world", and their portfolio shows some exciting designs from around the world (some examples posted above and below) - it seems the MoCA project will be their most important ever in the USA... they will be working with Cleveland's Westlake Reed Leskosky. Also mentioned in Litt's column, University Circle Incorporated seem to be making progress working with MRN, Ltd. (developers of E. 4th Street), and Zaremba, Inc., for remaining planning of the Triangle area, so a complete development picture for this important zone is coming into focus.


It is hard to overstate the importance of this decision, and the praise MoCA deserves for stepping out of the box, in many ways. MoCA is making a bold move away from a weak location and facility to a catalytic position where they are best suited and needed - in the arts center of the state... the Midwest, in fact. And, they were open and innovative in their process of selecting their architect, consulting with experts and having an international design competition, even collaborating with the Kent State University Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative in presenting the finalists to the community. And then, they made a selection that offers a certainty of innovative outcomes, as FOA seems capable of nothing less.

What we have to look forward to next is an exciting process of design and construction that will raise appreciation in this region to the importance of great architecture promoting the arts, and the economy, and bring global attention and traffic to our community. I was just reflecting on the importance of this process and world-class approach in considering a similar cultural environment in Toronto, and to see progress here is uplifting, as the construction of MoCA adds to developments well along in University Circle with the Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Institute of Music.

Now, there is one major hurdle ahead, between today and MoCA opening day, being raising the funding to bring the project to fruition... something like $20 million beyond what they have raised to date. Choosing such an exceptional architect should help with that fundraising process, but the whole community and beyond must help too... especially considering there are some other big arts and culture initiatives in process and the works that are also seeking funding. They include the Cleveland Orchestra expanding their endowment, HealthSpace reorganizing, perhaps with an expansion of the Museum of Natural History, Ingenuity Festival ascending to a higher level of funding, the recently announced plans of the Beck Center, and, most important, the building of the next generation Cleveland Institute of Art.

Considering all these needs, it is time to expand the community dialog on the role of arts and core cultural institutions beyond the narrow focus and mindset of Proposition 18. Perhaps, if Prop 18 passes, it will provide some of the funding to meet all these needs - that has not been made clear anywhere I've seen - but that is not enough, nor should all those funds go to established institutional interests. No, we need more innovative funding ideas to drive such innovative design initiatives.

I believe the solution will be found far from current Northeast Ohio leadership visioning, through outreach to and funding by expats, corporate sponsors and the global community that cares about art, culture and architecture wherever it is. To secure such funding, we need to be more collaborative, proactive and sophisticated in our global outreach than has been our pattern to date... be as innovative in communications as FOA is with design.  Moving forward, each and all the arts and cultural institutions must work together to raise the $100s of millions required in the coming years - the Orchestra helping the Rock Hall helping MoCA helping Beck Center to act as a cluster that is appreciated world-wide. The process must begin with realizing we aren't on the right track with the current advocacy model or tax-based funding strategy, and must enlist new leaders from far and wide. How and where do we have access to new advocates for our arts, outside the limited pool of resources that have been working to address this issue so far? Well, the Cleveland Institute of Art has 1,000s of alumni... the Orchestra is appreciated and seen world-wide... the Barcelona exhibition at the museum has global appeal... MoCA currently has an internationally significant show... we must combine these assets and leverage their collective draw in more innovative ways.