Susan Channing, Director, SPACES


When Susan Channing stepped down as director of SPACES Gallery in 2007 after 21 years at the helm, she left a legacy as strong as any arts leader’s, here or anywhere. During an era when alternative galleries around the country went from an estimated 300 down to about 30, SPACES not only endured, but it also thrived. 

Channing achieved this tricky feat by balancing innovative programming ideas (such as Alterations: Altering the Human Figure, which featured photography, sculpture, paintings and video; Impressions of Michelangelo, a dance performance; Radical Ink, an alternative comics exhibit; and Creating in Crisis: Making Art in the Age of AIDS) with strong management skills and an understanding of fiscal responsibility. The combination ensured that SPACES maintained its mission as an artist-run alternative gallery, even as it grew from its original space in a small Warehouse District storefront to a nationally respected gallery in its own building. A pioneering presence in Cleveland's Flats, the gallery was attracting around 20,000 visitors a year by  the mid-2000s.

Channing's leadership of SPACES was good not only for the organization itself; it positively affected the region’s art community and the region itself. Because of her interest in featuring and mentoring young, emerging, developing and experimental artists, SPACES provided opportunities for more than 7,500 young creators working in the visual and performing arts to impart their ideas. Often partnering with different arts venues, local ethnic communities and social service agencies to expand SPACES's reach, she introduced disparate regional audiences to cutting-edge art produced here and around the country and the world. 

For example, SPACES World Artists Program (SWAP), a six-week residency program inaugurated in 2002, gave international artists a chance to create and try out new work in interaction with northeastern Ohio audiences. Exemplifying Channing's genius for collaboration, Shrinking Cities (2007), which examined the phenomenon of urban population designer, was co-hosted by SPACES and the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. Contributors  included the German Federal Cutlural Foundation in cooperation with the Project Office Philipp Oswalt, the Museum of Contemporary Art Leipzig, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and magazine Archplus. Incorporating the work of artists, architects, filmmakers, journalists and social researchers, the show documented how four cities and regions (Detroit, Michigan; Manchester, Liverpool, United Kingdom; Ivanovo, Russia; and Halle/Leipzig, Germany) have devolved and explored strategies for post-industrial redevelopment.

Pamela Clapp, program director for the Andy Warhol Foundation in New York, which awarded Channing a $126,000 grant to pay off the mortgage on the Flasts building, has said that SPACES has "a national reputation as one of the strongest artist-centered organizations in the country."

Cleveland Arts Prize
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