Cleveland Hopes to Become the Next Venice

With a new citywide art exhibit, Cleveland aims for a spot on the global art circuit; ‘If Kassel can draw a crowd, surely Cleveland can’

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Cleveland wants to be known for more than its craft beers and Cavaliers—especially now that LeBron James is leaving town. This weekend, the Ohio city on the southern banks of Lake Erie will launch a major bid to become the world’s next hotbed for contemporary art.

Organizers of a sprawling new exhibition, Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, have invited more than 100 artists to install works throughout the city as well as in nearby Akron and Oberlin. The Cleveland Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland will showcase many of the pieces, but other artworks will turn up in unconventional spots.

The triennial, which runs through Sept. 30 and is expected to be held every three years after that, is the brainchild of Fred Bidwell. A Cleveland collector who runs an art space called Transformer Station, he wants to add the Cleveland triennial to a global art circuit that has long included similar European shows such as the Venice Biennale in Italy and Documenta in Kassel, Germany.

“If Kassel can draw a crowd, surely Cleveland can,” Mr. Bidwell said.

Triennial organizers are using 28 venues, including a 1925 steamship moored beside Cleveland’s Great Lakes Science Center to show Los Angeles artist Allan Sekula’s film about seafaring economies, “The Lottery of the Sea.”

Several vendors in the city’s West Side Market will serve Milwaukee artist John Riepenhoff’s Cleveland Curry Kojiwurst, a sausage he created with help from a local chef and an urban farm. Mr. Riepenhoff’s past art projects have included brewing his own beer and making his own cheese, and he said his latest recipe, which contains everything from paprika to saffron, aims to capture Cleveland’s history “in a bite.”

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