Art, Food, and a New Home

Edible Cleveland / January 8, 2017

We’re so excited that SPACES is in their new space in Hingetown, so we caught up with Executive Director Christine Vassallo to ask her a few questions about art, food, and their new home.

I know you’re only moving a few blocks, but what are you most looking forward to in your new neighborhood?

We haven’t even officially opened yet and we’re already forming partnerships in our new neighborhood that will result in new projects and initiatives. On January 6th, we were part of an event next door, at the Bop Stop. Jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard is recording an album in three cities that have experienced tension between law enforcement and unarmed African Americans, including Cleveland. The Bop Stop invited SPACES to contribute a visual art component to this performance. We are working with the artist Michael Rakowitz to develop A Color Removed, a city-wide project in 2018 that will challenge Clevelanders to have a wide ranging discussion on race and violence in a city where not everyone feels safe. We are aiming to redact the color orange from the city as a grass roots and civic campaign, removing any illusion of safety. During Blanchard’s performance, we served beverages and snacks using orange dishes and glasses as a precursor to A Color Removed.

Do you plan to have any special food/drinks at the opening event on January 14th?

We’ll be serving food during the VIP dinner that relates to the different phases of SPACES’ evolution: early days, Superior Viaduct years, and the future that awaits us here in the Hingetown area of Ohio City. There will also be a specialty cocktail, mixed by the incredible Moe Dixon, called “Home Sweet Home.”

Can you tell us a secret about your new space?

At our groundbreaking we asked guests to write love letters to SPACES and we built them into the walls during construction.

What’s your favorite food-related artwork/artist?

Conflict Kitchen, founded by artists Jon Rubin & Dawn Weleski in 2010 (and still going strong), is a social experiment in the form of a Pittsburgh-based take-out restaurant that serves food from countries with which the US is in conflict. Because it draws from political events, the menu is, unfortunately, ever changing. The message behind serving the food is amplified by discussions and other kinds of events that help increase engagement with the country of focus.

Okay, so we know you love to bike everywhere, so are there any particularly great restaurants to bike to?

So many! I love the short ride to Empress Taytu, one of my favorite places in Cleveland. Tommy’s andCleveland Vegan—in equally opposite directions and distance from my neighborhood—for their vegetarian-friendly menus. Also, every summer I ride to Sandusky to take the ferry to Kelley’s Island and camp; less of a restaurant and more of a welcoming produce oasis after a 35 mile ride, is the Vermillion Farmer’s Market on Route 2.

What food is easiest to eat while biking?

Clif Shot Bloks—while not exactly food in the Edible Cleveland sense of the word—it is the easiest and most effective thing to eat during a ride. Apples and peanut butter are good too, but they’re pretty messy.

Okay, so you are relatively new to Cleveland (yes, 2014 counts as new to those of us born here), so what food do you think Cleveland does best?

Cleveland makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich. And pierogies. The ice cream is pretty incredible too, but I don’t really eat sweets.

Are there any foods you want to eat more of in 2017?

More home cooked meals. I’m looking forward to my schedule leveling out a bit so that I can crack open my cookbooks that have been gathering dust since we launched theSPACES capital campaign.

If we take Warhol’s soup can out of the picture, what other food-based artwork is most ubiquitous? 

Karen Finley’s performance work that was developed in rebuttal to Senator Jesse Helms and the NEA controversy of the 1990s, “We Keep Our Victims Ready,” is extremely important because of its commentary on censorship and funding for artists. But I think it became culturally ubiquitous for other reasons: that she was a young and conventionally beautiful women, and that she posed for Playboy shortly after the Supreme Court ruled against her and three other artists in their challenge of the “decency clause.” More than 25 years later, many remember the sexual nature of her performance—in which she stood on stage and covered herself in chocolate—over the emotional intensity.

Give us three good reasons to become a member of SPACES.

1) The social events: a SPACES Season Pass membership gives you direct access to the artists who are creating major projects at SPACES and some of the cultural gems in this region.

2) Only members can use the workshops, which include plenty of saws, drills, and other tools you’ll need to make the work you want.

3) It’s a way to show that you believe in and support the way that we create a forum for different points of view.

And finally, it’s a new year, so what you like to see in the food scene this year?

I’m a Type 1 diabetic. According to a 2015 study, Ohio ranks #17 in diabetes rate by state, and obesity is on the rise. It seems that there is an unexplored market for healthier desserts here. I would love to see a bakery in this city that specializes in natural and low sugar pastries and desserts.

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