By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
A pivot is a point at which something turns.
Developer Rick Foran believes that the Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression is a turning point for the Clark-Fulton neighborhood.
Foran Group Development purchased the former Astrup Awning Company located at the intersection of Seymour Ave. and W. 25th St. and converted it into a community arts center. Founded in 1880, Astrup originally made sails for Great Lakes’ ships. The 75,000-square-foot structure was constructed in 1919 and remodeled in 1983. Astrup moved out of the building six years ago.
Foran said that he was working on another project, the W. 25th Lofts, when he was approached by residents about opening a community arts center in the area. A representative from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s
Parade the Circle said they might be interested in becoming a tenant. Pivot Center opened 14 months ago with 12 tenants. They include the CMA Community Arts Center, Rainey Institute, LatinUS Blackbox Theater, Future Ink Graphics and Inlet Dance Theatre. ICA—Art Conservation, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, La Mega Media Radio and the Cleveland Center for Missing Children and Adults occupy the second floor of the building. Foran Group Development and the Pivot Center management offices are on the third floor. Cleveland City Council member Jasmin Santana is planning to move her offices into the building in 2022, Foran noted.
The CMA (Cleveland Museum of Art) Community Center is the building’s anchor tenant, with 20,000 square feet of space. It features work by local artists, Parade the Circle creations and giant sculptures. The center offers a Cleveland Kids Book Bank with free children’s books on loan. It celebrates 30 years of art and community by offering drop-in art activities, studio classes and workshops. It is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and is free for all ages.In addition to Parade the Circle, the center coordinates the fall Chalk Festival and the holiday Lantern Festival.
LatinUS Theater Company is the first independent Latino theater company in Ohio. It was created in Jan., 2018. It contributes to educating the Hispanic community by promoting and producing theatrical works in Spanish with English subtitles, honoring the cultural heritage and traditions of the Latin American population of Northeast Ohio. The LatinUS Blackbox Theatre seats 110 audience members.
The Inlet Dance Theater is a professional dance company that also provides dance education for children. The dance studio features special cushioned flooring and a sound-proof partition wall that can divide the space into two studios.
`The Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults is a space organized and occupied by Gina DeJesus and staff. DeJesus was a kidnap victim, along with Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight, held captive in a house on Seymour Ave. for 10 years. That house was torn down after they were rescued in 2013, but you can see the space it occupied in the neighborhood from the upper floor of the Pivot Center.
“We have to change the perception of this neighborhood,” Foran said. “Artists are the first to move into an area and the first to be gentrified out. Too often, cultural and arts organizations have to take second-best warehouse space. Just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean that you have to work in a dungeon space. We’ve maintained very high standards.”
Foran explained that after six or seven years, Pivot tenants will be given the option to buy their space or to continue paying the same rent they currently pay.“The goal is to keep arts organizations from being displaced as the surrounding community becomes more valuable,” he said.
One of the features that most represents the project’s mission is the front wall. It had originally been 165 feet of unbroken brick about 25 feet tall. The architect designed two 30-foot long sections to pivot 30 degrees with glass windows, allowing anyone passing by to see inside. “We wanted to let people on the outside know that things are different here,” Foran said.
“The building was basically a big box with an imposing, large brick wall along the sidewalk and W. 25th St. We saw a design opportunity,” Joe Smith, principal at Lyon/Szot Architecture DPC in Brooklyn, NY said. “The new entrance acts as kind of a billboard that the building has changed. Rick started calling those walls the pivot walls. That is where the name for the center came from. It was not about changing the building entirely, but transforming it and negotiating a new course.”
“I got the feeling that this was kind of a legacy project for Rick and a way to give back to the community. How do you transfer the idea of community to a building? We wanted a large lobby with a big table and we wanted it to be about interaction with the tenants,” he said.
“One of the most unique design elements is the wood lobby floor. Because it had been a factory, the original wood floor was soaked in oil and chemicals that had to be professionally removed. When we looked at the building, we found the floor interesting, even though it was black. We recreated the wood floor in the lobby to pay homage to the history of the building,” Smith noted.
“A number of the tenants had been around for awhile, but had never really had a home. We wanted to keep the industrial nature of the building, but to key into it being more of a workshop. We wanted it to be a nice, bright place to work,” Smith added. “We would meet with the clients to discuss their needs and then we would put together what we call a program. We went back and forth with them until we had a layout for each space. Everyone seemed to be on board with not hiding the industrial character of the building. It was kind of a cross-pollination of ideas.”
“The Pivot Center isn’t done yet. Things are continuing to change inside the structure,” said Smith, who is a native of Bay Village, OH. “Every time I’m home, something has changed. And that makes it a very exciting project to be a part of.”