The Plain Dealer | Steven Litt  |  February 26, 2019

Spaces taps Cleveland architect John Williams as new board president

By Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio – He designed it, and now he’ll oversee how it runs.

Cleveland architect John Williams has been elected president of the board of director of Spaces, the non-profit, artist-driven gallery and incubator in Ohio City’s Hingetown neighborhood.

When Spaces moved in 2016 from its old home on Superior Viaduct to its new digs in the Van Rooy Building at 2900 Detroit Ave., Williams, of Process Creative Studios Inc., designed the gallery interior.

He created clean, white gallery spaces, while preserving and celebrating the rugged concrete structure of the late 19th-century commercial building.

A Spaces news release described Williams as “an ardent supporter of SPACES for two decades,” who is “uniquely positioned” to lead the organization as it fulfills its recently completed strategic plan.

“John has been an active member of the cultural community for decades,” said Christina Vassallo, executive and artistic director of Spaces. “As a creative himself, and as an architect, he understands what it is to be a creative person.”

Williams’ other design credits include the widely acclaimed insertion of a Heinen’s supermarket in the 1908 Cleveland Trust rotunda in 2015.

Williams is an experienced hand on the Spaces board. He originally served as a member from 1999 to 2010 and was president of the board from 2002 to 2008. He succeeds Tom Starinsky, associate director of the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corp., and the Historic Warehouse District Development Corp.

“This is a unique opportunity for me to re-engage with an organization that has had my support and my heart for a very long time,” Williams said in the news release.

Earlier this year, Spaces launched a redesigned website and announced a bigger-than-ever budget approaching $1 million, with two hefty new programs enabling it to hand out $85,000 in grants to 15 artists this year.

The organization’s new strategic plan, completed over the past year, calls for it to evolve from its grassroots origins and hand-to-mouth finances toward greater sustainability.

Its goals include recruiting board members with financial expertise and establishment of a reserve fund, if not an endowment, from which Spaces could draw income.

Upcoming projects for 2019 include “America's Well Armed Militias,’’ an exhibition opening Aug. Friday, Aug. 16.

Curated by Christina Vassallo, Megan Young, and Karl Anderson, the show will focus on works by six artists from Cleveland, Columbus and Chicago.

Each has been asked to respond to a specific instance in which American have armed themselves, including, “Westward expansion,” “Black Panthers,” “U.S.-Mexico border militias,” “gangs,” “stand your ground,” and “firearms in schools.”

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