Artists Find Downtown Cleveland a Lofty Experience
Deanna R. Adams
When artist/photographer/filmmaker Georgio Sabino III first came to Cleveland, the Columbus native was quickly impressed with what he saw.
“I was immediately attracted to the architecture here,” says Sabino, 37, who moved to Cleveland in 2003. “To me, Cleveland has more architecture than any other place in Ohio. It’s truly a beautiful city.”
Although he lived in New York City for a time, after receiving his Bachelor of Arts in fashion design from Kent State University in 1999, Sabino was anxious to set down his roots, and new business, in Cleveland. “I have fond memories of hanging out downtown, like at Tower City back in the ’90s. There’s such a great arts community here.”
When Sabino began seeking a place to live and set up shop for his GS3 Design Studio, a multi-media design firm, he found that the historic Tower Press Building, one of several renovated buildings near Cleveland State University, had just been completed and ready for occupancy.
His timing couldn’t have been better.
What used to be a mile-long strip of long-abandoned, rundown, century-old structures on Superior Avenue, is fast becoming the go-to area for all things arts-related, thanks to the downtown area’s revitalization, which includes The Lit’s (Cleveland’s Literary Center) recent move into the nearby ArtCraft building. Tower Press, located between E. 19th and E. 21st Streets, with its 80 uniquely designed loft units amid high ceilings, large mullioned windows, and exposed brick, harks of old world atmosphere and culture. Thus, a perfect place for artists such as Sabino. While one doesn’t have to be an artist to reside at Tower Press, owner David Perkowski has designated the first floor for artists only. Those interested must go through a definitive assessment process, with resume and portfolio, in order to be accepted into the residence.
Sabino, one of its first tenants, is thrilled to be a part of it.
“This place is perfect for me and other artists,” he says. “There’s a very eclectic art group here, and we are all supportive of one another.”
Current residents include painters, photographers, filmmakers, fashion designers, sculptors, stone carvers, visual artists, jewelry makers, and even a millinery designer. The first floor’s Artefino Art Gallery, with adjacent state-of-the-art café boasting 14-ft. high ceilings, provides residents an attractive, open public forum in which to showcase their works. The revamped complex, within walking distance to restaurants, offices and CSU, also has a conference/meeting room and professional fitness center. The 130-ft. tall tower, the building’s most recognizable feature, has five floors with modern suites.
Living and working among creative colleagues helps the proverbial “struggling artist” gain exposure, as well as providing networking opportunities and needed information, Sabino says. “I don’t like seeing other artists starve, and in this environment, you are always learning from each other on where to go, who to talk to, what city has a gallery open to what particular art. We all share that kind of information with each other.”
While working towards his Masters of Arts Education at Case Western Reserve University, Sabino is currently engaged in a video project with award-winning filmmaker, Robert Banks, who also lives in the building. And while Sabino plans to work this summer on various other projects in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, he laughs off a suggestion that perhaps he’ll move on to one of those seemingly more popular cities.
“Are you kidding? Anyone in New York City would love to have a studio apartment like this, and live in a building with all these creative people. All this,” he gestures around his surroundings, “at this kind of rent?
“This doesn’t exist there.”