Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday's Meet the Artist: Lou Ross

The Waterloo helix wind banner sculpture:
Lou's collaboration with Jerry Schmidt.
Cleveland's Waterloo Art District, located along Waterloo Road in the North Shores Collinwood neighborhood has been undergoing a revitalization recently with an infusion of small businesses, artists, art galleries and cultural events, and much is planned for the district in 2013. Lou Ross, an artist born and raised in Cleveland, is one who has invested in this community by opening his art gallery and studio, called Waterloo Studios, encouraging local artists, and taking part in local cultural projects.

Lou and his wife Susan both have master's degrees in art education (Susan also has a master's in art therapy and is a licensed social worker. She works for the Positive Education Program teaching children with special needs.) They have two grown children.

A Little Q & A with Lou

Tell us about Waterloo Studios. How does it fit into the neighborhood’s renewal?
I opened Waterloo Studios 1-1/2 years ago. I spent the first year renovating the neglected building on a shoestring budget. The Waterloo District holds much promise – there is grant money and lots of support for artists, musicians and other creative individuals. This summer looks promising with First Friday Openings, Waterloo Fest, new galleries, restaurants ,bars and a pending streetscape renovation project.

"We have large studio spaces for rent [at Waterloo Studios] on a monthly basis at a reasonable fee. Artists working in the Waterloo district are eligible for grant money through several programs. Our goal is to attract three to four working artists and crafts people to make the studio financially viable."

Lou in the classroom of Waterloo Studios.

You are involved in a collaborative work with sculptor Jerry Schmidt called Wheels on Waterloo. What is that about?
Wheels On Waterloo is a public sculpture project funded by the CPAC Artist In Residence Program. [For this collaboration] we have two to three students learning metalworking techniques and design [at Jerry Schmidt's studio across the street]. The sculpture depicts the energy and history of Waterloo through icons of wheels. When completed, it will be installed somewhere on the new streetscape on Waterloo. The project has been a starting point for several other public arts projects for us. Look it up on Facebook for progress photos.

What is your own art history?
Susan and I met in 12th grade Art Class at Cleveland Heights High. Actually we knew each other since 7th grade through our older brother’s friendship. I have been making art since I was 3 and my Mom gave me crayolas and coloring books. From there, I stepped it up to Venus Paradise Paint By Number sets. John Nagy's Learn To Paint was next. (He was before Bob Ross.) I also discovered the Cleveland Heights library where I took out all the little 7” canvas bound Skira Artists books. In seventh grade, my Mom petitioned the principal to let me take 2 periods of art a day, thereby getting out of other unnecessary classes like math and science. There were some really great art teachers in those days. Art class was my only salvation where I found encouragement and acceptance. High school art classes were life altering. Our teacher, Vincent Ferrara, must have channeled Raphael or El Greco. It was like apprenticing in the master’s studio. A moody, passionate Italian, he demonstrated lost renaissance painting techniques and we all copied his style. My art background consists of several influences and events.

I attended Saturday morning art classes at the old Cooper Art School where I had many great Cleveland teachers...Henry Fusco, Bill Whitsett, Shirley Campbell, Anthony Shepis, Larry Krause and others. Field trips to the Art Museum, Historical Society, Natural History Museum, Cleveland Playhouse and Cleveland Orchestra (a children's concert with George Szell!) all soaked into my growing awareness. I attended the University of Cincinnati School of Design , Architecture, Art and Planning (DAA in those days) where I skated on thin ice through a Bauhaus orientated degree in Graphic Design. It was a five-year co-op program and I went off to work on Madison Avenue in NYC for Doubleday Publishers and later Lippincott & Margulies, a corporate design firm. During my senior year I took a job in Chicago working for a design co-operative.

One of Lou's assemblage art pieces
displayed at Waterloo Studios.

You have some carefully created boxes full of intriguing items displayed in your gallery. “Assemblage art,” you call it. What is that?
My assemblage pieces started as a series about 4 years ago. As a kid, I was intrigued by the dioramas at the Historical and Natural History museums. The work of Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp strongly influenced my boxes. I want to transform found objects through associations with other images -- the process is a little like poetry or jazz. The themes range from philosophy, Kabbalah, Buddhism, politics, terrorism and art history. I have completed about 18 assemblages so far, but now I’m taking a break and getting back to graphics, drawing and painting.

Who has influenced your art?
My influences are Max Beckmann, RB Kitaj (from Cleveland!), Larry Rivers, and Andy Warhol. Once art enters your bloodstream it’s there forever. It can provide moments of tremendous joy as well as periods of creative anxiety. Art can heal, disturb, provoke, and enlighten people. Our dream is to share some of these experiences at Waterloo Studios.

Anything else you’d like to share with us about art?
My mission is to promote and show emerging artists that have not had the opportunity or courage to share their work with the public. There are many exciting visual artists holding down other jobs, raising families and still finding the time and energy to make art. My only qualification is that they are committed and serious to their craft.

**If you are interested in renting studio space at Waterloo Studios or simply want to learn more about this art space, you may call Lou at 216.383.8002, or click here to connect on Facebook.  Waterloo Studios is located at 15316 Waterloo Road, Cleveland.


Elisa Vietri said...

Great interview and love the assemblage piece! I'm always happy to hear about growth in Waterloo. 

Pat Washington said...

 Thanks, Elisa. It's fun meeting new people this way. And it's *always* fun to talk about art!