Tremont ArtWalk Co-Founder Closing Gallery


By John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Jean Brandt never imagined that it would last this long.

After 24 years, the owner of Brandt Gallery and co-founder of Tremont ArtWalk will host her last art opening Friday.

Brandt Gallery, you see, is closing.

“The demands of my law practice and commitment to those clients is but one of the reasons at this time it is not practical to continue the on-going art exhibits at the space,” Brandt wrote in a statement on her gallery website.

Brandt is an institution in the Cleveland art scene. She has exhibited more than 180 shows featuring a diverse crowd of artists.

Her final show is “Constant Background – Prints by Bruce Edwards.” The show is part of the Tremont ArtWalk, a monthly event that has been instrumental in Tremont’s revival.

Brandt will continue practicing law out of the space, located at 1028 Kenilworth Ave. in Cleveland. She will also continue running Tremont ArtWalk with partner Steve Mastroianni (of Mastroianni Arts, 2688 West 14th St.).

“There are a lot of reasons I’m going to stop doing the gallery,” said Brandt via phone. “One is I want to spend more time playing the guitar.”

Brandt has been playing guitar since she was 7. Her love of music, poetry and art brought the Parma kid to Tremont in 1987 – long before there were high-end chefs, luxury townhouses and pricey boutiques.

Back then, Tremont was just beginning to experience gentrification. As is the case with neighborhoods in transition, the first wave of new residents consisted of artists and musicians.

Brandt was attracted to both.

She opened Brandt Gallery in 1990 to host a show by Cleveland artist Terry Durst, “Olde Stuff – a Retrospective.”

“At the time there were a few fledgling galleries in Tremont,” Durst wrote in a 2011 post on the gallery’s site. “But Jean has a vision of creating a real gallery, with regular shows, regular hours, announcements and listings.”

Brandt was always more interested in showing art and bringing people together to see it. “I went to Cleveland State, but it seemed like I was always at the museum,” said the 1985 CSU grad in a 2011 interview with The Plain Dealer. “I figured, ‘Hey, maybe I’ll never have the money to own art, but at least I can show it.’ ”

Brandt Gallery grew in popularity with Tremont’s revival. But it’s hard to imagine a revival without Brandt.

In 1993, she co-founded the Tremont ArtWalk with Sandy Rotkowski, who was the bar manager at Edison’s Pub.

The monthly event — the second Friday of every month — is one of the city’s most lively art events. It has also revived the neighborhood beyond the galleries and bars and restaurants that display art.

“ArtWalk is all about bringing businesses, artists, galleries and individuals together for one big meet-and-greet,” said Brandt in 2011. “I look at the people that come to the art openings and they may not exactly be the ‘art crowd,’ but that’s what’s so great about it. We’re bringing all kinds of people together to experience something new.”

Brandt helped set the table for the restaurant scene in Tremont. But she will always feel a kinship with the first wave of artists that made it all possible – and has not ruled out doing an art gallery again at some point.

“As one door closes another opens,” she writes on her site.

Who knows where that leads? But we do know that when she opened the doors to her gallery, it helped open Tremont to a new beginning.

“It’s been a very, very incredible experience,” says Brandt. “And I just want to say thanks to all the artists and supporters that have been there over the years.”