The Whole Deal

When Joseph Cintron begins a portrait, he sketches the essence of the figure.

The eyes are always last, explains the professor of foundation and painting at Cleveland Institute of Art.

In this case, it would be difficult to approach the painting in any other way: His subject and canvas are one. As Cintron peers over the shoulder of stylist Dena Krebs, she paints with a deep purple to create a shadow where the model's cheek and nose meet. Pointing with his pinkie finger, Cintron directs Krebs in her work — more color here, soften the shadow there.

He takes a half step back, but leans forward to make up the distance. It has the effect of intensifying his stare. It's a gaze that carries the heavy weight of a critic, but his heart offers the comfort of a teacher.

For the past few hours, artist and instructor have been transforming a model into a living portrait. (The finished image graces this month's cover.) Lunch has come and gone for the rest of us, but they're too absorbed to break.

At this point, I'll admit, I'm nervous. I lack the artist's vision to connect the dots from that first sketch to the final brushstroke. The right side of the model's face is a metallic silver-blue; the other half is deep purple. So I pace around the studio, flipping a football in the air and waiting for the creative process to play catch-up with what I've imagined.

In its simplest form, we wanted to turn our cover into a living piece of art. More than just writing about galleries and artists, we wanted to be a part of the creative process. We wanted to tap into the energy that Cleveland's arts community has been building over the last several years.

The spark for such a special feature was ignited back in January, when an artist friend attended Great Lakes Publishing's exhibit, Beyond the Printed Page, and suggested a comprehensive guide to Cleveland's galleries.

Back then, the arts community was rallying around Issue 31, Cuyahoga County's tax levy for economic development and the arts. And though it failed by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent, a strong grass-roots push buoyed the muddled issue. Public funding for the arts remains a critical effort for many, and defeat at the ballot box back in March has done little to curb our city's creative juices.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland has proposed the Arts and Cultural Tourism Center to market our cultural offerings locally and beyond. Its mission would be to create partnerships and programs that support the arts and boost the economy.

Similarly, there's a push for a four-day citywide arts festival next summer to mix the arts, culture and technology. The county has already kicked in $30,000 and may add another $150,000 in the future.

Still, far too many Clevelanders don't fully appreciate what art, in all its forms, contributes to our lives and our community. We hope our cover package on how and where to buy art will start you on such a journey.

Because in order for the arts and our community to thrive, we must see the whole picture. We must learn to appreciate its essence and also attend to the finer details of the eye.

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