On Feb. 5, the Transformer Station closed its doors on Fred and Laura Bidwell’s final show. The Bidwells gifted the Hingetown gallery to the Cleveland Museum of Art after 10 years of use, during which the local collectors and museum alternated exhibitions.
Fred Bidwell cites his involvement with Front International, Cleveland’s triennial contemporary art festival, as a reason to refocus. But the couple isn't going far — they plan to build a house next door. “You’ll be able to practically reach out and touch it,” says Fred, 70. “We’ve had such a successful run and it’s felt so satisfying. The museum will do an amazing job, and this will give us a little extra time to breathe.”
The Transformer Station itself, renovated at the Bidwells’ expense, is worth an estimated $1.2 million. CMA plans to keep the platform open as a showcase for various art forms, including culinary and performance. We asked the Bidwells to reflect on their catalytic project, as it propelled Hingetown and introduced Clevelanders to one of the top 100 private collections in the country, with more than 1,300 pieces of work curated since the Bidwells' first acquisitions in 1991.
Fred and Laura Bidwell: Courtesy Fred Bidwell
Townsquare Rock: The first concert we did in collaboration with the CMA was a wow factor moment. I realized, wow, this neighborhood is going to explode. These are amazing bands, sort of like Elton John, Rolling Stones level in their home country. Popular music from Africa, the Caribbeans, South America, Eastern Europe. The first 10 minutes of every concert, people are trying to figure out, what kind of crazy music is this? And then for the rest of the two hours, everyone’s dancing their tails off. —FB
Living Legacy: Local, national, international, it does not matter, we love and support artists. We get to know them and we get to know what they’re thinking and their ideas. That is the beauty of dealing with contemporary artists. —LB
Anchoring Hingetown: We don’t deserve any credit for the name Hingetown, which was really developed by Graham Veysey and Marika Shioiri-Clark. The Transformer Station was an unexpected success in bringing contemporary art to the west side, which had no museum venue at all, and transforming a neighborhood that needed love. I think [it] just gave others the courage to invest. —FB
Taking Ownership: When someone lost their keys, they call Fred Bidwell. When the humidity is too high, they call Fred Bidwell. When there’s a security issue — any issue at all with the physical building — call Fred Bidwell. We get credit for being glamorous and having things on the wall, but there are things behind the scenes. —LB
Artistic Nature: Photography is a fascinating medium. It’s the only artistic medium that has been in this state of constant change and revolution ever since it was invented in the early 19th century. —FB
True Heroes: Our handlers and art installers, they are the geniuses of the world. They can solve any problem. They save the world. —LB
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