Tizziana Baldenebro believes the role of an artist goes far beyond the art they create.
“I am one of those people who truly believes that artists possess a magical, mystical quality,” says Baldenebro. “That is going to be what we have to look to as we envision ourselves in the future.”
Born to a Colombian mother and a Mexican-American father who raised her to seek out cultural experiences in museums across California, Baldenebro brings with her great appreciation for experimentation as the new executive director for Spaces. By providing residency programs, financial support and a multicultural platform from which artists can share their work, the Ohio City art gallery has been a champion for up-and-coming artists, many of whom have recently graduated from MFA programs and are still finding their way.
“We love the work that comes through here, but it’s also about it being a place to experiment and to challenge your own perceptions of what you do as artists,” she says.
Earlier this year, Baldenebro resigned from her former position as Ford Foundation curatorial fellow at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit after the executive director came under fire for alleged racist incidents. Baldenebro helped organize 70 signatures calling for the executive director’s immediate removal and collaborated with MOCAD’s senior curator on an exhibit of present and former staff who create work of their own. It’s this sense of activism on behalf of the artist that drew Baldenebro to Spaces. In response to COVID-19, the gallery reallocated $1,000 each to more than 120 artists across Cuyahoga County.
“Thinking about Spaces as a place that has consistently supported that effort and has consistently been there for artists, it’s really beautiful and empowering in many ways,” she says.
Baldenebro will oversee Spaces’ annual benefit Nov. 7 with a theme of “When do we whisper? When do we shout?,” a 12-hour event incorporating past and present artists.
“It sort of encompasses a lot of the nature of 2020 where we’ve all been through this kind of moment whether it be lockdown at home or out in the streets and marching and protesting,” she says.
Baldenebro also has plans to strengthen relationships with Cleveland-based artists by conducting formalized studio visits by herself and with other creative leaders as a means of creating dialogue around an artist’s process.
Although she muses on hosting Instagram Live events, she’s most excited about the 2021 season in which a number of residencies will be made available to artists. These residencies, which she hopes to announce before the end of the year, will feature enigmatic artists, some of which will push the envelope on a number of social issues.
“As we’re sort of entering this world where we have to be nimble, both digitally and physically, I’m trying to be very thoughtful in regard to the way that we present ourselves,” says Baldenebro.