When we started Crafty Supermarket seven years ago here in Cincinnati, we were filling a need that had previously been unmet for a place for modern crafters and avant garde artists to meet and sell their work. Our first event at the Northside Tavern in 2009 drew 1,000 shoppers over the course of six hours, way more than we had expected. During the rush of that first show, Ruth Dickey, then director of the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, approached us about having our next show at the CCAC, a venue we had dreamed of using but had assumed was too expensive. We were wrong! That next spring, we filled the CCAC with 1,600 people and 45 crafters, and we grew with each subsequent event there.
Six years later, our spring Crafty Supermarket shows draw more than 2,000 shoppers each year to the CCAC, a venue that we love not only for the incredible staff and volunteers but for the building’s historic charm. Since we only do two shows a year, the CCAC itself has become part of our culture, and we love taking over the entire first floor with makers from all over the Midwest.
Now the Clifton Cultural Arts Center needs our help.
The Fairview Clifton German Language School across the street is facing overcrowding issues because of increased kindergarten sizes. Cincinnati Public Schools last fall approached the CCAC about renting a number of classrooms to use for overflow space. (The CCAC has a 30-year lease on the building from CPS, and the CCAC is financially responsible for the building’s maintenance and capital improvements. According to the lease, the CCAC may rent space back to the school district at market rates if the space is available.) Negotiations stalled, and the CCAC assumed that CPS had come up with an alternative idea. Then in January the CCAC was notified by the district lawyer that it was likely the district would exercise the clause in their lease that would allow them to cancel the lease with one year’s notice. That would mean that as of spring 2017 the Clifton Cultural Arts Center would no longer have a home.
We have a personal stake in the outcome: Our relationship with the CCAC has brought us to many other events there over the years including Wednesdays on the Green, numerous art openings, Sunset Salon sessions and more. These events, along with Crafty Supermarket, are vital to the local Clifton community as well as Cincinnati at large. The CCAC fills another unique need in Cincinnati: Very few venues in the city have more than 5,000 square feet of space for events, and even fewer have the charm of the CCAC. It would be a disservice to the community if the Clifton Cultural Arts Center lost its building, and our spring show would no longer have the room to take place in the Gaslight District, our home for so many years.
The CCAC has a number of proposals for how they can happily co-exist with CPS, and the Clifton community passed a resolution its Town Meeting this past Monday that it wants to work towards a solution in which the CCAC continues to grow in its current location while CPS ensures that children in the neighborhood have good educational opportunities. And the Cincinnati City Council this week passed a resolution in favor of preserving the CCAC. But that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods just yet.
If you love the Clifton Cultural Arts Center as much as we do and want to see it exist for many years into the future, please wear a red shirt to the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Monday! The BOE meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Auditorium at the Education Center at 2651 Burnet Ave. in Corryville.
And you can use this image (featuring a linocut by Steam Whistle Letterpress of the historic Clifton School building) as your Facebook profile image — share away!