John Farina now Executive Director of ARTneo

KqedyrOc_400x400Article by Steven Litt

The board of directors of ARTneo, formerly known as the Cleveland Artists Foundation, named arts administrator John Farina as the organization’s new executive director.

Farina, 46, has been interim director of the organization since January, following the departure of previous director, Lauren Hansgen.

Established 30 years ago, ARTneo collects and exhibits the works of Northeast Ohio artists.

Located for more than a decade at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, the organization recently moved to the 78th Street Studios in Cleveland, where it will lease a new, 2,500-square-foot gallery starting in February. The organization has occupied temporary space at West 78th Street since the summer.

“I think it’s an exciting opportunity,” Farina said late Thursday about his appointment. “I think there’s a lot of room for ARTneo to grow, if not completely reinvent itself. There’s room for us to be a source for information about the history of Cleveland art and to extend that into more contemporary artists as well.”

Farina’s background includes two decades of experience in organizations including the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Beck Center. Farina is the co-owner of the for-profit Maria Neil Art Project gallery in Collinwood, along with his fiance, Adam Tully.

Farina said he will be stepping down as president of the board of the nonprofit gallery Spaces this month, but will remain a trustee of that organization, which focuses on experimental works by rising and midcareer contemporary artists.

Spaces recently sold its loft building on Superior Viaduct and is seeking a new home after a potential lease on a building in Ohio City’s Hingetown area fell through earlier this year.

Farina said he does not see a conflict among his various roles, in part because the missions of Spaces and ARTneo differ.

“We do two different things, and most of our audience is different,” Farina said.

He said that if Spaces and ARTneo approached the same potential funder for donations, he would remove himself from the conversation.

The part-time directorship at ARTneo will also not pose a conflict with his responsibilities at his for-profit Collinwood gallery, Farina said.

ARTneo has a collection of roughly 2,500 works of art by Northeast Ohio artists, a membership of 125, and an annual attendance of roughly 3,500, Farina said.

The organization has published numerous catalogs on exhibitions of modern and contemporary Northeast Ohio art, which are among the few scholarly resources on the subject.

The organization applied for, but did not receive, annual operating support for 2015 from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, the county political subdivision that distributes money raised from the 30-cents-a-pack tax on cigarettes approved by county voters in 2006.

Farina said that the panel of experts that reviewed the competitive applications for operating support for the coming year “looked at us as an organization that was in transition and wanted to look at us for a year before they considered us again.”

Farina said ARTneo expects to strengthen its position among regional visual arts organizations.

“I really want us to find our place as a museum of Cleveland art and to own that position, both from a research capacity and as a place where people are willing to leave collections,” he said. “We should be the go-to resource for Northeast Ohio art.”