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Nonprofit art gallery in Cleveland fights to stay open with help from local musicians

Posted at 10:13 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 00:42:53-04

CLEVELAND — A nonprofit art gallery in Cleveland is struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gadi Zamir, the founder and executive director of Negative Space, said he's unable to hold events or sell artwork during this time, and that means a big drop in income.

Zamir opened Negative Space in 2010, using money he received from an award. His goal was to be able to "give other people, who were like me, opportunities without the bureaucracy or commission or rigorous procedure that other galleries do."

Negative Space has hosted events, concerts and art shows for artists and musicians, and it's also been the site of summer camps for kids at Open Doors Academy. But right now, it remains closed to the public, unable to generate income.

Zamir said that because of the lack of income during this time, he's struggling to pay rent and is also worried about the owners of his building, since other businesses in the building are also closed right now.

"They always believe in us, and I really want to make them proud and to help them as well, cause they’re struggling," Zamir said. "We're all struggling to maintain something beautiful."

"Because of COVID-19, no one can come in," said Dave Deitke, a local music teacher, musician and board member at Negative Space.

Deitke teaches music at STEPS Academy, a charter school for kids with autism, as well as Insightful Minds and Willow Farms, which are part of the same education group.

He is also a full-time musician who has played in nursing homes and at bars. He said having "a place to go and actually perform or actually have a chance to show your work" is important and is the "first step to realize, actualize, your dreams."

That's what Negative Space has been for him.

"If you can’t get out and if you can’t attempt to do it, it’s always this thing that’s in the back of your mind," Deitke said. He added that, as a music teacher, he has to live what he teaches or it would feel inauthentic.

During this time, he is hoping to do what he can to help Negative Space stay open as a community space, even if right now that means focusing on the online community.

"So what we’re doing to combat that is we’re doing an online concert fundraiser. Gadi’s got a GoFundMe," Deitke said. "We have got a group of local musicians to donate their time and stream from their platform, and we’re sharing their streams on our platform."

These musicians, Deitke said, include people who have played or had shows at Negative Space. They're performing on Facebook Live every evening this week, and Negative Space is sharing those streams on its own Facebook page.

"They’re giving back by playing and just telling stories and memories from Negative Space, and if any of their fans or any of their reach wants to donate, there’s a GoFundMe link with a bunch of gifts for every donation," Deitke said.

He said he hopes that maybe "through this, we reach more people that wouldn’t have found where we were at before" and can expand to a new network of people.

"Hopefully we can hold bigger events and keep going with where we’re going and make a strong team and a strong effort to keep putting art out there and get artists seen," Deitke said.

Zamir is grateful for the support he's receiving from local artists who have performed or done shows at Negative Space, describing it as "humbling."

"We’ve been touched and touched so many people," Zamir said. "It’s like a big family."

He hopes the support is enough to keep Negative Space open, as a place to inspire and be inspired, for many years to come.

"If we do good, good will come our way. That’s what I believe," Zamir said.

To visit the GoFundMe page, click here.