The George Gund Foundation
The Rogers Company Brings Changing Minds
To Life in Public Space
The exhibit Changing Minds has a goal that is both straightforward and challenging. Featuring work by award-winning photographer Lisa Kessler, the exhibit captures moments of passion, concentration, and celebration from the teachers, parents, and students that make up the Cleveland Metropolitan School System. The title reflects how public schools in Cleveland are dispelling myths, breaking down barriers, and re-picturing education. The project was commissioned by The George Gund Foundation.
Photography, however, was just the start of bringing this message to the public. An exhibit of the work was planned in order for a wider audience to gain access to the photos and to celebrate not only the photographic images, but the spirit of the children they highlighted.
The Rogers Company worked with design firm Nesnadny + Schwartz to bring this exhibit to the public with a display that is designed to travel throughout the Cleveland Public Library system. The project put forward a unique set of challenges and opportunities that Rogers needed to work through in order to ensure that the goals of the project were met, the vision of the artist was fulfilled, and that the exhibit had a successful transition between the different spaces it will inhabit. Nesnadny + Schwartz created the initial theme and graphics along with rough exhibit ideas of Changing Minds, then Rogers presented three design concepts for the space. N+S and the George Gund Foundation then chose one of those designs to move forward with.
A Dramatic Space with Challenges
The inaugural space for the exhibit was in the Louis Stokes Wing of the Cleveland Public Library’s downtown branch. This sunken atrium provides a dramatic space with natural light and public view from above and within the exhibit. Because the space is just steps off the heart of downtown Cleveland, the exhibit is encountered both by people simply passing through the library space as well as those deliberately seeking it out.
With natural light and architecture that marries the historic library building with contemporary architecture, the atrium provides a dramatic backdrop for the exhibit. It also presented some challenges. First, the space is a very active public space with multiple uses. It serves as connector of pedestrian traffic from the historic part of the library into the new, as a hub from stairs and elevators moving traffic vertically through the space, and as an occasional lobby to a small auditorium. Another challenge was the two imposing 20’ diameter by 40’ high cast-in-place unfinished concrete enclosures for stairs and elevators that flank the atrium.
In addition, the exhibit called for projections which would open more display possibilities and expand the exhibit. However, with a west facing wall of windows at the second story level, and newly upgraded lighting within the space, ambient light became an issue. In addition, finding mounting locations for the projectors with access to power was difficult.
In fact, power for the entire exhibit was an issue. In addition to the projectors, electrical power was needed for lighting and to backlight some of graphics. Unfortunately, all the power outlets were located on the decorative blue columns flanking the atrium and the floors were smooth, stone tiles making running powerlines on the floor nearly impossible.
Finally, the Louis Stokes atrium presented very few opportunities to hang photographs on walls. Virtually every outer wall is provides access to another space.
Columns, Projection, and Innovation
Rogers addressed the challenge of space limitations and the need for flexibility by creating towers to display the artwork and also to highlight the name of the exhibit. The towers are constructed of lightweight aluminum extrusion frames with laminated panel “skins”. Two of the columns have a backlit printed silicone-edged fabric graphic’s (SEG). The tops are translucent white acrylic with silhouette cut letters. Each top is backlit. The LED lights within the tops and behind the fabric graphics scroll through a range of colors further supporting the idea of “Changing”. Additional floor graphics with non-skid laminate completed the message of “Changing Minds”.
To meet the challenges of mounting projectors, Rogers used the column design to create a shelf 12’ above the floor to support two high output (8000 lumen) projectors. The location, power and quality of the projectors provide large, crisp images even on a convex surface and with the ambient light.
To avoid problems with supplying power to the exhibit, Rogers engineered an overhead wire management system connecting the columns.
The exhibit was crafted, constructed and set up in Rogers’ extensive design and fabrication facility located just outside Cleveland in Mentor, Ohio. The entire exhibit was disassembled, transported and then reassembled on site. The matted and framed photos were then hung on site. Installation required two days with most of the assembly happening on the first day, and artwork installation and AV adjustments happening on the second. The whole process was designed to minimize the impact on the public use of the space.
A Dramatic Result
The final installation is a dramatic exhibit that integrates seamlessly into the space and captures the spirit of the entire project. The exhibit grabs the attention of library attendees from above, while providing for the free flow of movement or up-close interaction from below.
Originally, the project scope was to exhibit only some of Kessler’s portfolio of 59 photographs. But the final design of the exhibit allowed for all 59 of the photos to be shown - particularly important so no child photographed was excluded.
Changing Minds is showcased at the Cleveland Public Library’s Louis Stokes Wing from September 2 through October 28. A smaller traveling exhibit tours seven Cleveland Public Library branch locations. The schedule and photographs can be viewed here: gundfdn.org/change.
Click on an image to start the slide show.