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Transformer Station Joins the CMA

With thanks to the Bidwells
August 29, 2023

Transformer Station’s original façade was built in 1924. The Bidwells added a modern addition in 2011 but retained the original grandeur of the railway building.

Hingetown’s Transformer Station has officially joined the CMA as a satellite location dedicated to contemporary art. This acquisition came after 10 years of a successful working partnership with art collectors Fred and Laura Bidwell, the founders of Transformer Station. Since 2013, the CMA and the Bidwells have partnered on critically acclaimed exhibitions, such as New Histories, New Futures and FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, to offer fresh, engaging programming outside of University Circle. 

History of the Space
Built by Cleveland’s one-time private transit provider the Cleveland Railway Company, Transformer Station’s original building is one of 16 substations that managed Cleveland’s public transit in the early 20th century. The original façade of the building was constructed in 1924; this facility converted power for the Detroit Avenue streetcar line, an active corridor on the west side that carried 19 million riders during its peak years. 

The original building was used as a transformer station by the railway company until 1949, when the City of Cleveland offered it for auction. From the early 1980s until 2010, it housed an artist’s foundry. Upon its purchase by Fred and Laura Bidwell in 2011, it underwent renovations and a contemporary addition was added—all the while ensuring that the original space, masonry, and ironwork were restored and maintained with historical integrity.

Installation view of New Histories, New Futures

The Generosity of Donors
Longtime patrons of the arts in Akron and Cleveland, the Bidwells felt compelled to buy the old transformer building after decades of amassing a significant, privately owned photography collection. Upon purchasing the building, they started planning programming that would engage and transform the west side of Cleveland and quickly partnered with the CMA to do so on a larger scale. The last decade has proven beneficial for the community in Hingetown and has allowed the CMA to present new and experimental contemporary art projects in a dedicated space.

Vibrant Programming
The CMA ownership of Transformer Station kicked off with the opening of the exhibition Blow by Japanese artist Tabaimo in July. Blow is a four-channel, immersive video installation that blurs the line between fantasy and reality, combining digital animation with traditional Japanese symbolism to present a layered art experience, meant to be witnessed both cognitively and sensorially. This show runs through February 3, 2024.

The CMA plans to utilize Transformer Station as a hub to present the work of emerging artists, share time-based media, host live music performances, and create dynamic social experiences. The CMA is grateful for the collaboration and generosity of the Bidwells in allowing us to advance our mission to provide transformative experiences through art, for the benefit of all the people forever.