Liz Maugans - Alumni Spotlight
Liz Maugans (BFA '89) studied printmaking and painting at Kent State University and during this time, she began her community building skills with other artists. After receiving her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, she began her trajectory as an artist and an advocate in Cleveland, making it the bustling arts community it is today. Maugans played an integral part in founding multiple organizations, exhibitions, and artist collectives in the area and has since passed the reigns on to others in the community.
Liz Maugans is currently the Director of YARDS Projects, and curator of the Dalad Collection at Worthington Yards in Cleveland’s Warehouse District. She is the Chief of Community Engagement and Programming at ART EverySpace. She co-founded and is the Former Executive Director of Zygote Press, a non-profit printmaking studio also located in Cleveland, Ohio. She founded the Collective Arts Network, a quarterly journal, online resource and arts consortium that works to promote Northeast Ohio artists and organizations to a greater audience. She is founder of the Artist Trust, an open access collective arts project and artist registry to better connect Cuyahoga County Artists of all disciplines to each other and the greater community (aka Cleveland Artist Registry). Maugans was instrumental in bringing the Rooms-to-Let Project to Slavic Village and acts as a consultant and participant of the temporary installations that take place in foreclosed houses. Maugans chairs the Community Advisory Committee for FRONT International Triennial and is an active Board Trustee of the Collective Arts Network.
A. Kent was the reason for much of the success I have had in the arts. Gallery 425 (pictured right) was the beginning of my community arts organizing days. It started with a group of six artists who didn’t have access for a space to do our BFA exhibitions. Leading up to our final exhibitions, we all chipped in $50 a month and split the space up into six studio spaces. What is exciting is that we all worked together and had pop-up events here and created a space which was right down the street from the old sculpture studio on Gougler Street. Gallery 425 lasted over 20+ years with other art students doing the same thing and made it their own scene. This is how you create community and something out of nothing. I started Zygote Press, a collective printmaking studio in Cleveland, and much of my collective DNA started back in Kent.
Q. Many of your projects involve supporting other artists. Why is that important to you?
A. I feel that making art can be one of the most isolating landscapes for artists. Many introspective people are artists and this can make the act of making art and the exchange of ideas pretty lonely. I am a twin, so since the moment I was born I always had someone to share my ideas and toys with. Later in life, this led to sharing resources with other artists; equipment (presses and other facilities at Zygote), marketing/promotion through the Collective Artist Network (CAN Journal), and other community engaged projects I have been a part of here in this region (Cleveland Artist Registry, Rooms-to-Let).
It’s been so important to me because as we advocate for our artist community and artists, the general public values what our sector does to enhance our places, spaces and people more. We spur economic development in places that have been de-invested and we attract people to neighborhoods through things like music venues, galleries and pop-ups. Art is the vehicle to showcase the myriad of voices and perspectives that are all too often not heard. Artists just do it best. We sometimes just don’t articulate these points to the outside world as successfully as in other sectors.
A. Simply, connect to mentors who you admire and like what they are doing! Intern, volunteer, sign-up, and enlist in other arts collectives. I am thrilled to be represented by a Kent State alumnus, Hilary Gent, who runs Hedge Gallery. Years ago, I assisted Michael Loderstedt, a former KSU professor, and just recently helped him install an exhibition. I had a fantastic intern this summer, Grace Carter, who reached out to me after I gave at the keynote speech at Kent State this past spring because that was the advice I gave during my talk. Be engaged, get excited about the purpose-driven missions of organizations that you think are doing groovy stuff and make them your tribe. They will be the six degrees of separation to your next opportunity. The leadership, the cohort you will become a part of will write you recommendation letters, and these are the very gateway spaces and places you will find work, experience and joy!
Images: (Top) Liz Maugans in front of her work, You Syria, Photo by Jeff Downie, (Right) Gallery 425 in Kent, an artist collective that was co-founded by Maugans, (Bottom) Liz Maugans, Girl-nica, 2019, collage.