By Devon Jones
As a part of our mission, The Cleveland Observer seeks to uplift Black-owned businesses in or near Cleveland. This month’s Black-owned business highlight features Blank Canvas CLE which is an art gallery located at 2174 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. The owner is Michael Newman, a Cleveland native raised in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood; he currently resides in University Heights. During this interview, we discussed various topics in regard to owning a business and some of the challenges associated with operating a business. Blank Canvas CLE has been in operation since 2019.
Newman stated that his favorite thing about Cleveland is the untapped potential the city has to offer. He further stated that when people visit Cleveland they are amazed at the various attractions and vibe the city has to offer. One of his primary goals is to bring that potential to the forefront by connecting with local artists and community members at large.
As the interview continued, we talked about the main reason he decided to open an art gallery. He said he had so much art that he sought an outlet to sell his creations as well as other artists’ creations. When asked about how the community responded to the Blank Canvas CLE art gallery he stated, “The community has responded positively to the business. They tend to be overwhelmed with the selection and gravitate towards art and me in general.” Some of the pieces in the Blank Canvas CLE inventory feature artwork inspired by key figures and movements within pop culture.
A key goal of this interview was to gain insight on how to operate a business and some ways to establish your idea into a profitable operation. I asked Newman, “What are some words of advice you would give to someone seeking to start a business?” He replied, “You don’t know what you don’t know, thus mentorship is important. You should seek to get advice and expand your knowledge to help you along the way. There are many resources available as well such as the Small Business Administration, the Economic Community Development Institute, and Jumpstart. These resources can help you turn your idea into a functioning business. With startups having challenges getting loans, these resources can assist in ways to raise capital and lay the foundation for your business.”
As the interview continued, I asked Newman what were some of the challenges he encountered owning and operating a black-owned business. He replied, “Many challenges faced came from not having access or awareness to certain resources. An example of this could be gaining legal assistance due to the fact I did not have those connections prior to starting Blank Canvas CLE.” Through continued commitment and building relationships, Blank Canvas CLE has been able to develop a customer base and communal presence.
In conclusion of our interview, I sought to understand how Blank Canvas CLE planned to engage the community. He offered various ways to which he planned to engage community members such as, but not limited to: open mic nights, poetry and spoken word events, art classes, and other local events open to the public. Newman stated that his key goal is to help heal the community through artistic expression thus, he is open to working with local organizations and businesses to help facilitate that process. Blank Canvas CLE is located near many attractions on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, with a fun and inviting atmosphere, with many unique pieces of art. To find more information about this Black-owned business visit www.blankcanvascle.com.