This public art installation is planned by the City of Cleveland and Dion Art on downtown Cleveland’s malls and will feature 3D polygons with artwork representing, from left, Ukraine, city of Cleveland, and the United States of America. It is one of many public art installations made, underway or planned in Cleveland by Dion Art that is moving its headquarters and studios from Ukraine to Cleveland (Dion Art). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM
War speeds up company’s transition to new home
Founded in Ukraine nearly two decades ago, Dion Art has been expanding thanks to stunning, innovative public art projects and a stabilizing, growing nation. When that growth slowed to a trickle a year ago when Russia began its all-out invasion of Ukraine, its founder and his friend made a choice — move Dion Art to Cleveland.
In Ukraine, with war a fact of daily life, communities and companies were no longer interested or able to invest the time and money to make its parks and plazas more attractive as places to linger and appreciate artistic beauty. Instead, if they hadn’t fled west to their European neighbors or to America, Ukrainians were devoting their time to surviving, supporting each other and fighting back to preserve their freedom.
Dion Art founder Igor Velykyy and his longtime friend, Ilya Palatnik, executive vice president of Cleveland-based CrossCountry Mortgage, had discussed transitioning the fast-growing art firm from Kyiv to Cleveland for years. But that’s becoming a reality this year as Dion Art plans to open its offices, showroom and studio this spring in the historic Utica Building, 2217 E. 9th St., in downtown Cleveland. It’s a big change for Dion Art which got its start in Kyiv in 2004.
Dion Art’s new offices and studio is in the 143-year-old Utica Building, across East 9th Street from Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland. An art showroom will be opening on the ground floor on the right side of the building. Separately, the building also hosts a few offices for CrossCountry Mortgage (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM
Palatnik, a Russian native from St. Petersburg, came to America two years before the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. That was also the year Ukrainians overwhelmingly voted for their own independence. Palatnik, then age 9, came with his Jewish family who won a Green Lottery and had a choice of several cities to move to — New York City, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, or Cleveland. The Palatnik family joined more than 40,000 Russian Jews in the move to Greater Cleveland. Not only were there many Russians here, but also a large, supportive Ukrainian diaspora.
He kept in touch with his friend Velykyy back in Ukraine, who was having greater success with Dion Art, winning clients in Ukraine and around the world, including an artistic soccer ball that was installed at one of the stadiums hosting the World Cup last fall in Qatar. Other projects in multiple countries included static and dynamic displays, plus traditional and artistic water fountains, sky fountains and mosaics of light. Eventually, he intended to shift more art development to Cleveland but the war accelerated that transition, Palatnik said in an interview with NEOtrans.
“Since the war started, not much was going on with Dion Art (in Ukraine),” he said. “The war sped up our transition to Cleveland. Now, all of our work is done in Cleveland.”
A rendering of a proposed art installation at the Green Goat Café Bar in the Superior Arts District on the east side of downtown Cleveland (Dion Art).
Founder Velykyy moved to Cleveland and they continue to hire people here, including offering opportunities to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war. But still, just over half of the company’s 23 employees remain in Kyiv, according to its Web site. That hasn’t slowed their efforts in securing American clients and customers for their public art, plus community and corporate branding installations. In fact, many of those installations are already starting to appear in downtown Cleveland, with more to come.
One of those is at the Green Goat Café Bar, on the ground floor of Airriva at Superior Living, 2125 Superior Ave. It is one of Dion Art’s first customers in Cleveland. Atop the entrance will be an attention-getting green goat carrying in its mouth a basket with a bounty of organic produce, the type that are sold in the café along with other healthy foods, non-GMO, organic, zero-toxin coffee plus cocktails and more.
Currently being installed are two items of public art for downtown cityscape branding, hosted by K&D Group at two of its properties. The sites for them are the courtyard in front of 55 Public Square, a high-rise newly redeveloped into apartments and modern offices, and on Prospect Avenue’s sidewalk near West 3rd Street, set in front of Post Office Plaza in the Tower City Center complex. Although K&D’s CEO Doug Price said he welcomes the art installations, he noted that they were commissioned by the city and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA).
How Dion Art’s installation on downtown Cleveland’s malls will look at night, showing off their internally illuminated three-dimensional polygons honoring Ukraine, the city of Cleveland and the United States of America (Dion Art).
But an even larger public art installation is in the works, potentially for the downtown Malls greenspace, above the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. There, a trio of three-dimensional polygons to be internally illuminated at night could be installed by the city sometime this spring. One will honor Dion Art’s founding country of Ukraine; another will honor the city of Cleveland complete with a clock that reveals its multiple gears; and last but not least, the third will honor the United States of America. Palatnik said the cost of the project is about $150,000.
“That’s our next project which we’re giving to the city,” Palatnik said. “We’re donating the three polygons by funding it ourselves.”
City officials, although personally supportive of the project, caution that the three polygons have not yet been approved by the city’s Landmarks Commission for installation on the downtown Malls. They note that the location for them could change, even if they are ultimately approved for installation somewhere. Also supportive is the DCA.
“We’re thrilled to collaborate with the city to produce unique urban experiences, animating downtown’s streets, parks and other spaces,” said Heather Holmes, DCA’s vice president of marketing and public relations. “This is another opportunity for pedestrians to engage with public art and experience a facet of Cleveland’s personality while celebrating international culture.”
An even larger local investment is being made by Dion Art, this time in a new $300,000 downtown Cleveland showroom for the art firm which was incorporated in Urkaine in 2019 and in Ohio last year. The showroom, located in Suite 101 of the 1880-built Utica Building on East 9th, which will be opened for invited guests and clients only. It is due to open in about 45 days, Palatnik said.
Some fountains can serve as features at splash parks but, after the kids have gone to bed, they can also be decorative and fun, interactive features for adults, too, like this one in Ukraine (Dion Art).
Work is well underway on the showroom now, and will feature a comfortable lounge-type setting with a bar and lots of artwork throughout. It will feature samples of artwork for sale, for inspiration and for static decoration, including a 12-foot-tall, 9-foot-wide tree with 140 glass magnolias on it. The magnolias are being made by Glass Bubble Project in Ohio City. Other pieces of art created by Dion Art are made by other local craftspeople and suppliers like Tendon Manufacturing Inc. of Bedford which makes steel components and Village Blacksmith of Chagrin Falls that makes custom metals.
“There’s a lot of potential customers in Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Columbus and other cities,” Palatnik said. “Many of them are looking for creative branding ideas for their properties, for special events or for community gathering places.”
One of those customers may be Destination Cleveland with whom Dion Art representatives met with last week to develop decorative wayfinding features around Greater Cleveland, he added.
Often times, those involved in the art world don’t get involved in the business world. Palatnik does. His “other job” as vice president of CrossCountry Mortgage is also located in the Utica Building. The fast-growing mortgage company relocated most of its offices from suburban Brecksville to the Superior Arts District. But some offices ended up in the Utica Building after Goldwater Bank N.A. Mortgage Division in Cleveland was absorbed by CrossCountry Mortgage, LLC, Cleveland, OH. Palatnik was Goldwater’s regional manager when it relocated downtown in 2020.
He also is active in helping to finance local real estate developments including a proposed multi-family building over several ground-floor commercial spaces at the former Sokolowski’s University Inn site in Tremont. And, just down the hill from Sokolowski’s, the abandoned Ferry Cap & Screw Co. factory on Scranton Road will be redeveloped with apartments now that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District has wrapped up its construction of a combined sewer overflow tunnel along Walworth Run which passes below the property.