April 17, 2014

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15 Minutes: Meet Lorain art booster Paul Biber

Paul Biber
Age: 64
Lives: Lorain
Pursuit: Art booster

Paul, you have a “gig” on Broadway — in Lorain. What do you do?

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This is our opening act for Follow the Fish. It’s a public art project, the goal of which is to connect art with economic development. One of the big research findings lately is that in underdeveloped areas art is a key economic tool. Look near us, Tremont (a near west side neighborhood in Cleveland), Gordon Square — Gordon Square predicated itself on the arts. You have the theater there, the Cleveland public theater, two art galleries and then a half dozen restaurants or so to service that traffic.

A similar situation happened earlier in the Warehouse District in Cleveland where artists opened galleries and living space and then were pushed out.

Yes, that’s a typical situation where artists come in, it becomes a viable area and then they move on because they can no longer afford the rent. In terms of economic development, that makes sense. Probably the greatest success story, if you walked through Soho in New York in the 1970s, it was vacant. Then artists moved in, galleries moved in and it changed the face of the neighborhood so it became an economic advantage to the gallery owners to sell their property instead of hanging on to it. Then they moved on to Chelsea. Hopefully, we’ll have that problem.

I see you’re washing windows, are you a window washer by trade?

I taught history at Admiral King for 37 years and I’m retired from that. I’ve been in the art business for 30 years. I’ve had galleries in Cleveland in the Power House, in the Arcade, the Flats. We currently have a not-for-profit in the Tower Press Building in Cleveland — the Red Dot Project. No, I’m a helper on this. I’m on the steering committee for the Follow the Fish Adventure Trail, and we’re trying to get it up and running for the Zombies on Broadway event. We’re going to try to have artwork in here with the theme of artist-created fish, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, etc.

Are you an artist yourself?

No, the only thing creative I do is keep the doors open.

What’s the address on Broadway?

642 — this is the old Tivoli Theatre. We’re toying with the idea of showing some films in here, too.

What’s the Zombie walk?

It’s going to be, I think, from Ninth Street to Fourth on Broadway, 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday. Broadway will be blocked off. There will be a band, painting faces for zombies.

Do you have any hobbies?

No, between teaching and the art business, that’s kept me busy.

Chronicle photographer Chuck Humel shines the spotlight on the people of Lorain County each week. Know someone worthy of 15 Minutes? E-mail chumel@chroniclet.com.