Name: Drew Klein
Title: Performance Curator for the Contemporary Arts Center
Hometown: Findlay, Ohio
Why we love him: He keeps Cincinnati’s music and arts scene cutting edge and is devoted to providing new surprises and experiences for the entire city.
After studying electronic media at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, Drew Klein — also a musician — embarked on some serious globetrotting, gathering industry experience and insight in the process.
And after moving to places like Barcelona and New York, Klein has spent the past few years back in the Queen City as the Contemporary Arts Center’s first-ever performance curator (contemporaryartscenter.org/performances).
“I’m thankful every day to be in a position where my most unconventional ideas are championed,” he says.
Klein pulls from lessons he learned at CCM, during his travels and as a performer as he curates performances for the CAC. “Being a musician allows me to understand the performer’s perspective,” he says. “It fuels my desire to find what’s new. Working in film sharpened my critical and creative eye … and [showed me] the importance of letting go of baggage and negativity.”
As he moves from project to project, each week brings something new. He may be traveling to scout talent or busy testing theatrical and technical elements for upcoming performances at the black box theater or glued to his desk the next.
“I can usually be found arranging all the puzzle pieces and endlessly researching new performances and ideas that might make their way into our program in future seasons,” he says. “Each performance presents a new opportunity to be challenged and inspired, oftentimes in equal measure.”
As for upcoming projects, Klein says he’s especially excited about presenting Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s red, black, & GREEN: a blues, a multimedia performance with visual instillation by Theaster Gates. “It addresses environmental issues from the perspective of communities of color,” he explains. “I have obsessed over this project for two years and am excited to use contemporary performance as a tool for a larger social dialogue.”
What are you most passionate about?
I feel passionate about art that strikes something deep inside of me or brings about new perspectives. It’s a serious, heated romance when you first encounter a song, film or other work that taps into an emotional well you didn’t know existed before.
What do you love about Cincinnati?
I love the opportunities Cincinnati provides to those with drive and determination. It’s exceedingly difficult to get something off the ground in a larger city, and it’s hard to feel like you’re making something of impact. There are endless examples here of people building something unique that they are passionate about: restaurants, hair salons, art supply stores, DIY art venues, you name it. Right now, the city seems to be really getting behind these endeavors and investing in the people who’ve worked so hard to create something exciting in and of Cincinnati.
What is the best lesson life has taught you about love?
Life has taught me many things about love, but I think the most important is to love freely without expectation or agenda. Any semblance of control in love is pure illusion, but allowing for whatever may be to be can bring some liberation and peace. It’s not an easy lesson to learn, though.
What is a phrase or motto you live your life by?
I’ve taken to saying “onwards and upwards,” ever since hearing a former film colleague use it frequently. To me it proposes embracing a situation while not letting it stop you from growing. I find comfort in that.