Jerry Schmidt – Collinwood’s Man of Steel
You’ve seen his work rising up from the concrete like something from the far off reaches of your imagination. Gleaming in the sunlight, and accented with bright paint, and shiny steel. If you’ve ever wondered where all those great and wonderful “things” come from; which torch wielding genius architect gave life to them…well, let me introduce you to Jerry Schmidt.
When you first walk into Jerry’s studio, it’s as if you’ve been transported to Santa’s workshop. Only instead of Santa, there’s Jerry, and instead of toys, there is steel. Well, not just steel. There are walls covered in anything you can think of, and metal objects adorning every crevasse, waiting to take form into something beautiful. Your imagination takes you back to childhood, when anything was possible. You begin to notice the intricate ways each object is made, and the care and precision that it took to make them. Then you realize that you’re somewhere pretty special. Welcome to Waterloo 7 Studio & Gallery.
Jerry’s talent was honed by his father, Fred Schmidt, a world-renowned sculptor. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, Jerry would often spend hours watching his father work. It was then that he knew what he wanted to be.
“In the 60’s I really started to see it, at the age of eight. I’d come in and I’d watch him create. I remember the first time he had handed me a (welding) helmet, and I put that helmet on, and I saw the darkness. But then all of a sudden the light appeared, and it was like trying to find that light at the end of a tunnel. To me that’s what it reminded me of. Have I found that yet? I haven’t. I’m waiting for that. I think that’s when that light will ultimately be, when I meet my maker. Ya know? But all this in-between, all this other part, is the thrill of being a sculptor, and being able to do what I love to do, and that is art.”
Long before there was a “Waterloo Arts District”, there was Jerry Schmidt. He was one of the first artists to move into the area. His father passed away in 2001, which prompted a location change from a studio on E.51st & Superior. A friend of Jerry’s mentioned that there was a place on Waterloo Road available. He quickly took over the Zaller Building space, where he remained for 8 years, until finally ending up at his Waterloo 7 location. If you ask Jerry how the Waterloo Arts District got it’s start, he’ll tell you it was Miles Kennedy, and that without him none of this would be happening. He’ll speak of him with such reverence, that you know every word he’s telling you is true. He’ll tell you about all the time, money, and effort Miles spent, and that the things he accomplished in the neighborhood shouldn’t be forgotten. I agree.
“ We had no idea what was going to happen here. It wasn’t even a plan. I would have underground gorilla art shows at the gallery, with over a hundred extension cords for lighting. No heat. But people came. It was really great”
Speaking with Jerry, you get a sense of someone in tune with his work. Someone that sees things in the pieces he puts together. Taking sheets of steel, scraps of colored glass, rusty springs, old bicycles (well, you get the point), and turning them into wonderful mind-bending sculptures. You want to be around them, stand beside them. You want to hear what they are saying to you.
Jerry’s recent work can be seen at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the Fabulous Food Show at the IX Center (November), as well as many locations throughout Collinwood and Cleveland. When Jerry isn’t sculpting, he is active in various community programs. He volunteers at the Euclid Adult Activity center, and also teaches a weekly class with PEP (Positive Education Program).
Waterloo 7 Studio & Gallery is located at 15315 Waterloo Road, in the Waterloo Arts District. Please call to set up a time for viewing or consultation.