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Tom Balbo, the founder and Artistic Director for the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory & Educational Foundation (The Morgan Conservatory) is moving into the role of Papermaker Emeritus. This makes it possible for Balbo to provide his expertise and

guidance to handmade papermaking, printmaking, and book artists around the world on behalf of The Morgan Conservatory while he expands his focus on his personal interests in ceramics and fiber art.

Balbo opened The Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland’s Midtown neighborhood in 2008, as the original Executive Director, based on his vision to emulate an experience he had as both a participant and instructor where paper and book artists came together to share their craft and both gain and give inspiration. “I wanted to create a broad-ranging space that focused on eastern- and western-paper making techniques and everything in between,” said Balbo. “And, it has worked. Over the years, we have hosted many events and people have come from all over the world. The number of people who have come has blown me away.”

Although Balbo is stepping away from day-to-day operational responsibilities, he will share his expertise through The Morgan Conservatory’s Artist in Residence program and occasional workshops, represent the organization at events and conferences, and remain active in the annual fall harvest of kozo, grown in the Sam Caraboolad Garden. This half-acre garden, started by Balbo, contains one of the largest kozo groves in the United States. Kozo is a primary raw material used in making Eastern-style paper, thus creating a self-sustaining papermaking process within The Morgan Conservatory’s campus.

Balbo’s desire to remain connected with The Morgan Conservatory comes from a sustained, deep-rooted interest, “to encourage others as they push the artistic boundaries of hand papermaking, letterpress, and book art. I’ve been inspired by others’ generosity in sharing their teaching techniques and enthusiasm and I want to pay it forward by continuing to teach, coach, and mentor.”

The Morgan Conservatory demonstrates its mission of education partially through their internship program for college students and their programming which enables artists of all skill levels and ages to reserve time and space in the studio. For artists who have recently graduated from college or graduate school, The Morgan Conservatory is especially valuable as, “they realize that the resources and spaces they had in school are no longer accessible to them,” said Balbo. “Our interns and artists in residence have all been instrumental in helping The Morgan move forward. It has been exciting to see where they have gone after leaving here and how they are advancing the field.”

“With Tom’s ongoing involvement and our persistent focus on supporting artists, The Morgan Conservatory will remain a valuable resource for artists of all levels,” said Leonard Young, Executive Director.

In parallel with Balbo’s role change, The Morgan Conservatory is creating a new strategic plan. “Our planning is helping us think about how we will keep expanding The Morgan Conservatory’s impact with this change in leadership,” said Maggie Denk-Leigh, Board Chair for The Morgan Conservatory and Associate Professor and Printmaking Department Chair at the Cleveland Institute of Art. The plan includes, “a revisioning of our campus and how we want to interact with the community. We have purchased surrounding properties over the years and we want to use this space for additional programming to further Tom’s intention of being a makerspace in the Midtown neighborhood,” said Denk-Leigh. “This will also reinforce our ability to create and teach a self-sustaining papermaking process.”

As he transitions to his Papermaker Emeritus role, Balbo will transfer key artistic and operational information to staff. As stated by Young, “We have always had such talented people and our staff is ready to take on these additional responsibilities to guide our artistic direction and programming and maintain our facilities.” In preparation for Balbo’s role change, The Morgan Conservatory recently restructured some positions and, according to Young, “will continue to look at how to bring in additional talent to bring new and avante-garde ideas to our programming.”

“Tom has worn so many hats for The Morgan and has been a driving force in what we have done. We are excited that Tom is continuing on with us, while pursuing additional dreams,” said Denk-Leigh.

The Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Educational Foundation is a 501C (3) State of Ohio not for profit corporation, located at 1754 East 47 th Street, Cleveland, OH 44103, that’s mission is – “Through teaching historical and innovative papermaking and the art of the book; and producing handmade papers – The Morgan educates, mentors and inspires emerging and established artists, students and community members to create.”

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