Swish! New Cavs creative director scores in his hometown with stunning basketball graphics

Last November, the Cleveland Cavaliers named internationally-known artist Daniel Arsham creative director for the organization—the first artist in the NBA to be hired for that position.

The third-generation Clevelander admits his new role is a dissent from the norm, but that’s nothing unique to Arsham. The colorblind architect’s career path has been anything but the usual climb up the ladder. From working with brands like Porsche, to now being creative director of the Cavaliers, Arsham has done it his way.

I've had a very circuitous career path, says Arsham. “And if I would have thought when I was younger that I would have been an artist that also works in basketball, it would have been an interesting conversation to have with my younger self.”

Internationally-known Artist Daniel Arsham creative director for the Cleveland CavaliersArsham is currently based in New York but is thrilled with the opportunity to work for his hometown basketball team. “This is a huge moment for me personally, to be able to work with the Cavs and direct creatively an organization, and a team, that meant so much to me and my family growing up,” Arsham says. His grandfather arrived in Cleveland in 1908, and the family members have long been Cavs fans.

“I am honored and thrilled to be joining the Cleveland Cavaliers as creative director,” Arsham wrote in an open letter to the city last fall. “From the rushing waters of Chagrin Falls to the pizza at Geraci's and autumn in the Metroparks—Cleveland is a place that has heavily influenced me throughout my life, no matter where my life has led me. The Land is a part of me.”

Arsham says he knows that, like basketball, art also can be a unifying force for the community. 

“I think art is something that is meant to sort of show us things in a different way,” he says. “We're always there to to repackage and represent, literally, these invisible elements of our everyday life that we may not have otherwise seen or realized in that way.”

As a boy, Arsham had an eye for architecture—drawing the floor plan of his childhood home. But he leaned toward studying the artistic side of architecture in college and developed his style.

Although he was born colorblind, Arsham never let it affect his art or life at large. He even credits it for allowing him the advantage of creating in a more reductive way.

“I don't have the option to use every color in the rainbow and maybe that's a benefit,” Arsham says.

Arsham’s first Cavs-related work appeared In 2019 when the Cavaliers unveiled his installation “Moving Basketball” with more than 100 other works, as part of the new Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Public Art Program.

Daniel Arsham created the 210-foot-by-110-foot banner Sherwin-Williams banner that went up in mid-January. Arsham then accepted the role of the Cav’s creative director and created the Sherwin-Williams banner that went up in mid-January. The 210-foot-by-110-foot banner that reads “For the Love, For the Land” features seven hands of people of different ethnicities placed on a basketball, with one hand featuring a championship ring.

Arsham says the banner reflects the idea of basketball uniting the community.

“The idea came from one of our original staff designers, Jay Wallace, who had an idea about a bunch of different hands, from different backgrounds, different races, reaching in and all grabbing and holding this basketball,” explains Arsham. “And I worked with him to translate that into the banner.”

Arsham gets to his studio everyday by 9 a.m. to start work on whatever his project may be. He treats his art practice like any other job. But like other jobs, Covid-19 has really changed the way it’s done. 

“COVID has really allowed me to, or pushed me, in some ways back to the earliest types of works that I made, which were painting and sculpture.” Arsham says. “Things that were made entirely by me that were very personal, in a way,”

Arsham understands Cleveland’s complicated sports history. He said he can recall his father talking about the Browns championships from the 1960s. But Arsham is focused on the future and the work that has yet to be done.

“Creatively, there's so much potential for what I hope to achieve in Cleveland as we come out of the pandemic and people start to be able to come back to this amazing, beautiful, shared experience that we all love,” Arsham says.
Arsham says he is looking forward to the opportunities on the horizon as Cleveland will host the 2022 NBA All-Star Game.

Arsham shared his enthusiasm for his return to Cleveland in his November letter: “As a visual artist and longtime Cavs fan, I have constantly used basketball as a recurring theme in my work,” he wrote. “I've shown my work from Paris to Tokyo, Rio to Shanghai—and now, I'm proud to bring it home.”
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