Local artists renew their love for the Cle with version two of Love Letter mural

Cleveland artists Gary and Laura Dumm have renewed their vows to Cleveland with a brand new “Love Letter to Cleveland” mural—this time at the home of the Cleveland Memory Project at Cleveland State University’s Michael Schwartz Library in Rhodes Tower, 2121 Euclid Ave.

The new two-panel mural replaces the original three-panel 60-foot Love Letters mural on the side of the Orange Blossom Press building, 1935 W. 25th St. in Ohio City.

The mural depicts famous Clevelanders who have made an impact on the city over history, including the likes of Superman, Harvey Pekar, Halle Berry, Ghoulardi, Dorothy Fuldheim, Eliot Ness, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, as well as iconic landmarks like the West Side Market, the Free Stamp, the Guardians of Traffic, and the Huelett Ore Unloaders.

“We looked for people who were from Cleveland or who lived in Cleveland at some point or created something while in Cleveland,” says Laura of the people and places depicted. “It was a long list, and we had to winnow it down; to make cuts to fit everyone and everything on the murals that we did while keeping a solid design.”

In 2013, the Dumms, lifelong Clevelanders who live in Laura’s childhood home in the Cudell neighborhood, designed, secured funding, and executed 60-foot “Love Letter to Cleveland” Ohio City mural with a $20,000 Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Workforce Fellowship grant.

The Dumms began by laying out the design together using photographs, then Gary, a comic book and graphic novel illustrator, created black-and-white drawings of each person and landmark before scanning them into the computer.

Laura, a painter, then used Adobe Photoshop to color and organized the images. She added the names inside a winding blue line across the design that represents the Cuyahoga River--separating the East and West sides of the city while representing a unifying factor of all things Cleveland.

“Gary and I are proud of Cleveland and everything it stands for,” says Laura. “We wanted to brag a bit about our city showing all the wonderful people, places and things that have made our city a great place live. We were both born here and are proud to live and make our art here.”

Even though the panels were printed on the heavy vinyl material, time and weather damaged the original mural. “We knew this material would be exposed to the elements, but we hoped to get at least a five-year lifespan for our mural,” says Laura. “But exposure to sunlight did cause some color to fade on the mural’s face after two or three years before a [2017] winter storm blew away the front panel.”

The faded and now-incomplete mural was starting to become an eyesore. So, in July 2018 they took it down from the Orange Blossom Press building. “We felt it was disrespecting Cleveland and the icons to have a big blank frame on the front of the building,” says Laura.

Almost immediately, the couple started looking for a way to duplicate the mural in another, indoor location. They launched a $4,700 GoFundMe campaign which covered the cost of the new installation at Cleveland State.

After the original mural came down, Laura took to Facebook to find a new location for the mural, which the Dumms say they have revised a bit. Bill Barrow, Head of Special Collections at Cleveland State University, saw the plea and offered up two 30-foot walls outside the Memory Project in the library.

“Our mural dovetails nicely with his Cleveland Memory Project,” says Gary. “Ours is a shorthand version of the incredible amount of photos, objects, ephemera and art that are held in the Special Collections at CSU.”

The Dumms say they had the mural, which they are calling “Love Letter to Cleveland 2.0,” printed on wallpaper-like material, so it looks like it is painted directly on the wall. “Since it’s indoors, we hope this time it will last for years and years,” they say. They have also created a brochure that visitors can refer to and take home after they view the artwork.

Gary and I are proud of Cleveland and everything it stands for,” says Laura. “We wanted to brag a bit about our city—showing all the wonderful people, places and things that have made our city a great place live. We were both born here and are proud to live and make our art here. It came naturally. It’s our way of saying thanks in a ‘love letter’ to the city.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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