Painting the town: Waterloo Arts launches Green Palette community art project

The weather outside may be snowy and cold, but Waterloo Arts is already thinking spring—and green—as it officially launches its seasonal public art project The Green Palette on Thursday, Jan. 28.

The Green Palette project is designed to splash Waterloo Road with brightly-colored rain barrels and 72 sidewalk planters full of flowers and greenery.

The project involves rain barrels painted by seven local artists, as well as a series of webinars hosted by master gardeners from the OSU Extension and other organizations. Waterloo Arts will supply the materials for the planters and bring the community together for “conversation and dialogue as people start to work,” says Waterloo Arts program manager Connie Fu.

Collinwood community The Green Palette art project“The project is named the Green Palette because we want to evoke a painter's palette where the planter beds are seen as colorful splashes of creative expression along the street,” she says. “We’re so excited to be launching it.”

Fu says the idea for a community art project came about when Waterloo Arts executive director Amy Callahan noticed the sidewalk planters were forgotten and most of them sat empty. “She noticed these 72 planter beds are big features and they are supposed to be taken care of by the city. But they’ve been neglected a bit,” Fu says. “This project could be viewed as an open canvas to get people involved in a community engagement project.”

Waterloo Arts held a soft launch last year, under what Callahan calls “Green Palette Phase I,” when the organization commissioned seven local artists to paint the rain barrels that will sit by seven building downspouts visible from Waterloo Road.

When Collinwood Arts had to cancel the Waterloo Arts Fest last summer because of the pandemic, Callahan says Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) allowed Waterloo Arts to use their CAC Arts Fest grant money (which would have expired at the end of the year) to paint the rain barrels and plan the rest of the Green Palette project.

“In 2021 we will do the community engagement portion of the project with the webinars and creating the gardens in the planter beds,” says Callahan. “The funding for 2021 will be in part from the Ohio Arts Council, from sponsors, and part of our Cuyahoga Arts & Culture grant­—since the project will be highlighted at the Waterloo Arts Fest.”

Collinwood community The Green Palette art project planter bed maintained by Michael Loderstedt of Photocentric Gallery.Callahan says she first thought of starting an adopt-a-bed program for the neglected planters, but then came up with the Green Palette plan as a spinoff of the Design Lab program during 2019 Arts Fest, in which artists used empty parking spaces to express something they thought was missing in the community or something they wanted to see more of and showcase that at the festival.

“I think a lot about community engagement, and we started to think that gardening might provide a way for people to come to the street to feel connected to others but be able to work a distance from one another,” says Callahan. “Instead of using parking spaces, we are using the planter beds, with the hope that people will use them as ‘storytelling’ platforms to express something about themselves or that they feel is important.”

Fu and Callahan say they hope to have 20 to 30 of the planters completed in the first year of the Green Palette. “If the community latches on and loves it, it’s something that can continue on,” says Fu.

The first event is a Zoom webinar featuring speakers from the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. Sign up here to receive the Zoom link and other updates around Green Palette.

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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