Legendary mural: LAND studio unveils restored 1969 mural ‘Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench’

As LAND studio celebrated its 10th anniversary of creating public art and public spaces at the Cleveland Public Library’s Eastman Reading Garden this past Saturday, Oct. 9, the capstone moment was the unveiling of the newly-restored mural “Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench” on East 9th Street and Superior Avenue— originally created in 1969 by John F. Morrell, it was Cleveland’s first mural.

Commissioned by then-Mayor Carl Stokes, the first Black mayor elected in a major U.S. city, the mural was meant to show the city’s dedication for brotherhood and social justice. The iconic mural, which feature different races, ages, and genders all sitting together, has been touched up over the years, the last time being in 1993.

LAND studio senior director of development and communication Tara Turner says the recent restoration seemed like a great way of celebrating LAND studio’s 10th anniversary and its commitment to diversity, equity, and comradery through public art.

“It hasn’t been touched since 1993 and it looks so much better,” she says. “People are just stopping and looking at it—it’s created so much of an attraction. It’s looking terrific.”

Alan Giberson of the Old Soul Sign Co., a small-scale sign shop that specializes in hand painted signage and gold leaf lettering, was charged with the restoration and preserving the continued message of the mural.

“If we can do something that continues to spread that message in an artful way, then heck yeah,” says Turner. “Alan hand paints everything and this is graphic design on another level—not everyone can do that. We were so happy he pitched in to do this.”

Giberson has also worked on LAND studio’s Inner City Hues and Love Lunes Over Buckeye projects, as well as helped with artist Sam3’s 2018 mural on the Garret A. Morgan water tank on the Detroit Shoreway.

Funding for the restoration project was provided by the Millcraft Paper Company, Sherwin Williams, PNC, BakerHostetler, and other corporate and individual donors. Sherwin Williams provided the paint and, Turner says, we able to match the original colors exactly. The mural was coated with anti-graffiti top coat.

Turner says LAND studio completed the greenspace area as a pocket park—installing three park new park benches and planting three trees. “They look really great,” says Turner. “The style fits the mural.”

Saturday’s mural unveiling and dedication began at noon with remarks by LAND studio executive director Greg Peckham; Assembly for the Arts CEO and president Jeremy Johnson; chairman and CEO of CLC Stokes Consulting Group and Carl Stokes’ youngest son Cordell Stokes; and Morrell’s daughter, Katy Panasiewicz. Morrell died in 2010 at the age of 77.

In addition to Panasiewicz, Morrell’s son, John Jr., and Morell’s sister attended Saturday’s dedication. “The Morrell family was no nice about this, and they are all coming in,” says Turner. “We’re so happy they were going to be there.”

Following the dedication was an afternoon of family friendly activities, including roller skating, crafts, yoga, additional art, and food.

Land studio continues its 10th anniversary with LANDiversary, when you can get a print or a T-shirt of the "Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench" to support the organization.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: 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.