larchmere art installation is a vivid homage to books and community

Cities, suburbs and neighborhoods alike often have slick promotional materials that advertise yearned-for amenities such as good schools, low taxes, desirable homes and nearby shopping. What they choose to include offers a glimpse into what the community values. Yet very few of them can boast a giant, colorful wall of books that frames the entranceway to their community.

The Larchmere-Shaker Square neighborhood of Cleveland would be the one exception. To enshrine the east side community's love of books and recognize its rich diversity, local artist Gene Epstein has installed a 74-foot-wide mural of a virtual bookshelf on the side of Loganberry Books, an independent bookstore that has been a mainstay of the eclectic business district since the mid-1990s.

The vividly depicted book spines include "Some Things that Stay" by local novelist Sarah Willis; "The Life and Death of Great American Cities" by oft-cited urban planner Jane Jacobs; and a book about barbering, which was chosen to reflect the growing number of barber shops in the immediate area. Epstein painstakingly photographed each title, then installed the highly visible mural on the east-facing wall of Loganberry.

"The criteria we had was that the books should be 25 percent children's literature, 25 percent related to the Larchmere community, 25 percent representing the businesses, and 25 percent about Cleveland," explains Epstein.

The books were nominated by community members and culled by a committee of residents and shop owners to reflect the area's true diversity. After the mural was printed on vinyl-coated polyester and mounted on sections of plywood, Epstein spent about two weeks installing it in 12-foot-tall sections, much to the wonderment of passers-by and employees of nearby businesses.

Now that it is finally complete, Larchmere-Shaker Square has a work of public art that celebrates what it has already become known for: art and community.

Source: Gene Epstein
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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