Future so bright: Five public art projects brightening Cleveland's landscape

Nothing adds vibrancy to a city like a work of public art. Northeast Ohio is no stranger to the arts scene, with both an international reputation for its museums and galleries and a talented pool of established artists across genres. The works found around Cleveland make a bold statement about the city and its people, as well as the artists themselves.

Fresh Water located five recent public art works that welcome both residents and visitors to neighborhoods and celebrate the region’s diversity and history—with some that are just plain fun.
Beach Club Bistro Mural
1. Beach Club Bistro Mural

Greg Jurcisin is not only a big supporter of the arts, but a big supporter of his hometown of Euclid. That fact is prevalent in the décor of his Beach Club Bistro (21939 Lakeshore Blvd.), which is decked out with artwork of all kinds.

“We have art done by kids, local artists, national artists, musicians,” he shares. “You need the arts to be civilized in this world. And we support Euclid downtown.”

That support is why Jurcisin is lending the side of his two-story building to the city of Euclid to welcome folks to the city. Set to debut at Euclid's upcoming art walk event on September 22, the 20-foot-tall by 13-foot-wide full-color printed mesh mural is a collage of the winning photos taken by Euclid residents—from young teens to professional photographers—in a city contest.

The contest was dreamed up by Allison Lukacsy-Love, the community projects manager in Euclid’s department of planning and development. “Since summer 2016, we’ve received nearly 1,000 [submissions] that celebrate people, places, and things in Euclid,” she explains of the overwhelming response to the contest. More than a dozen photos were chosen for the mural, which depicts the city’s brand slogan, "This is Euclid" (developed by Euclid-based graphic designers Kate Sudar and Maryanne Hiti).

The mural is designed to be temporary, staying perhaps a couple of years. City officials plan on periodically changing the installation. “This is really to celebrate the people who work here, live here, and pass through here, and really capture what the city means,” says Lukacsy-Love.

Jurcisin is proud to have the mural on his building. “It’s pretty sleek and slick,” he says. “It represents all aspects of life in Euclid along the lake. It’s pretty neat.”

2. Shaker Heights Fire Department Mural

This year, Shaker Heights has a lot to celebrate—from the centennial birthday of the Shaker Heights Fire Department to the 10-year anniversary of its current location (17000 Chagrin Blvd.). To commemorate the milestones, city officials put out a call to artists in 2015 for a mural depicting 100 years of fighting fires and community involvement, as well as Shaker’s diversity and culture.

Berea-based artist Augusto Bordelois answered the call and designed an eight-feet-tall by 32-feet-wide mural on the side of the Nationwide Insurance building in Pocket Park (16700 Chagrin Blvd.).

Artist Augusto Bordelois with the Shaker Heights Fire Department Mural

Bordelois has been working on the mural since January, and it was installed over Labor Day weekend. To develop his design, he spent a lot of time consulting with Shaker officials and community members. The resulting mural depicts models of fire trucks over the years, a fire dog, the faces of Shaker’s diverse group of residents, and the images of the badges of the two firefighters killed in the department’s 100-year history—one in the 1970s and one in the 1990s.

“The hardest part was taking into consideration all the [opinions] from everybody,” Bordelois says. “Everything is driven from the information the community gave me. There’s different races, different ages, different cultural diversities.”

Vicki Blank says the mural not only celebrates the fire department, but also fits the neighborhood perfectly. “The location near the Moreland Neighborhood was chosen because of its proximity to the new firehouse, now 10 years old,” says Blank, Shaker’s director of communications and marketing. “The existence of other public art projects in this area made it a good fit.”

Shaker Heights High School student Maeve Billings and Berea-Midpark High School student Corey Ison helped Bordelois sort through all the images to come up with the design. “They put in a lot of work,” he says of their assistance. “I really like it when kids work a lot on something. They should get recognition.”

Bordelois sketched his initial designs and used Photoshop to produce the final hand-painted canvas print that was then printed directly on an aluminum plate. 
Pop Life building mural detail
3. Pop Life building

Even though it’s not scheduled to open until this week, both residents and visitors to Collinwood’s Waterloo Arts District have already gotten an eyeful of the new Pop Life, an art gallery, yoga and meditation studio, and healthy café.

“It’s a wellness and arts community,” explains owners Jack Mueller, who bought the former KeyBank building when he returned to the Cleveland area a year ago. “I always wanted to start something like this,” he says, adding that he owned an art gallery and a vintage furniture store when he lived in California. “I had always had my eye on Waterloo—it’s such a great, funky arts neighborhood and it was kind of a match for me.”

While Pop Life hasn’t opened yet, the project has gotten plenty of advance buzz thanks to the external paint job Mueller commissioned from famed East London-based artist Camille Walala.

Walala says she let the building speak to her in creating the brightly colored design, inspired by the works of African tribes, the Memphis Design movement, and optical art.

“I fell in love with the building and it was such a beautiful canvas to work on,” she says. “I got inspired by the building, really—working with the existing shapes and doing a big bold perspective design on the side.”

The building is exactly what Mueller envisioned. “Camille Walala is a favorite artist of mine,” he says. “When I bought the building, I knew I wanted to have her do it.” Mueller says some of the reaction to the building has been “mixed,” but he has personally heard nothing but positive feedback. “The artists in the neighborhood love it, and all of the people in Waterloo love it.”
Artist Charity D'Amato working on the Rosewood Avenue Mural
4. Rosewood Avenue Mural

City officials sought a creative way to introduce Lakewood residents to the notion of closing part of Rosewood Avenue to make way for the future re-design of Wagar Park. The solution? A street mural design competition. The idea was to use a temporary, yet fun way of testing the closure of Rosewood from Hilliard to Park Place.

“The Wagar Park [design] concept extends onto Rosewood, but doesn’t start for two to three years,” explains Katelyn Milius, city planner for Lakewood’s department of planning and development. “Before we decide to close Rosewood, we have to make sure it still functions, and we wanted to test the concept in a fun way.”

Thirteen submissions were turned in, and ultimately Charity D’Amato and her team at Studio Chartreuse were chosen for their bright and bold “Graphic Positivity” design. The mural features words like “Be Kind,” “Play,” and “Love.” D’Amato intentionally went with a simple design: “It’s very playful and colorful,” she says. “It’s very basic.”

The street mural was completed last week and will stay for up to three years until the Wagar Park plan is executed. “It ended up being such an awesome thing, it will be sad to see it go,” says Milius. “I think it turned out even better than imagined. It plays to both kids at the park and the [nearby] church, but adults will still appreciate it.”

The city will celebrate the mural’s completion with an ice cream social this Sunday, Sept. 10 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Artist Olalekan "LEk" Jeyifous watches the installation of Protest in Public Square
5. Public Square Protest

Practically anyone who was out and about in Cleveland last year caught at least one glimpse of the CrackingArt creatures popping up around town last summer.

Last Wednesday, Aug. 30, the second iteration of LAND studio’s Landform public art series came to Public Square.

Protest, created by Nigerian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Olalekan "LEk" Jeyifous, is a series of four steel silhouettes showing images of people peacefully protesting or making a stand.

“Each sculpture weighs nearly a ton and is positioned on a large metal base,” says Megan Jones, LAND studio director of annual giving and special events. “The silhouettes average about 10 feet in height and are stabilized by seating platforms at the base of each sculpture, creating new spots to gather in Public Square.”

LEk, who came to the United States at six years old, derived purpose from Public Square’s reputation as a gathering spot. “The sculptures were inspired by the desire to acknowledge and celebrate Public Square’s long and storied history as a city-sanctioned speaker’s platform and site of protest, peace rallies, and civic gatherings of all kinds,” he explains. “In this installation, several characters are engaged in various forms of that exercise.”

Each of the four sculptures represent a different emotion. “There is an element of passionate dissent in the sculptures that depict a man and woman holding megaphones, while a more moderate form of public engagement is exhibited by the person holding up flyers or newspapers,” LEk continues. “In another sculpture, a moment of reconciliation is shown between protesters of possibly differing views or perhaps it is a display of camaraderie between two individuals sharing not only similar ideologies, but a heartfelt hug.”

LEK says he hopes his work will have an impact. “The result is an installation that strives to reinforce the notion that at the root of this democracy is the right of all members of its citizenry to challenge, question, critique, and ultimately be heard,” he says, adding that he enjoyed his time in Cleveland.

“It is a beautiful city with a fascinating history,” he says. “Of course, it is not without its issues, [with] which I have a passing familiarity. However, I am interested to see how it evolves socially, economically, and in terms of urban development over the coming years.

Protest will be in place for about eight months, after which the individual pieces will be moved to other yet-to-be-determined locations.

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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