spraypaint artist brightens building in waterloo arts district

A few short months ago, the vacant, boarded-up commercial property at E. 156th Street and Waterloo Road was like a "Berlin Wall," says Brian Friedman, director of Northeast Shores Community Development Corporation. Passers-by on their way to concerts at the popular Beachland Ballroom were treated to the building's dark, unfriendly visage. Rather than a  welcoming gateway to this up-and-coming, arts-friendly community, the structure served as an ugly reminder of the blight nipping at its heels.

Today, the building remains stubbornly vacant. Yet, it's been festooned with a bright, colorful mural signaling the entrance to the the Waterloo Arts District, thanks to a partnership between Northeast Shores and a local graffiti artist.

"The mural is designed to be temporary, since we'd prefer the building to be occupied, but unfortunately difficult commercial projects can take years," says Friedman. "The mural also works well with our recently-launched Artists in Residence initiative, a grant program to deal with issues like vacancy."

The $5,000 mural was completed by Massillon artist Steve Ehret, who has participated in several pop-up galleries in the neighborhood. Friedman hopes it will become the first of many such creative, artistic interventions in North Collinwood.

Last summer, North Collinwood was selected as the location for a two-year, $500,000 pilot program that will use artist-based development to revitalize one urban neighborhood. The program is being managed by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC) and Northeast Shores.

Source: Brian Friedman
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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