Together We Shine: Colorful mural celebrates Playhouse Square’s 100th anniversary theme

Although the pandemic delayed Playhouse Square’s official 100th anniversary observances in 2021, the recognition has continued throughout the past year—most recently with the unveiling of a new 106-foot-long mural in the KeyBank Concourse leading from the Playhouse Square parking garage to the theaters.

Created by artists Nathalie Bermudez and Alicia Vasquez, the mural uses vibrant colors and people to welcome and inspire visitors, as well as commemorate the celebrated history and bright future of the nonprofit performing arts center. 

“We decided to have a mural that celebrated and highlighted our centennial celebration theme, ‘Together We Shine,’” explains Cindi Szymanski, Playhouse Square communications director, brand marketing. “Our artists, Nathalie and Alicia, really did a good job of pulling that together.”

<span class="content-image-text">Playhouse Square’s 100th anniversary mural “Together We Shine”</span>Playhouse Square’s 100th anniversary mural “Together We Shine”

Bermudez and Vasquez began painting the mural in October and took the pair nearly two months to complete. They began by drawing the images on the wall and filled in the color over the next two months. “It took us quite a bit of time,” recalls Vasquez. “But the planning took longer. We had three or four weeks of back and forth—we had never worked together before.”

The time and planning paid off in the end, though.

“It was great collaboration,” says Szymanski.

Inspired by Cleveland’s diverse community and the power of storytelling, the piece follows the “Together We Shine” theme in a collage of scenes that depict the faces of blue and purple people working together while joyfully dancing around a fire with stars—with the stars representing the light that each person has and the importance of sharing it with the community.

The collage format allowed Bermudez and Vasquez to blend their artistic styles and imaginations, while the larger-than-life, patterned blue and purple faces represent elements from the Earth working together and the stars they hold tie together the piece’s overall theme.

“I’m really happy,” says Szymanski. “The work they did is so impactful with big and bright colors. They seemed to work together seamlessly.”

Vasquez says she and Bermudez were surprised when they were chosen to work together, but the two quickly became good co-collaborators and friends. “We worked well and enjoyed working with each other,” Vasquez recalls. “We learned from each other and were inspired by each other. The whole experience was really great.”

Although the two muralists have very different styles and approaches, Vasquez says they decided on, and stuck with, a color palette and scheme. “My work is very colorful, and I don’t use black in any of my paintings,” she says. “Nathalie has a different palette and loves using black. And her work is more graphic looking. I was my first time using black paint.”

<span class="content-image-text">Playhouse Square’s 100th anniversary mural “Together We Shine”</span>Playhouse Square’s 100th anniversary mural “Together We Shine”She says the result was a little more vibrant than she expected, but everyone was pleased.

“People are just really impressed with [the mural]—it’s so beautiful and joyful,” says Szymanski. “They did an amazing job of making people shine—whether it’s when they’re on the stage or in the audience, we’re really contributing to that. We have people coming to see a show or going to work or a meeting, and this mural really brightens their day.”

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.