RTA Red Line public art to celebrate diversity with a literary twist

The Cleveland Foundation has announced a $150,000 grant to LAND Studio to create public art along five to seven stops on the RTA Red Line from downtown to the airport. The public art will celebrate diversity. The grant follows support from the city’s economic development department and $357,000 in funding from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA).

The money will go toward the first phase of a project that will eventually span the Red, Green, Blue and Waterfront RTA rapid lines to become one of the largest outdoor public art galleries in the country. The goal is to get the first phase done in time for the Republican National Convention next year.

The plan for public art along the RTA route came about after Valerie McCall, Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson’s chief of government and international affairs, and other interested officials rode the route that ushers passengers from the airport to downtown.

“They asked, what type of welcome mat are we putting out,” says Tiffany Graham, project director for LAND studio. “The RNC was the impetus for getting this done quickly, but it will endure over time.”

The art, which will include photography and paintings, will be based on winners of the Anisfield-Wolf book awards, the only juried prize in the nation for books that confront racism and celebrate diversity. Named for Cleveland poet and philanthropist Edith Anisfield-Wolf and presented by the Cleveland Foundation, past winners include Toni Morrison, Nadine Gordimer, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. The 80th awards ceremony was held last week and honored five authors.

"Social equity is what public transportation is all about,” says Maribeth Feke, RTA director of programming and planning, adding that the Red Line is a perfect route for art installments. “Transportation is all about movement and motion and a lot of stations have very long, linear corridors. It will be about ‘what are you going to see next.’ A lot of pieces work as you are in motion.”

Lillian Kuri, Cleveland Foundation program director for architecture, urban design and sustainable development, says the project evolved at the right time. “From our end this was a really critical moment of time to help get something done,” she says. “Over many years it can create a cultural aspect of Cleveland through a collection of murals and photos. For us it connected the dots for many things.”

Local, national and international artists will be chosen by a curatorial team led by LAND Studio. The artists will then work with the authors whose work will be represented. Graham says a meeting is planned this week to review and choose the artists.

“This will look at issues Cleveland has struggled with for so long,” says Graham. “It will be a platform for these types of issues to be addressed -- conversations can be started and healing can happen.”

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.