The Canvas of Cleveland
In Cleveland, art appreciation extends beyond the walls of museums. Large blank walls smother a city’s vitality. It stifles the public realm and broadcasts loneliness, danger and division. But to an artist, a blank wall can be a giant canvas and an irresistible challenge.
There’s a variety of murals throughout the city—selfie backdrops like a larger than life pizza slice, Prince eating a doughnut, a pair of giant doves spreading love, and a giant bookshelf.
This year, the FRONT International Contemporary Art Triennial, a summer-long exhibition of contemporary art happening throughout the city, is reviving a public art effort established in the 70s. Back then, Cleveland, like many urban cities at the time, was greatly impacted by suburbanization and industrial decline. The City Canvases public art project was implemented to help combat this blight, and more than a dozen murals on downtown buildings were created by local artists. Sadly, as time passed, most were erased.
FRONT considers this situation a pressing reason to reignite this program, recreating famed artist Julian Stanczak’s iconic avant-garde abstract mural from 1973 on the same twelve-story wall it once covered in downtown Cleveland. This work will lead a series of new abstract wall paintings by contemporary artists providing additional must-visit sites.
Beyond downtown, the canvas expands still further. The soon-to-open Pop Life Headquarters, a former Cleveland bank building in the city’s Waterloo Arts District, is now covered in an eye-popping installation of vibrant geometric design, thanks to London-based artist Camille Walala. The building will hold an art gallery, yoga and meditation studio, residences and a juice bar and café. The colorful edifice fits into the neighborhood which is already infused with street art.
The Waterloo Arts District is a creative hub of thought-provoking art and design in a neighborhood where talented artists live and work. Giving life to the Waterloo District, an organized public art mural project, Zoetic Walls, recently undertook a major streetscape renovation project, embracing the street art movement, bringing together some of the finest local and international street artists who have turned the walls, the alleyways, and all the nooks and crannies of the district into a canvas.
Cleveland’s Hingetown area is home to several public-scale visual art pieces, a legacy of a unique collaboration of international and local artists who spent three months living and working together through the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion program—an international artist residency program. The artworks produced, which include photographic, painted murals and structural sculptures, are centered along the Detroit Avenue corridor.
Get artsy and fly to Cleveland for a creative holiday to remember. WOW air offers cheap flights to Cleveland up to four times a week.
Words by Cindy-Lou Dale
Photos by Kathryn Duke of Pickled Pin-Up Photography