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Members Discover Cleveland’s Public Art
By Allison Tillinger Schmid
Thirty-four Cleveland Museum of Art members boarded Lolly the Trolley on a gorgeous Friday afternoon in May in search of public art featured throughout the city of Cleveland. Guided by Cleveland Public Art staff members Deanna Palermo and Tiffany Graham, members discovered more three dozen public artworks in the Buckeye/Larchmere neighborhood, University Circle, downtown, the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, and Ohio City. Eva, our trolley driver, even piped in between stops to give the members interesting facts on the history of Cleveland. Cleveland Public Art was founded in 1984 and works with artists, designers, and citizens to improve public spaces through art and design. The non-profit services all 77 square miles of the city of Cleveland and has completed projects in some of the city’s most public spaces as well as in some of its most disadvantaged communities.
Art and Soul of Buckeye Park. Photograph by Ryan DiVita.
One of the tour’s highlights was Pittsburgh-based artist James Simon’s larger-than-life sculpture of a jazz musician playing his trumpet while being watched by a dog, at the southwest corner of Buckeye Road and East 118th Street. This corner was renamed the Art and Soul of Buckeye Park, and is used by the community as a park, festival ground, transit-waiting area, and public parking lot. Another tour favorite were the Blue Bird sculptures found in Edgewater Hill, a small section of Cleveland’s Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Elyria-raised artist Mark Reigelman III worked with Edgewater Hill’s active block club to develop the idea for a public art installation in their neighborhood. The Blue Bird sculptures represent the migrating birds that use Cleveland’s shoreway to reset and refuel as they migrate across the Great Lakes. Thirty-five sculptures (made in a crockpot in the artist’s apartment in New York City), were installed throughout the neighborhood on utility poles, street corners, warehouse buildings, homes, and hidden in trees.
Edgewater Hill Blue Birds. Photograph by Cleveland Public Art.
Members then hopped off the trolley to get a closer look at Cleveland Public Library’s Eastman Reading Garden which was designed by Maya Lin (who also designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.). The themes of reading, words, and letters are repeated throughout the garden—a perfect fit since the garden is right next to the library. Sculptor Tom Otterness designed the bronze gate that surrounds the Eastman Reading Garden. The gate’s doors are built out of letters and word fragments that form words and sentences when pieced together. Otterness also created small bronze figures which are scattered throughout the garden and can be seen playfully rearranging and taking letters from the gate.
Bronze sculpture stealing the letter “C” by Tom Otterness in the Cleveland Public Library Eastman Reading Garden. Photograph by Christina Gaston.
Continuing in this theme of words and letters, the fountain and reflecting pool also created by Maya Lin, located at the center of the garden, is in the shape of an ‘L’ and poet Tan Lin created the words and poems around the garden, encouraging visitors to create their own poems and meanings.
Museum members walking around Maya Lin’s L-shaped reflecting pool at the Eastman Reading Garden. Photograph by Christina Gaston.
Not only did members see completed public artworks, they also learned about Cleveland Public Art’s future projects, including the complete redesign and renovation of Market Square Park on the corner of West 25th Street and Lorain Avenue in Ohio City, which will be completed in the summer of 2012, just in time for the West Side Market centennial’s celebration.
Members agreed that while some of the art on the tour was familiar (like the infamous Free Stamp by Claus Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument by Levi T. Scofield), other works (and neighborhoods) were brand new to them such as Saint Luke’s Pointe in the Buckeye/Larchmere neighborhood. The afternoon turned out to be an enjoyable and educational experience. Thank you Deanna and Tiffany from Cleveland Public Art for sharing your expertise and enthusiasm with our members! Learn about more upcoming member events.