Cleveland Walls! is transforming the Midtown neighborhood of Cleveland. Twenty-four artists from around the world, as well as from Cleveland, are painting 19 large murals around the city. Each and everyone with their unique style, taste, and meaning. Cleveland Walls! is a program of POW! WOW! Worldwide, presented by the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation, along with generous support from Dealer Tire and many more partners.
I had the chance to go and check out some of the murals as they were being worked on in Midtown and check out the Cleveland Walls! Headquarters on 71st and Euclid Avenue. I talked with Sophie Mueller, who ran the headquarters, to get a little more information on why this project is so transformational for the Midtown neighborhood. We dove in and talked about POW! WOW! A little bit to get more information on what the international program was all about. POW! WOW! has supported projects in places like Japan, Guam, Long Beach, and now MidTown Cleveland. POW! WOW! Brings character to places all around the world.
My burning question for Sophie was the exact oversight the city or the program had on these amazing artists. I wondered if the artists wouldn't be able to really have the flexibility to produce the work they wanted because someone in an organization limited them. Art without passion is empty; I think most people can agree on that. But Ms. Mueller quelled my concerns when she said that all of the artists were working with their original ideas, not being told which way to go. Basically, they were given a very large blank canvas, an aerial work platform, and a week to finish the painting.
One of the interesting thing is that not all of the artists are specifically mural artists. One of them is even a children's book illustrator. Some people may think that you should only hire those who know what they can do. But art isn't some structural and segmented industry, where only people who do this type of art can fit here. Sure, that is their comfort zone, but art is fluid, art is about taking risks, art is trying and experiencing new things for both the artists and those who enjoy art. By stepping out of the comfort zone, we the people get to enjoy someone stepping up and producing at 110%, we get to enjoy amazing art, and the artist proves to themselves they can do something amazing.
That is why a unified project like Cleveland Walls! is so great. The community gets to enjoy a new facelift; more life is brought to their neighborhood—a community-based program to bring artists and viewers together. Sometimes art becomes so detached from the viewer, and we look at it in a museum behind a protective glass screen. Cleveland Walls! breaks the barrier, not only having the art be one with the structures of a city but also make it real for the viewer. They can meet the artists; they can interact with the art; they can take pictures with their friends and family. Art is fun, Cleveland is fun, and Cleveland Walls! puts that fact onto a national stage.
Make sure to check out some of the events they have coming this weekend of the 27th at Cleveland Walls! schedule.