Archives for the Month of February 2009 on Case Cares About Cleveland

Can Local Art Help Old Brooklyn Thrive?

Business owners in Old Brooklyn are doing their part to give entrepreneurs and artists a chance to shine. Just ask Connie Ewazen, a local resident and business owner who owns a building at the corner of Memphis Avenue and Pearl Road.

When I first talked to Connie about the Case Cares About Cleveland initiative, she asked if I could create a sign for her building. I asked her about the history of that particular location and she told me it was called "The Heart of Old Brooklyn" because of its prominence right in the center of town.

So I developed a little sign that she could place in her first-floor window which made her push the idea even further. Maybe she could get an artist she knew to display his work. Or perhaps she might encourage a group of artists to rent some of her available studio space and give that "Heart of Old Brooklyn" a second look.

So she mentioned the ideas to a local artist, Bill Conkey, who put together a nice display for folks walking by. That display has only been up a few weeks, and just yesterday, Connie got word that Conkey made his first sale. Sure, one little sale might not be a huge deal to some, but to the folks who believe in Old Brooklyn, it could be the start of something new, something different.

The bottom line is that a lot of people care and want to see Old Brooklyn thrive. Jeff Rhodes, for example, is a school teacher who lives in Old Brooklyn. Jeff is engaging his high school students to design signs that would give a few storefronts a fresh look. Will it work? Will it matter? No one has all the answers, but the energy is something nobody can deny.

I met an artist by the name of Amy Kreiger who has all kinds of artwork we can display. Her work has been on display at the Spaces art gallery since January 30, and she's thrilled to help Old Brooklyn any way she can. Check out her artwork on page 23 of the Spaces "Flash Forward" catalog.

"I'm glad I can be a part of revitalizing Old Brooklyn," Kreiger said. "It means the world to me that I can help through my artwork, because it's what I love. It's refreshing to see that this project is introducing art in a way to help the city because that's part of what I want to do with my work -- make the public happy, or at least to inspire them in doing something good."

Help us hang Amy's artwork in our upcoming Saturday of Service event. I just added an entry about the event below. We also need to hang the work of one of our resident watercolor artists, Carol Lade. She recently gave me several copies of her work to display.

New Photos, February Updates

If you missed Old Brooklyn artist Andre Holt at the Case inauguration event, we have photos. It was a wonderful event for the entire Case community and we especially enjoyed seeing all those students from Cleveland School of the Arts in attendance.

Speaking of students, I appreciate the energetic efforts of Case students who are helping me move this project forward. Special thanks goes to Rebecca Wei, Arielle Tucker, Ken Hornfeck, Matt Collins, and Phil Seitzer, who are working with me over the next several weeks with students at Michael R. White Elementary School on the east side.

That's what I love about Cleveland. Even though Old Brooklyn is a west-side neighborhood, students on the east side are more than willing to reach out and help me with this collaborative effort. So why is the east side working on projects for a neighborhood on the west side? Here, let me explain ...

I had wanted to do some community projects in Old Brooklyn for almost a year now. Then I read about Ashley Solomon, a fourth-year student at Case, who created an initiative called the Cleveland Public Schools Connection (CPSC). CPSC is a project that connects Case students with elementary students that attend Cleveland public schools.

Ashley introduced me to Rebecca Wei, another Case student, who is managing CPSC projects this semester. Since Rebecca is working with students from Michael R. White Elementary School, she thought they would be a perfect fit for my project. And judging by our first few sessions, our team of young artists are excited to be a part of this! So far, they have created artwork for WSEM Brookside and other locations in my neighborhood.

So rather than spend all this time writing, let's take a look at some of the art we're working on. It's amazing what a little paint, recycled paper, and creative ideas can do.

Check out some students showing off their handprint art for the windows at WSEM Brookside.

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Here's a photo of the banner that hangs on the school's cafeteria wall. These are the things that inspire me. Here is a great sign that I pass by on my way to work every morning. This sign is located in the Buckeye area of Cleveland and stands tall among a sea of dilapidated homes and industrial blight. I can't say enough about the community development staff and neighborhood organizers there who are offering hope and encouragement to residents who live there.

Here is some recycled art as well as some work I dug up for various businesses in Old Brooklyn/Brooklyn Centre.

- A poster for WSEM - Brookside, a non-profit organization that supports the hungry and homeless in our neighborhood. This ties in nicely with the handprint art we created and will be hung in the windows very soon.

- A poster for a resale shop, barber shop, some abandoned storefronts and other businesses that need the help. We're hoping that a little color and creativity can change the face of our neighborhood and encourage new artists and entrepreneurs to move into the city.

- A poster for FreshFork Market, a business co-founded by Case alum Trevor Clatterbuck. Trevor lives in the Brooklyn Centre neighborhood and has an office in Tremont.

Participate in Saturday of Service, March 28

Students from Case Western Reserve University will travel to Old Brooklyn for a Saturday of Service event on March 28. Students are volunteering their time to decorate storefronts, wash windows, and help out business owners as part of its Case Cares About Cleveland initiative.

Community members are needed to meet with students, serve as project coordinators, and oversee projects in two- or three-hour shifts. Local artists who are interested in volunteering on that day, or who would like to display their artwork in storefront windows, are also encouraged to participate.

Business owners who need assistance with cleanup may e-mail me. Site locations are still being determined at this time, so please visit the blog for updates.