December 18, 2011

Storefront Art 2.0

If you have visited this blog before, you know it all started when I applied for a grant to beautify my neighborhood. One of my pet projects is working with other non-profits to beautify abandoned storefronts throughout the city of Cleveland.

Last February, I heard a story about Cleveland Storefront Art on WCPN-90.3. The organization works with local artists to place art in empty storefronts. They were talking about the work they were doing, placing art in The Galleria at Erieview.

Since the abandoned-building-artwork-connection was something I had experimented with in Old Brooklyn back in 2009, I was hoping there was room for some collaboration.

I e-mailed Joan Smith and Robert Carillio, who head up the Cleveland Storefront project. They mentioned that they were always looking for art to use. Since I had a stockpile of re-usable art, we soon put into motion some ideas for local use.

First, I worked with Gloria Ferris and Sharon Martin, who are involved with the Brooklyn Centre Naturalists in Brooklyn Centre. They used some of the art during the Pop Up Pearl Event, which was held in Old Brooklyn just before Memorial Day. Then, I met up with Ofelia Bernstein, an interior designer in Westlake, who was offering to decorate a storefront at the Galleria. I dropped off a pile full of recycled art and let her pick and choose what she needed so she could go to town on a design.

Her results were fantastic. They just sent me an e-mail with some Flickr photos, so be sure to check them out.

And Speaking of Art ...

Kudos to my colleague Richey Piiparinen, research assistant over at the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve. His public art project has helped turn tragedy into something special over in Detroit Shoreway.

So What Else Did I Forget to Blog About?

- The work with Friends of Big Creek continues. In addition to attending a spring fundraiser and working the booth during Earthfest at the Zoo, I stopped by for a day to work on a home they were fixing up in North Royalton. The home was donated so they could fix it up, sell it and use the proceeds to continue their mission of conserving the Big Creek watershed and existing greenways.

I Know. It's Almost Winter Already!

Still, it was a wonderful summer in Cleveland, Akron and Northeast Ohio and I just wanted to blog a little about that. There was Pedal for Prizes/Pop-Up Pearl, Fireworks at Loew Park, the Taste of Tremont, music at Cropicana, Wade Oval Wednesdays, Polish and Ukrainian festivals in Tremont and Parma, the Romanian Festival in Lakewood, and the list goes on.

Just before school began, the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning hosted a service day for the Class of 2015. New students (many of who had never seen Cleveland before) went out into the streets to landscape, repair, organize and paint.

Thanks to the efforts of CCEL Director Elizabeth Banks and Angela Lowery, they were able to organize a successful event near my neighborhood. The two connected with Johanna Hamm, the executive assistant to Ward 14 Councilman Brian Cummings, and sent 14 students out to clean up an apartment building on Denison Av. Johanna wrote: "The building was so overgrown you could barely see it. With their help we were able to take out half of a retaining wall and the majority of the bushes. We offered anyone to contact us if they wanted to see pictures of the final product. Some wanted to come back and help us finish!

I am proud that our students are so engaged in the Cleveland community. This is the reason so many of them have decided to stay, because they make such an impact on where they live.

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February 23, 2011

Bits and Pieces (I Forgot to Post)

-- A special shout out to all those Case students who tend to make something happen at the drop of a hat. When Mary Thompson and Matthew McPheeters were looking for a cleanup project here in the city, I wanted to see if something could be done on Quincy Avenue. So they rallied a group of students to walk from 94th to 89th streets and clean up some litter along the way. It always brings a smile to my face when I know that Case students are out there making a difference.

And Speaking of Difference

-- What a difference a couple of years make! I had been hoping to work with the Center for Civic Engagement and other university groups to see if we could get students more engaged on the west side of Cleveland. Since that time, Case students have been working on a number of projects in Ohio City, Detroit Shoreway, Clark Metro and downtown.

In addition to helping the Brooklyn Centre Orchard and Old Brooklyn neighborhoods, Case students are also assisting the Brooklyn Centre Community Association and Brooklyn Centre Naturalists. They've done an incredible job assisting with the 39th Street Garden and landscaping the lot at West 36th and Denison.

So What's the Plan for This Summer?

Until my furnace is officially off, it's hard to start thinking about summer. But it's OK to think about last summer since there were a lot of things I wanted to blog about ...

-- On July 25, I volunteered at the Burning River Fest where folks converged on Whiskey Island and Wendy Park. If you want to know how to help out with the local environment, this event is a must. They should be posting some information about the 2011 event, so look for that information soon. Good people, cold beer, great bands ... what more could you want?

-- On August 19, Case Connects was held for first-year students. We had wonderful weather for the event, and it was a great way to introduce hundreds of new students to community service in Cleveland. I was able to participate by taking photos for Case and following some students along on their adventures at Lake Erie, as well as the non-profits they assisted on the east and west sides of town.

-- If you've never heard of River Sweep at the Cleveland Zoo, that's another eye-opening experience. The annual event is organized by Friends of Big Creek and is always well attended. Last year, I joined 44 of my closest friends to clean up the Zoo's watershed. Members of our local community joined the Cleveland Metroparks staff to haul metals, plastics and tires out of Big Creek.

Among the finds? More than 1,660 lbs. of scrap metal, plus a vintage clock, guard rail and Barbie doll.

-- Over in Summit County, I attended a fundraiser for City Fresh, which was held at the Pure Intentions Wheatgrass and School of Energy building. About 60 people attended the event while folks from Chrissy Hynde's Vegeterranean restaurant served up a delicious meal made from locally grown foods. The spotlight also shined on a number of talented musicians from Akron that day. Thank you Kathy Evans and Karen Gee for a wonderful event.

-- Last but not least, the annual Saturday of Service event sponsored by the Case Center for Civic Engagement and Learning was held last April. This event assists numerous non-profits in the Cleveland area, including many in my own neighborhood. I can't say enough about all the Case students that continue to give of their volunteer time. Cleveland appreciates you more than you know!

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First Signs of Spring?

Hard to believe, we almost hit 60 degrees in Cleveland on February 18. But if you're like some folks, you don't need suntan weather to get out and start moving.

On Sunday, February 13, I joined a group of people affiliated with the Friends of Big Creek and the Cleveland Zoo to take part in a Porcelain Berry Snap at Brookside Park. Our goal was to help remove some invasive vines that are choking back trees along the eastern portion of the park. It was a lot of work to tug, snap, pull and cut, but more than 30 people joined in on the fun, including some local retirees and students from James Ford Rhodes High School. A special thanks to Dennis Petro and the crew that provided the hotdogs, hot chocolate and chili.

The Orchard in Brooklyn Centre

Once again, I have witnessed the power of neighbors helping neighbors.

If you haven't seen the latest ReImagining Cleveland brochure, you'll want to check out the orchard that's been getting a lot of attention lately.

It all began with an abandoned lot and folks who were tired of looking at an eyesore. So they applied for a neighborhood grant and created a community orchard just like that.

Credit goes to Cleveland residents Johanna and Darren Hamm, who had the vision to see it to fruition. Johanna took the time to do her research, then applied for a grant through Neighborhood Connections. Darren (a Case alum) rallied nearby neighbors, talked it up at community meetings and encouraged people to watch the plan unfold.

Little by little, neighbors started coming out on weekends, pulling up grass, churning up dirt, and laying down stone for the walkway. That’s when I heard about the grant and wanted to get involved.

I stopped by on a Saturday and got a chance to plant a few of the 47 apple trees, plus blackberry and raspberry bushes too. Two days later, we celebrated our inaugural summer solstice and neighbors continued to work the lot. By the time school rolled around, we were able to rally 30 members from Case Western Reserve's Delta Tau Delta fraternity. They came out to the site, cleared a section of dirt for the trellis, and dug the holes for the fence posts.

The ribbon cutting was held in October, but that's just the beginning. Meetings will be happening soon, so once the snow thaws, stay tuned.

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May 26, 2010

Nine Months and Way Past My Due Date

It’s been forever since my last blog entry, which sounds like something I confessed to my priest awhile back.

So what’s been happening in Cleveland?

After jumping into the fall semester at Case, we hustled to finish the mural at Mr. E’s. During evening hours and weekends too, folks stopped by to finish the work of Case students, neighbors, and kids from Mooney Elementary school. Our goal was to finish painting the mural before the crisp, coolness of fall set in, and we were happy to put away the brushes by September 15th.

(For an in-depth look of what it was like to manage and complete our mural, check out a recent
in the Old Brooklyn News.)

Hard to believe, but I had tennis elbow after that mural for six solid months. So I sat back during the rest of September and decided to take a much-needed break.

October rolled around and I was invited to participate in the Greek Life Service Symposium at Case Western Reserve. The symposium is held in the fall of each year when students come together to assist various non-profit groups.

See, we held a previous event in March of 2009 when we created a bunch of art to place in store windows so we could try and get some vacant spaces rented. The idea worked over on Oak Park and Broadview roads, and those businesses have been occupied for a full year now. So whenever we get a chance to do more service projects, I store up the artwork and reach out to businesses to see if they need the help.

In order to get ready for the November 13 event, I had to prep some cardboard for store murals. So I spent the entire month of October making trips to the Case recycling center to rescue cardboard boxes, stack them down my basement, and give them a colorful coat of red, green, purple and gold. We hauled them over to The Spot on November 13 and joined a group of students, who were there to assist me and several other non-profit groups. In addition to creating artwork for my project, students created medical supply bags for the homeless, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Cleveland Foodbank, stitched blankets for needy children, and managed a few other projects.

The Greek Life event proved to be a huge success. We had more than 40 Case students attend! Thanks to Pyone Thi and Alex Galante for coordinating the event and donating 10 quarts of paint and 30 paint brushes to my project. With the help of Case students, we were able to create dozens of pieces of artwork I can use in my upcoming projects.

Photo 1 | Photo 2 | Photo 3

After that project, I decided to take a break and settle in for the cold, Cleveland winter. Sadly, my family experienced a tragic loss when my nephew died suddenly in January. Unfortunately, I have spent the last several months in a fog trying to deal with it all. I was so glad to see spring arrive, although I am convinced my life will never be the same.

Once April rolled around, I had an opportunity to assist in a community project that was organized by a group called the Brooklyn Centre Naturalists. The group was awarded a ReImagining Cleveland grant and developed a plan to convert two abandoned lots off Denison Avenue into community gardens. On April 10, we had about 15 Case students volunteer their time, digging holes and moving dirt that afternoon. It was one of the hottest days in April, which made it especially nice to get outside and enjoy the weather.

Photo 1 | Photo 2 | Photo 3

There is a lot more going on in Cleveland this summer, so let me know about your service projects and maybe we can work together on something worthwhile in the next few months.

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August 02, 2009

Our Mural is Almost Complete!

We are so close to finishing the community mural at Mr. E's Inn on Pearl Road. Hal and Della Esterwood, the owners of the bar, asked if I could do something with their 60-foot wall that faces the Mexico Lindo restaurant near Memphis Avenue. (It used to be the old Theos restaurant for anyone who knows that intersection at State and Pearl roads.)

One of our Case student artists, Ben Meck, volunteered his time to work up the design. Ben's art professor, Tim Shuckerow, had wanted Ben to do something simple so it could translate well on the old masonry wall that lines the street near Pearl and Memphis. I asked Ben to do something that depicts Old Brooklyn in the old days, when dirt roads, farmland, and greenhouses were part of the fabric of our neighborhood.

That wall is a BIG wall, so we had a lot of work to do over the summer to get this project rolling. On June 12, the Summer Fellows from the Case Western Reserve University Center for Civic Engagement and Learning traveled to Old Brooklyn to powerwash the wall and scrape it, to get rid of all the peeling paint that had collected over the years. (A special shout out to Mike T. who let me borrow his power washer for this project.) I returned a few days later to spackle all the holes and finish scraping the wall.

Then, on June 27, the fellows returned to Old Brooklyn to condition the wall and seal it so we could cover the wall with acrylic paint. (Thanks to the folks over at Sherwin Williams who are guiding me in my efforts to choose the right paint!) We had 14 students that day, and half of them traveled to Brooklyn Centre to do some landscaping and painting at the Brooklyn Memorial United Methodist Church. Hal and Della fed us and the folks at Brooklyn Memorial gave us some homemade cookies to munch on.

On July 8, I attended a meeting with Tom Collins of the OBCDC and the Near West Design and Review Committee to present the mural project, along with the Esterwoods. I was happy to see that the committee loved our idea, and in fact, asked us to make it bigger! They also suggested that we add a tribute wall with artist signatures and handprints.

So a few weeks after the meeting, I returned to the wall to paint it a nice light shade of blue, a color that will match the sky in Ben's design. Special thanks to Old Brooklyn resident Kevin Dial, who spotted me working on the wall while he was drinking his morning cup of coffee. Kevin came over, introduced himself, and picked up a brush to help me finish the work in the hot sun. He returned the next day to help finish the first coat for me, then I went back to give it a second coat a week later. (Thanks CJ, for helping me paint those hard-to-reach spots at the very top of that wall.) I also sat down with Old Brooklyn artists Andre Holt and Carolyn Anderson to get their ideas on how to tackle the painting and projecting.

We are ready to get started on the next phase, and I could really use your help. We will soon set up a digital projector to project the image on the wall and start tracing it. Please contact me if you would like to help out and have some fun. I really want this to be a community effort and Ben has given us a nice start. E-mail me if you want to paint or trace some of the image. My goal is to have the wall completed before the winter sets in ... dare I even mention the word "winter" in one breath?

P.S. - Did you know? One month after we added art to vacant storefronts back in March, three of the five buildings were rented within a month.

P.P.S. - Interesting thing about one of the Case students who got involved in our mural project. Not only does she attend Case, but her father owns Mexico Lindo, the restaurant that is located directly across from where the mural wall is being painted. Small world, don't ya think?

It's also worth mentioning all the other outdoor community projects we got involved in this summer, especially the residents of Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Center. We had Earthfest at the Cleveland Zoo, RiverSweep here in the city, and a grafitti cleanup in Harmody Park. I also enjoyed the cleanup that was organized by Darren and Johanna Hamm and the Brooklyn Center Community Association (BCCA) in preparation for the summer Archwood Street Fair. It was a great event and everyone enjoyed our gorgeous summer weather.

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April 14, 2009

All About Cupcakes and Community Stuff

Last week, we said goodbye to the students at Michael R. White Elementary School who donated their time to help us create some fabulous art for our Case Cares About Cleveland project. As a special treat, we gave them some colorful icing and cupcakes and let them create some edible art they could enjoy.

Cupcake 1 | Cupcake 2 | Cupcake 3

After the cupcake party, I finally got a chance to collect my thoughts and put together some photos from our Saturday of Service event in Old Brooklyn. All I can say is wow everybody - thanks for a wonderful turnout!

We were blessed with warm sunny weather and 59 degrees in Cleveland that day. (It was hard to believe it came and went, then we were looking at snow the following week.) But more than three dozen community members stopped by, in addition to 15 Case students. Cleveland City Councilmen Brian Cummings and Kevin Kelley (a Case Law School graduate) both dropped by to help. It was great to have them there supporting our efforts.

In addition to hanging art, neighbors picked up trash and cleaned along the intersection of Pearl and Broadview Roads. The food was especially good and we made sure to highlight the flavors of Old Brooklyn. Marge Dambrowski made four dozen pierogis and Joey Pepperoni supplied the veggie and pepperoni breads. Anne Smith and Joe Christensen from Caroline Green's Catering donated bags of sweet popcorn and tasty wraps. My sister made all the desserts, and Connie Ewazen offered a donation toward the food fund.

We couldn't have done it without Jack Amburgey because the Gavin Lee Party Center was the perfect spot. We added some art to Name Brand Paints and Wholesale Furniture. Then we hung some art in storefronts owned by Tom Pavlica, Jim O'Donnell, Mike Cottrell, and Efty Simakis. We especially loved the hubcap art and the cake and pie artwork that now adorns the windows of Slices pastry shop. Many thanks to Carla Haas for finding that old wooden door that had been tossed in the trash and forgotten about. It made a perfect display for Carol Lade's watercolor art.

Thanks for taking a chance on our creativity everyone -- we hope our continued efforts will only get better!

And what can I say about the brilliant pieces on loan from Amy Kreiger? Each time we completed a window with Amy's art, we couldn't help but stand back and admire her awesome work.

All the artists and students really did so much for us, and we have several students planning to do more. For example, Case student Ben Meck will be working with Hal Esterwood, the owner of Mr. E's Inn on Pearl Road, to design a mural for the building. Plus, we have art teachers who are planning to work together on future projects, so stay tuned.

As for me, I plan to take a little time off and enjoy my spring and summer. I hope to see you around Old Brooklyn!

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March 19, 2009

Saturday of Service is Happening in Old Brooklyn, March 28

Now that spring has arrived, we're ready to hang some art!

A group of us will be meeting up at the Gavin Lee Party Center near Broadview and Pearl Roads in Old Brooklyn on Saturday, March 28. Stop by anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and you can help us wash windows and display some of the art we've been creating all winter.

For the past two months, we've been working with students from Michael R. White Elementary School to create some colorful art from recycled cardboard, hubcaps, and other materials.

I also started collaborating with folks from the Case recycling center. That's where I'm finding all the cardboard and colored paper we're able to use for some of our art projects. Special thanks to Eugene Matthews, Linda Robson, and Danny Merritt for giving me an opportunity to dig through their recycle bins. Ditto for the guys at Case Printing Services, who have graciously allowed me to pick through all their recycled paper from time to time.

We also held an event at Case on February 28 and students created nearly three dozen pieces of art. Special thanks to Alex Galante and Pyone Thi who organized this Greek service event. In addition to creating art for my project, students assisted several other non-profits on that day.

Two weeks later, I met up with Erin Mason, the art teacher at William Cullen Bryant School in Old Brooklyn. She let me raid the school's art gallery, so I now have a bunch of art created by WCB elementary school students.

I've been receiving a great deal of support from all over Cleveland. The same day I met with Erin, I met with Jill Riegelmayer, a resident of Ward 15 who works at the Southwest Activity Center, which is affiliated with the Cuyahoga County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. She introduced me to Danny Tinarello, a wonderful artist who creates essays and amazing art that is sold through Cleveland's HeARTworks. I will be working with Danny and his art teacher, Craig Sullivan, who also volunteers over at Art House, Inc., a non-profit organization in Brooklyn Centre.

Two hours after I met with Jill and Danny, I drove out to Garfield Heights to pick up 10 beautifully painted pieces that was loaned to us by Amy Kreiger. We are thrilled at Amy's generosity and her art is truly one-of-a-kind.

On top of all this, I just learned that one of our Case students, Ben Meck, will be working with locals to design a mural at Mr. E's Inn on Pearl Road. Ben will be stopping by on March 28 to meet with the owner, Hal Esterwood.

With all the redistricting chaos that's going on in the city, I'm looking forward to the 28th, when we can all come together as a community to celebrate Old Brooklyn. Please join us, or e-mail me if you have some ideas on how to move this project forward. What a great way to celebrate the spring!

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February 22, 2009

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.

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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.

1 | 2 | 3

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.

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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.

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January 13, 2009

Local Artist to Display Work during Case Inauguration, Black History Month

As part of its historic inauguration event on January 20, Case will be displaying the work of Old Brooklyn airbrush artist Andre Holt. His three-panel piece, entitled "Clouds of Witnesses," is a salute to Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama, and numerous other black historians.

The Inauguration Celebration and Lunch will be held in Thwing Ballroom from 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. The inauguration will be viewed on a large screen during the Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony at 12 noon.

Holt's 10-foot wide tribute was originally created for Rev. Otis Moss Jr., the senior pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland. He had heard Moss speak about “clouds of witnesses” and the greatness of those who live to serve others.

Holt was moved to create something memorable and started gathering photographs for his work. His colorful gold tones and detail on canvas -- amid airbrush images of Mother Theresa, Oprah Winfrey, Jessie Jackson, and others -- shows a heartfelt appreciation for activists and humanitarians that serve as advocates for the down and out. Holt himself is an activist and helped establish the Bessie Mae Hunger Fund for the homeless of Old Brooklyn.

"It is an honor for me to have Case display my art during the inauguration," Holt said. "It is especially an honor to have created works of art that are meaningful, that is a tribute to such humanitarians and freedom fighters as Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others."

Holt was uncertain whether Moss would ever see the multi-panel work before his retirement this past December. When he displayed it outside his Forever Grateful studio on Pearl Road last fall, it caught the attention of Case employee Maria Dimengo, who hopes to work with Holt during her Case Cares About Cleveland initiative. The project is part of a Case for Community grant she received to revitalize storefronts in the Old Brooklyn/Brooklyn Centre area.

Dimengo later met with MLK committee members and staff at the Harris Library who discovered that the triptych fit in perfectly with this year’s inaugural theme and Black History Month celebrations.

"I am thrilled at the enthusiasm at Case," Holt said. "It gave me a feeling that black history matters there, and that makes a difference to me."

After learning about Case and its MLK Week celebration, Holt was inspired to buy some more canvas. He hopes to complete another 48 x 60 tribute – this time, a portrait depicting the struggles of MLK and "The Dream."

After the inauguration on January 20, Holt is making plans to display his work at the Harris Library in the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences through February 13.

"History is finally being made with a black president," Holt added. "It has shown me how far we have come in this world -- that people should matter. People want change no matter who it comes from, black or white."

For more information on Andre Holt, please contact Maria Dimengo in Student Affairs, June Hund, or Kristen Kirchgesler in MSASS.

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November 30, 2008

Participating Businesses

Many thanks to the following businesses and property owners that have shown interest in the storefront revitalization project. We hope to have interested students, artists, and community members assist them with painting, posters, and more.

Broadview Cleaners
Connie Ewazen
Helene Sroka
Jack Amburgey
Jim O'Donnell
Name Brand Paints
Maria's Beauty Salon
Michael Cottrell
Mike Dolan
Pearlview Barber Shop
Robin Hood's Resale Shop
Tom Pavlica
WSEM - Brookside

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Project Updates: Old Brooklyn

Thank you Case Western Reserve University and the Center for Community Partnerships! We now have $1,000 to use toward our revitalization projects in Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre.

Since receiving our grant in September 2008, we have fielded numerous inquiries from volunteers, artists, businesses, and residents who want to get involved. We will be updating this blog with project information and photos to keep you in the loop about what we'll be doing over the next several months.

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