Cities like London, Prague, Lisbon, Mexico City, and NYC are known for their extensive street art, an element of city life that some consider a sign of overall vibrancy. Cleveland has recently stepped up its street art game, featuring local artists, domestic wonders, and world-renowned foreign artists alike, whose large-scale art makes a statement by splashing across the sides of buildings throughout the area.
“Rather than blight remediation, this is a way to take a city fabric that is changing—primarily in a positive way—and [ask] how can we make it more interesting, more intellectually challenging?”
As a longtime lover of street art, I recently created an Instagram account, @clestreetart, to share some of the city’s best murals and other outdoor works.
Here’s a quick and fun look at a few of my favorites so far – with many, many more to explore.
Cleveland’s downtown is, for now, surprisingly absent of large-scale artwork, though with Bidwell’s help, that’s starting to change. This spring, The FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial commissioned three pieces of art to be painted downtown, still in the works. Stay tuned for murals from Philadelphia artist Odili Odita, New York artist Virginia Overton, and Chicago artist Kay Rosen.
One of the murals downtown, though, is anything but new. Cleveland’s first Black mayor, Carl Stokes, commissioned “Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench,” painted in 1969 by Cleveland artist John Morrell. Though its now weathered, the mural still stands at East 9th St. at Rockwell Ave., a reminder of the ways art can speak for progressive change.
In the downtown-adjacent neighborhood of Tremont, where I live, you’ll find colorful, sometimes-creepy artwork local artist Dave Witzke, a.k.a. The Sign Guy, whose bird- and cat-centric creations are all over. His large pieces grace La Bodega, Fat Cats, & Corner 11, among others, but good luck finding them all – they’re everywhere!
New to the area is a “Welcome to Tremont” mural on the side of the Tremont Convenience Mart, painted by local artists Vic Savage and Alan Giberson and sponsored by Graffiti HeArt, which provides arts scholarships to underserved Cleveland youth. Look closely and you’ll see Tremont favorites like a leg lamp and Lolly the Trolley, among others.
Nearby Ohio City is home to so many murals that it has its own Instagram account, @streetartohiocity, which documents art around the neighborhood – many of which were created in 2016 as part of the Creative Fusion artists residency, sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation. One of them is a bright yellow wall featuring angular cartoon faces on the side of the building that now houses TITLE Boxing Club in Hingetown, painted by Cleveland’s own Joe Lanzilotta.
Another local artist, Mike Sobeck, is behind the Hingetown mural that features a greasy slice of pizza, a popular and highly Instagrammable photo spot.
Other Creative Fusion-fueled pieces include Brazilian artist Ananda Nahu’s 500-foot mural, the longest in the state; Italian artist Michela Picchi’s friendly flying tiger; and British artist David Shillinglaw’s huge, colorful, collage-style piece at the corner of Church Ave. and West 25th St. Learn more and find them all at hingetownpublicart.com.
Also in Ohio City is the “Welcome to Cleveland” mural reminiscent of a postcard, painted by the world-renowned mural project Greetings Tour (a project of muralist Victor Ving and photographer Lisa Beggs). Located at the corner of W. 25th Street and Chatham, it’s another perfect background for Cleveland-themed photos (like this one of my friend announcing her move to our fair city!)
A new mural outside Market Garden Brewery replaces a chalkboard wall that asked passersby to finish the sentence “Before I die, I want to…” Now, that wall features a farmers market scene (not unlike the real-life scene at the West Side Market nearby) beneath a sky full of fried eggs. A quote at the top reads, “If you see a cloud behind the sun, it must be an egg.” Created by French artist Paatrice Marchand, the mural celebrates a 10-year partnership between the Cleveland and Rouen, France, as sister cities.
One of the most popular murals in the city depicts the late, great musician Prince eating a pink sprinkled donut under the highway overpass near West 25th St, and Washington Ave. The large-scale mural, created by Cleveland artist Glen Infante, was badly vandalized in 2017 but has since been fully repaired.
Gordon Square got an artistic facelift this summer when a spate of new murals went up as part of a partnership between the Gordon Square Arts District, LAND Studio, and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. They include hand-lettering artist Lisa Quine’s large, black “DREAM BIG” piece on the side of 6805 Detroit Ave.; on the other side of the same building is a turquoise piece featuring anthropomorphized coffee cups and other ephemera by Justin Michael Will.
Waterloo Arts District was one of the first Cleveland neighborhoods to get its own mural series, way back in the fall of 2014. Among them is this intricate and realistic mural, titled “Industrial Sunset/Creative Placemaking,” created by Baltimore artist Gaia at the corner of East 156th St. and Waterloo Rd.
Anonymous Brooklyn artist RAE designed this dynamic piece, full of dozens of line drawings of faces, at East 156th St. and Waterloo Rd.
This is just a small peek at the many murals around Cleveland – and as a self-professed lover of street art, I confess I’ve not yet done enough exploring in the Waterloo Arts District or elsewhere. Time to go see what other murals it has to offer!
If you have a favorite piece of art you want to share with me – and maybe see it featured on my Instagram account – tag me at @clestreetart to show and tell. Let’s go find them all – together.