CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) – Here in Cleveland, you don’t have to go to a museum to see and experience art.
You can walk out your door, look up and see it on the walls of buildings all over the city.
Much of this art tells a story from a black perspective, a story that has not always been shared.
For decades, black artists have been excluded from the art world.
Destination Cleveland actively worked to right this wrong.
The visitor’s office has created a public art passport that showcases the black experience, called ‘expressions of black culture.’
At the corner of West 3rd Street and Rockwell Avenue in Cleveland, big brown eyes beckon you.
“I painted this one in 2020 during the pandemic, however, this one is called obstruction. And it was my take on how there are things that get in the way of seeing someone’s true beauty or to see your inner self. And so that was my interpretation of people being embarrassed by stereotypes, biases, prejudices, your outward appearance and not seeing the interviewee. So that’s what he is about,” said Stina Aleah, a Cleveland-based artist.
She tells 19 News that when she paints, it’s with purpose, using her canvas to tell a story.
“I think as artists we have a duty to spread messages and raise awareness through our work, especially if we have a platform. And so Destination Cleveland giving us even more of a platform is just I think it’s just amazing,” Aleah said.
In February, the Convention and Visitors Bureau created a public art passport, called Expressions of Black Culture.
“The black community here is such a strong part of what makes Cleveland who we are. So we really wanted to tap into that and really give people a chance to learn something new about this community, to really understand the experiences and the story behind this community here in Cleveland, and to continue to amplify these black voices,” said Jen Brasdovich, Public Relations Manager for Destination Cleveland.
It’s the first in a series, a virtual app that you can open on your phone and see over 35 works of art across the city.
“So if you check it out with friends, read this story, read the inspiration for the artwork, and start that conversation. And we hope that people will expand that conversation and start having those conversations within the community and continue those conversations that we’ve already started here in Cleveland. We know there’s a big opportunity here, and a lot of this work demonstrates some of the challenges we’ve faced in recent years,” Brasdovich said.
For decades, black artists have been excluded from spaces.
In 2019, a Williams College study surveyed 18 major museums in the United States and found that 85.4% of works in the collections of all major US museums were created by white artists.
African-American artists represented only 1.2% of the works, while they represented 15% of the American population.
Fast forward to 2020 in a global pandemic and a summer of racial reckoning.
Some organizations are now recognizing this disparity and trying to create opportunities to showcase black artists, inside and outside the museum.
In recent years, the city of Cleveland has attracted a large number of visitors, in part because of its public art and as proof, people, businesses and organizations take this opportunity to share a story or two about the community.
Something that Aleah as a self-taught artist benefits from. His work is spotted all over the city.
“It was just one of those feelings of crazy joy because like when you have a chance, an opportunity to have your art and your messages that are attached to your art, and no more Clevelander hands, I think that’s is really important to black artists. . And so I love being a part of that,” Aleah said.
“It’s been very well received so far. And we think as we move into the summer months, and it gets warmer, we’re going to see a lot more people start signing up for that. And we really hope that people will come out to these neighborhoods, visit some of the stores, some of the restaurants that are there, because they can see this art that’s on display,” Brasdovich said. “We have murals, we have sculptures, statues, this African American cultural garden, so a lot of really great ways for people to experience the public art scene here and learn something new,” she said.
“I can see myself now as I walk around the city and see different works. I see myself in it, as opposed to when we were kind of closed to it and you couldn’t see yourself in the artwork. They didn’t look like me. And so I think that’s what I really get from being able to experiment with different works by black artists,” Aleah said. “To see someone do it that looks like them is important. And I think that’s also another driving force that I want to be at the forefront. I want to have these conversations. I want my art to be great on the walls, because I want a little girl to come by and say oh, I can do this,” she said.
The virtual passport has 35 places to register.
Once you register within 25, you can enter to win a prize basket of items from minority-owned businesses in Cleveland.
Copyright 2022 WOIO. All rights reserved.