The six communities selected for this exhibition demonstrate a resilience and fortitude led by the residents within them. Buckeye, Central, East Cleveland, Glenville, Kinsman, and Slavic Village all exist in the aftermath of discriminatory government planning and racially biased foreclosure schemes. Despite having to overcome the challenges of intense discrimination with massive gaps in earnings, poverty and employment, residents, institutions and home-grown activists are working to revitalize the neighborhoods while retaining the history of these communities.
As the African American population in Cleveland soared in the 1960s, the East-side neighborhoods suffered a slow economic decline from institutional redlining and blockbusting. Racial prejudice and segregation became prevalent. The racially motivated fire that destroyed the footpath of the Sidaway Bridge in 1966 demonstrates how collaboration between Black and White communities in Kinsman and Slavic Village, respectively, were literally severed. Today, Buckeye, Central, East Cleveland, Glenville, Kinsman, and Slavic Village, all located on the City’s east side, are “forgotten,” and among the poorest communities in Cleveland. More than half of Buckeye’s and Central’s residents still live below the poverty line.
However, in spite of the many challenges of systemic racism, these neighborhoods are home to many historic treasures and grassroots efforts working to elevate living conditions. For example, in Glenville, Cory Methodist Church continues to be a beacon of Black pride. In Kinsman, also named the “Forgotten Triangle” in 2008, the Rid-All Green Partnership was developed to address the food disparency and the large percentage of children living in poverty in its immediate geography. Slavic Village, which was once the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis, is seeing over $100 million in re-investment to the area to revitalize abandoned houses and empty lots.
The Scofield Mansion was designed by and belonged to sculptor and architect Levi T. Scofield, best known for his design of the County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Public Square. (The monument includes a controversial depiction of a formerly enslaved man kneeling at the feet of Abraham Lincoln). Overlooking downtown Cleveland, the house offers scenic views of Lake Erie. Over the years, the house served as a chapel, a convent, a nursing home, and was then abandoned in 1990. Since then, the Mansion has been in a state of disrepair and was scheduled to be demolished until the Cleveland Restoration Society, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, and the Cuyahoga County Land Bank have teamed up to restore the house as a gem of the Buckeye neighborhood.
I have a very personal connection to the neighborhood in which the Scofield Mansion is located. I am a part of Cleveland’s Bike Life community and we often meet on Woodstock near the Scofield Mansion. In addition, when my family moved out of the projects, we lived in the Woodhill area so my early childhood memories are rooted in the neighborhood. The site holds a complicated historic meaning. Sculptor Levi Scofield, the artist who created the Cuyahoga County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, a major Civil War monument in Cleveland—resided in the Scofield Mansion. To me, the mansion represents the home of the person who was being paid to illustrate racism. Now I have the perfect opportunity to re-illustrate the modern day Civil War against Cleveland Bike Life.
The intersection of Buckeye, South Woodland, and Woodhill is part of a larger plan of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to encourage more street and foot traffic in the area. In 2012, the station was completed with universal accessibility, high visibility, and free parking as part of the RTA’s “Park and Ride” program. The intersection, with views of downtown Cleveland, is also part of Project Clean Lake, a green infrastructure program to reduce the volume of sewer overflow into Lake Erie.
My artwork “Rising from the Ashes” represents a symbol of resurrection and endurance. The Great Pyramids of Giza stand the test of time as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. I chose to place my work in the space that has been cleared of buildings at the intersection of East 99th and Buckeye Road. In many Cleveland neighborhoods spaces are being created by the steady destruction of homes and commercial properties. Along with them, the histories of the people and commerce disappear. In its augmented reality form, “Rising from the Ashes” will remain in this space just as the monuments in the Sahara remind us of the past with a connection to the future.
On the plot of the now-vacant Goodwill Industries Rehabilitation Center lies the shadow of Cleveland’s primary African American hotel. Opened in 1907, the Majestic Hotel provided a place for Black folks to stay, eat, relax, and enjoy musical entertainment free from discrimination. Its jazz club served as an interracial point of interest across Cleveland and was enjoyed by people of all races alike. The Majestic lost its purpose as integration eased the need for hotels catering primarily to a Black clientele. On May 27, 1967 the Call and Post, Cleveland's leading Black newspaper, reported on the impending demolition of the Majestic to build the Goodwill Industries Rehabilitation Center, "with the Majestic goes the sounds of music, the voices of the great, and a bright era of Negro community life."
As an artist and community activist, I reimagine the vacant Goodwill Industries building as The Central Community Majestic Cultural Arts Center. Once upon a time, East 55th from Cedar to Woodland served as a downtown area bursting with commerce and entertainment. The site was once the home of the Majestic Hotel, which opened in 1907, and emerged after the Great Migration as Cleveland's primary African American hotel. Located in the heart of the Cedar-Central neighborhood, the Majestic provided African Americans with a quality place to call home. It holds childhood memories for me: my family lived there, as did many other older Central residents. My work gives viewers a view of the vision I hold, bringing life back to the Cedar Central Neighborhood.
Cleveland’s Woodland Cemetery, dedicated in 1853, was the main public cemetery for over fifty of the city’s most dynamic years. Buried here are War of 1812 and Civil War veterans, as well as John Brown, the wealthiest African-American man in Cleveland in the mid nineteenth century and a vital part of the Underground Railroad, as well as Sarah Lucy Bagby, the last fugitive slave returned to slavery under the Fugitive Slave Act. As the pride of the city’s public cemeteries, Woodland was adorned with a Gothic-style stone gateway. By the early 20th century, Woodland had lost public favor. The distinguished gatehouse was recently restored using the original stones. In 2015 the Woodland Cemetery became an official site under the National Parks Historic Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
This piece was conceptualized from the highly decorated and anthropomorphized African Spirit vessels. These vessels primarily made by women, use the highly expressive characteristics of clay. The material itself is symbolic of the cycle of life and the worlds of earth and water, human and spirit. These works serve various ritual functions including, an axis for prayer or meditation, joining ceremonies, healing the sick, safeguarding the community and activating the presence of various ancestral and protective spirits. Their positive intervention was considered vital to health and well-being. Listening Eye is a site-specific work located at the entrance of Woodland Cemetery in the central neighborhood. This work metaphorically represents the guiding presence of our ancestors, located at the gateway between the past and present.
The East Cleveland Clinic Nursing Home for Wealthy Alcoholics sat vacant and dilapidated for seventeen years until artist and entrepreneur Ed Parker purchased and rehabilitated it to house the Edward E. Parker Creative Arts Complex. The Complex includes the Snickerfritz Cultural Workshop for the Arts, Inc., which Parker founded in 1984, gallery and classroom space, meeting rooms, and a number of small businesses. Parker designed and installed the two white columns that stand on Rosalind Ave outside of the facility. His intent for the columns was to symbolize the gateway from Cleveland to East Cleveland, demonstrating the fluid yet dependant nature of the relationship between the two cities.
East Cleveland is where I have chosen to live and work for decades. I have witnessed its historic splendor and devastating decline, due in most part to financial mismanagement and the surge of gun violence. My sculpture is entitled "From a moment to a movement...down with guns." I placed it in between the gothic columns that represent the gateway from Cleveland to East Cleveland demonstrating their parasitic relationship. This sculpture is a protest piece intended to bring attention to the increasing number of homicides and injuries caused by guns.
John D. Rockefeller purchased the Forest Hill neighborhood in what would eventually become East Cleveland. Constructed in 1940, the footbridge stands in Forest Hill Park, connecting East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights. Despite their proximity to each other, there is a stark difference in wealth between the two neighborhoods. Today, the footbridge is still in use, though its condition has declined due to vandalism. Tucked away in the trees, the stone footbridge serves as a tangible memory of East Cleveland’s past.
Being BIPOC and living in a community that is reduced to a flippant remark is not exemplary of the people that live, work, and raise the next generation. We can point to the problems and offer a myriad of solutions until we are blue in the face. We cannot afford to remain in the same mindset that makes us less than the circumstances we are surrounded by. I chose a bridge in a space that separates two different communities and is fertile on both sides for a reason. The grass is green within us. We have to grow despite, and in some cases, because of the situations, we have been placed in. I AM, is showcasing black folks because we began and always will be here, despite efforts to marginalize and eradicate us. I am going to be the change I want to see.I am p owerful enough to find a way through the darkness. I am, period.
The present day Glenville High School was built in 1964 to accommodate the large African American population in the community. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the school in 1967 to promote the importance of education. Today the school is renowned for its athletics programs, especially the track and field and football programs. With famous alumni including former Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White and actor Steve Harvey, the high school is a well-established pillar of the community. Adjacent to the High School is, fittingly, another vital resource in the neighborhood, the Glenville Recreation Center.
When I draw marks on a canvas, my world is reduced to simple black and white, as if the world has no color, or that I might be color-blind. This is important to me in the context of a country transfixed by color for racial reasons and satiated with a Disney palette. Black and white is a form of peace that I want viewers, including those young people of Glenville High School and the Glenville Recreation Center, to see as a necessary condition for learning. My drawing is intended to be viewed over the mural of community figures by the back entrance of the Recreation Center and uses elements of the foliage found in its vicinity. I attempt to create a three-dimensional universe of calm between the marks of my drawing and those of the individuals on the mural.
Cory United Methodist Church was once the city’s largest synagogue, aptly named the “Jewish Center.” Glenville’s largely predominant Jewish population moved East during the Second Wave of the Great Migration. As African Americans moved into Glenville, the members of Cory Methodist Church took ownership and Cory became one of the country’s largest Black-owned churches. Cory’s prominence made it a nationally important stop for civil rights luminaries, including Martin Luther King, Jr. who spoke at Cory in 1963 and Malcolm X, who gave his famous “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech in 1964. Today, its ongoing tradition of community outreach continues to make Cory a beacon in the Glenville neighborhood.
Corey United Methodist church, located in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood, has a rich legacy of social justice ministry that has influenced past and present spiritual, cultural, and political movements. Serving as a church, gathering place, and public forum, Corey United Methodist Church is a revered sanctuary for Black spirituality, political thought, and arts. This work seeks to uplift the sacred tradition and liberation work of Corey United Methodist Church as scaffolding for ongoing racial reckoning. Prophetic visions of racial justice pioneers fill the sanctuary of Corey United Methodist Church. Here, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Marian Anderson, and others delivered visionary messages of freedom to its seekers. This work looks towards the future of racial justice movement and regards Black children as prophets of freedom. Through their revelations, new life is embodied.
Opened in 2019 near permanent retail space along the corridors of Kinsman Road, the Box Spot is a business incubator for entry-level entrepreneurs. Consisting of a series of recycled shipping containers arranged as an open-air market within a community space, the Box Spot is revitalizing underutilized land by providing low-cost space to small businesses and bringing shopping and services to the community.
“Another Brother Gone” is a photogrammetry model of my own head. Its surface appears cosmic and reflects the spatial configuration of the Box Spot shipping containers, which appear to me as if they are helicoptered in to a place that feels otherworldly. As a Black person in America, I have a heightened awareness of the frequency of Black men being killed by police brutality, as if our lives can be easily eradicated. In my work I attempt to place the “souls” of Black men in a larger cosmic context. This connection to a larger story of human evolution makes me hopeful.
Founded in 2011, Rid-All Green Partnership turned an urban dumping ground in Cleveland’s Kinsman neighborhood into an agricultural center to combat the food desert around it. Located in an area deemed the “Forgotten Triangle” because of its abandoned industrial past, Rid-All is an internationally acclaimed permacultural enterprise. In addition to providing healthy, fresh food to area residents and institutions, Rid-All trains area youth and residents on environmental sustainability.
From the time I was 10 years old, I would regularly ride the number 14 RTA bus down Kinsman. Over the years, I witnessed the neighborhood deteriorating and saw hope being syphoned out of the community. I imagined what I could do to make things better. Rid-All’s founders had the same dream. Since 2011, they have brought hope back to the community by teaching people to be self-sufficient. On several acres of land in the "Forgotten Triangle," they've built greenhouses, a fishery, and teaching facilities. I've met several people associated with Rid-All and the neighborhood. In those conversations they explained how important it was to them to pass on the knowledge and wisdom of their elders and give hope to the community by teaching self sufficiency in learning how to grow one's own food and utilizing available resources. My artwork reflects this vision by showing archetypal images representing knowledge, learning, hard work, and blessings and wisdom of our elders.
The intersection of Broadway and East 55th Street was once the second largest commercial district outside of Cleveland’s downtown. Steps away from it stands the Badgley Nichols building, which has been vacant for 40 years. What once housed two storefronts and “luxury” apartments on the second floor, the building is just one example of the neighborhood-wide devastation that occurred throughout Slavic Village after WWII. When the neighborhood demographics shifted to predominantly African-American, white residents quickly abandoned the area for the surrounding suburbs. Today with over $100 million in re-investment to the area, the intersection is now an official Historical District.
The site of 5645 Broadway Avenue is near the 55th & Broadway Avenue intersection, which once was the bustling business center of Slavic Village. Due to its proximity to steel mills, Slavic Village was inhabited by many ethnicities: Irish, Czech, Polish, and Slovak. Today Slavic Village is an entirely different community, and composed of Blacks, Appalachians and Hispanics. I hope that my artwork will help to initiate thoughtful discussion within the community about the past, the present, and the future of Slavic Village.
The frame of the Sidaway Bridge is a living reminder of the racial tensions that existed in the 1960s. The Bridge was built in 1909 to unite the Hungarian and Polish populations of Kinsman Road and the Jackowo neighborhoods, respectively. Shortly after Black families began moving to Kinsman in the 1960's the Sidaway Bridge became a flash point when, in 1966, someone removed planking from the bridge and set it on fire. Rather than repair the bridge, the City of Cleveland elected to close it. A decade later, in 1976, the federal district court cited the closing of the Sidaway Bridge as evidence that city and school officials had worked in concert to segregate the schools on the basis of race. The neighboring Elizabeth Baptist Church, known for its ministry to connect the Slavic Village community at many different levels, is serving as the location to view this work of art.
I am drawn to the history of the Sidaway Bridge when it was vandalized during the Hough Riots in 1966. Some of the wooden planks of the walkway were removed and set on fire on the Slavic Village entrance of the bridge, so no one on the Kinsman side of the bridge could enter again. For the past 55 years, the boards were never repaired or replaced; the bridge was left in disrepair and neglect. This bridge is important to me because to me it reflects the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge: how America was built on the system of slavery and disregarded the people that were here before and The White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy that resulted from it. By acknowledging the volatile history of the Sidaway Bridge, we can recognize its power to re-connect divided communities across Cleveland.