City Club launches 'Freedom of Speech Mural Project' with first of three new murals
CLEVELAND, Ohio - When it comes to free speech and public art murals, the City Club of Cleveland wants more of both.
The first mural in the "Freedom of Speech Mural Project," designed by Cleveland artist April Bleakney, was installed Thursday on the west facade of the Bonfoey Gallery at East 17th Street and Euclid Avenue.
The club, a nonprofit forum of free speech founded in 1912, decided last year to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its 1942 mural "Freedom of Speech,'' by Cleveland artist Elmer Brown, by commissioning three new murals.
Unlike the Brown mural, which decorates the interior of the City Club's dining room at 850 Euclid Ave. in downtown Cleveland, the Bleakney mural and two more to come will all occupy outdoor locations around the city.
The City Club engaged the nonprofit LAND Studio to help realize the project.
The Bleakney mural depicts an upward-looking African-American woman whose image is accompanied by text including statements such as: "I am the product of the people, a cross section of the community, weak as they are weak and strong in their strength."
Bleakney said in a statement released by the City Club that she noticed that the 1942 mural by Brown, who was black, omitted women and people of color.
Brown's mural, painted in the realist style popular in the 1930s and '40s, depicts shirtless, muscular white men unfurling wads of documents that flow from the twin tablets of the 10 commandments toward multitudes including a speechifying politician and a figure of blind justice with her scales.
"The central figure in my design was consciously chosen to be a young woman,'' Bleakney said. "My hope was to create something colorful, expressive and vibrant."
A second mural, by Cleveland artist Donald Black Jr., will be installed in September at the Harvey Rice Branch of the Cleveland Public Library, 11535 Shaker Blvd.
It will depict an African-American boy thrusting a microphone through a translucent American flag superimposed on a sheet of glass. The work relies entirely on the power of its imagery, without resorting to words. It shows, rather than tells.
A third mural, designed by the late Christopher Darling, an assistant professor of visual communication and design at Kent State University, who died in June, will be installed at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District's New Tech Collinwood school, 15210 St. Clair Ave.
Darling's work was inspired by the linear simplistic illustrations in popular graphic novels, according to a City Club news release. It features three groups of racially diverse men and women accompanied by the words "Dialogue," "Diversity," and "Democracy."
"We hope that the City Club's 'Freedom of Speech Mural Project' will bring our mission 'to create conversations of consequence that help democracy thrive' into the community and add to the breathtaking resurgence of mural art in Cleveland," City Club CEO Dan Moulthrop said in the news release.