Sam3's "Walking on Water" mural on Cleveland water tower to be completed this month
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Garrett A. Morgan power surge tower has stood just off the Detroit Shoreway by the West 45th Street exit near Lake Erie for over 40 years. The tower was painted white, save for the blue “City of Cleveland Est. 1796” written across its side. The tower stands as one of the most iconic structures along Lake Erie between Edgewater Park and downtown Cleveland.
Commuters have likely noticed the 94-foot tall tank stained and worn from its exposure to harsh weather and environmental conditions. The surge tank was scheduled to be repainted as a matter of routine maintenance by Cleveland Water. An anonymous donor to LAND studio, who aimed to contribute to a major public artwork in Cleveland, funded the design and installation of new mural artwork that covers the entire tank.
Cleveland Water and LAND studio coordinated for over a year to transform the tank, built in the 1970s and named for Garret A. Morgan, a famous black inventor and community leader who died in 1963. Through a bid process, Cleveland Water hired D&M Contracting to sand-blast, prime and paint and blue top coat on the tank.
"We've worked hard to get to this point," Jason Woods, chief of public affairs for the city's department of public utilities, said Tuesday at a press conference. "We've been working for about a year and a half, at least, on the art component of this."
"For us, most of our infrastructure is secured behind fences, it’s separated from the public," Woods said. "This is a very visible piece of our infrastructure that is tucked very intimately into a mixed-use neighborhood."
D&M Contracting finished the maintenance work over the summer, and artist Sam3 started to paint the mural. Sam3, a Spanish artist, was selected from a shortlist of qualified artists by a community advisory committee made up of representatives from city council, city planning, Cleveland Water, Cleveland's public art committee, the artistic community, nearby neighborhoods, community organizations and local businesses.
Born in Elche, Spain, and currently living in Athens, Greece, Sam3 makes artwork that has been described as "poetic and inspiring and sometimes ironic and provocative." He has been creating large-scale murals all over the world. His works are massive in scale, yet simplistic in their use of color and expressive in their shapes.
"He is known for his ability to play with negative space and eloquently express universal narratives," the city said.
Sam3 has been recognized for influencing and elevating street art culture around the globe by Complex Magazine, The Guardian and Design Bump. The publication "Arte Español Contemporaneo 1992-2013" included him among the most important Spanish contemporary artists of his generation.
The mural for the Garrett Morgan surge tower is entitled "Walking on Water." The blue-themed design is "purposefully simple," the city said. It shows two interlaced figures stretching toward one another.
"The figures boundlessly exert energy as they reach, but never fully connect to each other," the city said. "They are in fact the movement of one universal entity and thus already connected."
Sam3's design is inspired by the multiple meanings of Heraclitus' quote, "No man ever steps in the same river twice." The mural represents the flow of water – "cyclical, infinite, and sometimes unpredictable" - and uses it to mirror the constant movement and changes in life. Sam3 is assisted by Alan Giberson, a talented local artist, designer and sign painter who creates under the name Old Soul Sign Co.
Sherwin-Williams contributed all of the paint for this project, the city said. No public money is being used for the project since the art is funded through a private donation, the city said.
Sam3 is painting the mural in coordination with Cleveland Water's planned cleaning and renovation of the tank, the city said.