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MidTown Cleveland reschedules Cleveland Walls mural festival for August 23-28

Organizers of a large-scale, mural-painting festival across Cleveland’s MidTown district postponed the event in June and then September last year because the coronavirus pandemic made it unsafe for artists to travel to Cleveland.

But the festival, called Cleveland Walls, is now back on track and scheduled for Aug. 23-28.

Some 20 artists — 10 from across the country and around the world, and 10 from Cleveland and Northeast Ohio — will descend on MidTown to turn blank walls, garage doors and other surfaces into large-scale urban canvases.

The $450,000 event, organized by the nonprofit MidTown Cleveland Inc. and LAND Studio, is funded largely by the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation and Dealer Tire, with $57,000 committed from Ward 7 Councilman Basheer Jones and Ward 5 Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland.

A top goal of the festival is giving a stronger and more colorful identity to a one-time gray zone centered in the four-mile corridor between downtown and University Circle.

In addition to boosting visibility, another goal of Cleveland Walls is to highlight Midtown’s history and culture, including the AsiaTown neighborhood, where the majority of residents originally hail from China, Korea and Vietnam.

Cleveland Walls is being organized by Honolulu-based mural artist Jasper Wong, founder of Pow! Wow! Worldwide, an organization that has led large-scale mural blitzes in Japan, Taiwan, Israel, and coastal U.S. cities. Artists involved in the events paint up to 50 murals a week.

The Cleveland project was originally named Pow! Wow! Cleveland, but MidTown changed the name out of deference to Native American sensibilities.

Wong chose the 10 national and international participating artists, and a committee of local artists and art experts chose the 10 local participants from 200 applicants. The local artists were selected according to criteria including merit, experience, artistic potential and cultural diversity.

The 10 Cleveland participants are: Antwoine Washington, Julia Kuo, Jordan Wong, Chad Fedorovich, Glen Infante, Darius Steward, April Bleakney, Gary Williams, Robin Robinson, and Mr. Soul.

The festival matched all participating artists with 20 property owners at locations across MidTown. Artists consulted with property owners, but are allowed to express themselves freely, the event organizers said.

Cleveland’s City Planning Commission approved most of the mural designs last year.

Clevelanders will be able to watch the artists at work throughout the six-day festival, which will be accompanied by special programming and events, all to be held outdoors. Events will include a film festival on Friday, Aug. 27, and a concert on Saturday, Aug. 28.

Details will be described on the Cleveland Walls website.

The festival follows other recent mural-painting campaigns across the city, including projects funded by the Cleveland Foundation and organized by LAND Studio and the FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art.

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