Garrett A. Morgan Surge Tank
About the Work
The Garrett Morgan Surge Tank is one of the city’s most visible pieces of infrastructure along the Shoreway between Edgewater Park and downtown Cleveland. Thanks to an anonymous donor the tank has now become an artistic landmark. A community advisory committee with representatives from city council, city planning, Cleveland Water, Cleveland’s public art committee, the artistic community, nearby neighborhoods, community organizations, and local businesses selected Sam3, a world-famous Spanish artist (based in Greece), from diverse shortlist of qualified artists.
Since the 1990s, Sam3 has been creating large-scale murals all over the globe with simple colors and poetic shapes. His conceptually driven works are massive in scale and are often allegorical representations of humankind and natural elements. He is often credited with influencing and elevating street art culture.
Sam3’s water-themed design shows two large figures interlaced. While their forms can be seen at a distance, they will take time to reveal their entire selves. Different angles and speeds will show unique aspects of the artwork. The concept is also partially based on the Heraclitus sentence: “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” Sam3 interprets the philosopher’s words to mean that there is constant movement and flow always. The cycle of the water is like the cycle of the tower—cylindrical and infinite. The figures are water and we are the figures, so we are water.
ABOUT THE TANK
The tank was built in the 1970s to prevent catastrophic water surges that could damage the nearby water treatment plant. The tank is 94 feet high. It is named for Garret Morgan (1877-1963), the famous black inventor and community leader.
ABOUT THE PROCESS
Installing the artwork was a complicated process and part of a larger Cleveland Water Maintenance Project. The artwork was paid for through LAND studio by a private donor. A community advisory group selected preferred artists from a shortlist of muralists with the proven ability to complete projects of this scale and complexity. The shortlist included a diverse group of experienced regional, national, and international artists.
Working with LAND studio and using feedback from the advisory group and Cleveland Water, three artists developed sketches to show how they would approach the project. After reviewing past work and sketch concepts and using the recommendations from the community advisory group and technical consulting from Cleveland Water, artist SAM3 was selected. SAM3 came to Cleveland for a site visit and to hear from the community. He met with Cleveland Water, community members, the advisory committee, artists, the city’s public art coordinator, and presented and heard feedback from the Planning Commission. After digesting all the feedback and technical considerations, SAM3 fully developed a final design concept. The artwork responds directly to the community feedback he received during his visit.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Sam3 is a world-famous Spanish artist known for his large-scale murals that are reminiscent of silhouettes or shadows. Since the 1990’s, Sam3 has been creating murals all over the globe that use simple colors and poetic shapes. His conceptually driven works are massive in scale and are often allegories about humankind and its impact on the world. He is recognized for his ability to play with negative space and is often credited with influencing and elevating street art culture as a whole.
Sam3 has been named on lists such as “The 15 Best Street Artists in the World” (British GQ), “The 50Most Influential Street Artists of All Time” (Complex Magazine), and his work has been included on lists like “The 10 Best Street Artworks Ever” (The Guardian) and “Murals Making an Impact in Cities” (The Thrillist).
ABOUT THE MURAL / ARTIST CONCEPT
“No Man Ever Steps in the Same River Twice” – Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher
“I have brought some influence from my home in Athens: the concept is partially based on the Heraclitus sentence: “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” It means that there is constant movement and flow always - just like water coming in from the lake, being made into drinking water and then going out into the world again.” – Sam3
The artwork is two large figures interlaced. The two figures do not have exactly the same positions.
While their forms are large scale and can be seen at a distance, they will take time to reveal their whole selves. Different angles and different speeds of a passerby will reveal different aspects of the artwork. A walking pedestrian will be able to take in more of the narrative, while someone in a car might take more time and see an abstract form at first.
The cycle of the water is like the cycle of this tower: cylindrical, infinite. The protagonist is the water, simply life. We are water, we have to respect ourselves if we respect the environment.
The ideas is purposefully simple: it is the idea of movement of the same figure: no man or woman, just a human being. The figures are made of strong, fluid lines that soften the straight lines of the tower. The figures are translucent and make clear that they are containers. The color suggest that the element is the water, but also play with the idea of camouflage in the sky and making the tower disappear. The tower will change in appearance depending on the light. A sunset vs. a blue sky vs. a gray sky will all create different experiences.