Lorain Avenue Streetscape November 23, 2015 - November 23, 2015
About the Work
A streetscape-improvement project in the stretch of Lorain Avenue now being called “Variety Village” generated funds, through the City of Cleveland’s Public Art Program, for public art in the neighborhood. Variety Village, a recently coined name for the commercial district along Lorain between West 117th and West 123rd streets, is named for the Variety Theatre, a vaudeville-era theater that is in the early stages of a restoration project. The Variety, housed in a block-long building that also contains eight storefronts and 13 second-story apartments, had a seating capacity of 1,980, making it much larger than the typical neighborhood theaters of its time.
An artwork by Stephen Manka of Cleveland, Hat, reflects the neighborhood’s cinematic history with a giant hat, scarf, and cane and also functions as a place to sit and a potential projection surface. The artwork is sited on the northeast corner of Lorain and 119th. Two additional artworks, by Tom Hubbard, will also celebrate the neighborhood’s showbiz connections and will be placed on the south side of the street—one near the theater entrance and another near the corner of Lorain and 117th.
The theater itself will also add to the street’s artwork collection when a reproduction of its historic marquee—this time outfitted with 2,280 LED lights—is put in place over the theater’s main entrance. Plans for the theater call for its reuse as a dining and entertainment facility. Its 300-seat balcony will be restored as a more intimate facility for showing films on the big screen.
The public art component of the Variety Village streetscape was funded by the City of Cleveland’s Public Art Program, which requires that major capital improvements undertaken by the city set aside an amount equal to 1.5% of the capital project’s construction budget toward public art. The public art funds are then sometimes supplemented by other funds. In this project, for example, funds that were originally going to go toward higher-end bike racks were tapped to increase the public art budget. The bike racks that will be added to the district will instead be of the dependable, standard-issue variety.