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Applause is a weekly show highlighting Northeast Ohio’s vibrant arts and culture scene. From interviews with artists to special musical performances, the show spotlights creative people in our community and beyond. Watch new episodes here or on WVIZ Ideastream Public Media Fridays at 8:30 p.m. Social: Facebook | Twitter

The Cleveland Cavaliers are a canvas for artist Daniel Arsham

Visual artist Daniel Arsham is known for channeling popular culture into his sculptures and paintings.

As creative director for the Cleveland Cavaliers since 2020, he has refined the Cavs’ logos while paying tribute to Northeast Ohio cultural gems in his uniform designs.

Artist Daniel Arsham in a baseball hat and glasses stands next a decaying guitar sculpture he created.
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Daniel Arsham

He considers himself a “third-generation Clevelander” after spending his early years in Cleveland Heights, before moving to Florida, and his father and grandfather called the region home before him.

Arena museum

When Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse was renovated in 2019, the Gilbert family ownership group added visual art from the family’s personal collection to the arena.

More than 100 pieces of art are in the building and many are by Northeast Ohio artists such as Kasumi, Erin Guido and Darius Steward, according to Cavs Senior Marketing Director Chris Kaiser.

One of the most recognizable installations is Arsham’s “Moving Basketball” in the elevator lobby on the first floor.

Art installation of basketball rippling along a white wall.
Dave DeOreo
Ideastream Public Media
"Moving Basketball" by Daniel Arsham

Cavs connections

This site-specific work led to a connection between the artist and the Gilbert family, specifically Dan and Jennifer Gilbert’s son, Grant.

“An opportunity came up a couple of years ago through my artwork that was in the building to begin a longer relationship with the team,” Arsham said. “Through discussions with Grant Gilbert, basically telling him, ‘This is what I think we should do for the jerseys next season.’ And at some point, he said, ‘You know, maybe it'll be interesting for you to come on board and actually advise us on design.’”

Now as creative director, Arsham is responsible for anything visual the team does, such as designs for the uniforms and basketball courts as well as social media content. Arsham’s firm redesigned the team shop with a two-story basketball run at its center.

Basketball run through roller coaster at Cleveland Cavaliers team store.
Dave DeOreo
Ideastream Public Media
Daniel Arsham basketball run at Cleveland Cavaliers team shop.

Team uniforms

In 2022, Arsham and the Cavs relaunched the team’s logo set for the team’s core uniforms. Kaiser said the goal was to create a more reductive and elegant design by simplifying the Cavs’ brand.

The original “C” was kept but the logo was reimagined.

Arsham also returned to a more traditional wine and gold color scheme, parting ways with the yellow trim associated with the 2016 NBA championship team.

Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player Caris LeVert wearing two city edition uniforms.
Cleveland Cavaliers
Caris LeVert of the Cleveland Cavaliers models City Edition uniforms.

Part of Arsham’s responsibility with the Cavs is also to design the City Edition uniforms.

“The purpose of the City Edition jersey is to shine a light or tell a story around something that we have civic pride in or is a cultural gem within Northeast Ohio,” Kaiser said.

Arsham partnered first with the Cleveland Metroparks, which led to a blue and brown color scheme mimicking the color tones of water and earth.

The current season’s City Edition uniforms spotlight Cleveland’s theater district with designs mirroring the marquees and theaters of Playhouse Square.

“There's details from the curtains in the theater that are on the sleeves and the pinhole lights on the outside of ‘The Land’ graphic,” Arsham said.

Kaiser said he appreciates the connections between Playhouse Square and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

“We're trying to accomplish the same thing in terms of bringing people down to Cleveland and entertaining them and making their lives better,” Kaiser said.

With Arsham’s international cachet as an artist who shows at Art Basel in Miami and designs for Tiffany Co., he said hopes to bring a similar appreciation to his hometown and favorite NBA team.

“I spend a lot of time in my career traveling, in places like Japan and South America and all over Asia and Europe. And basketball has this international feeling about it. It translates everywhere,” Arsham said. “I think part of that is also the design and the language of the jerseys, and it's really just the graphics that surround that. So, I try to really bring Cleveland out into the world as well.”

Decaying football helmet looking like it's from an archaelogical dig.
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Daniel Arsham sculpture from "Score and Sound" on view at the Sculpture Center through Jan. 27

’Score and Sound’

Arsham’s art as a sculptor is on display at the Sculpture Center in Cleveland’s University Circle district through Jan. 27.

The exhibit "Score and Sound" features Arsham’s “fictional archaeology” work highlighting two favorite themes - sports and music.

“I'm looking for links to the present, things that we could associate with this era in time,” Arsham said. “When I'm creating a kind of archeological object, I want something that looks like it's from now.”

Deteriorating sculptures of a Sony Walkman, turntables, microphones and guitars are on view alongside decaying football helmets, cleats and basketballs.

“These elements of sports are also markers of a particular moment in time, which makes them very valuable within the work to locate the work in a particular era,” Arsham said.

Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.
Ygal Kaufman is a multiple media journalist with Ideastream Public Media.