Using Public Art to Help Rebuild Neighborhoods

It used to be the term “public art” was associated with statues of forgotten soldiers in local parks.  Today it includes everything from street planters fashioned like flower wraps…to colorful poetry painted on abandoned buildings…to the multi-million-dollar re-design of Public Square.  Those projects, and many more, were hatched and implemented by Cleveland-based LAND Studio.

LAND was created six years ago by merging Cleveland Public Art and ParkWorks --- two non-profits dedicated to making public spaces more lively.  Newly appointed executive director Greg Peckham says LAND is an acronym that represents the organization's mission: Landscape, Architecture, Neighborhoods, Development.

When a neighborhood is chosen for development, LAND arranges to meet with residents to learn the community's history and aspirations. 

"We want to be responsive to what a community is looking for," Peckham says.  "We’re never going to be successful by showing up and saying, 'This is what we think should happen.'  We’ve got to listen, first."

For instance, such a listening session revealed that there was a migratory flight path over a westside Cleveland neighborhood.  Artist and Northeast Ohio native Mark Reigelman used that cue to create a collection of translucent blue plastic birds that he whimsically affixed to trees, telephone poles and buildings throughout  that community.

Buckeye neighborhood resident Damien Ware led a poetry project backed by LAND Studio on the city's east side.  Verses created by Ware and some area students were painted in bright colors on the outside of some abandoned storefronts along Buckeye Road.

From the relatively inexpensive cost of paint and wood, to the $50 million remake of Public Square, LAND Studio is looking to re-connect people to the local streets.

"We're deeply connected with a community that's trying to move itself forward," Peckham says.  "So, whether it's revitalizing a commercial district, or whether it's making parks safer, by just bringing programming and activity into them, we want to be responsive to what a community's looking for."


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