The City Club of Cleveland recently debuted a newly commissioned work of public art at the edge of Playhouse Square. Located on the site of the Bonfoey Gallery at the corner of Euclid Avenue and E. 17th St. in the midst of the construction of a high rise condo unit, the mural aims to “inspire Clevelanders to consider the role of free speech in our civic landscape."
April Bleakney’s 25’ x 50’ mural by is the first of three original murals commissioned by the City Club for its Freedom of Speech Mural Project.
“The Freedom of Speech Mural Project reflects the City Club’s steadfast commitment to stand on the side of free expression,” says Dan Moulthrop, CEO of the City Club, in a press release. “Every week, we invite audiences and speakers to participate in civil, civic dialogue because we believe having a place dedicated to the practice of free speech deepens our understanding of each other and strengthens our democracy. Each of these artists has interpreted our mission in their own voice and from their personal experience to create a visual representation of the challenge and privilege of our right to free speech.”
Last year, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the City Club’s original Freedom of Speech mural painted by Elmer Brown in 1942, the City Club reached out to LAND studio to create “an inclusive and open competitive process” for the mural series.
“Public art and public expression, just as any City Club forum, reinforces what is most important in our daily discourse — perspective, individuality, and openness,” says Greg Peckham, Executive Director of LAND studio. “In this creative form, the City Club murals represent democracy and free speech, and LAND studio is thrilled to collaborate with the City Club of Cleveland on this project.”
Bleakney says Brown’s mural served as an inspiration.
“I wanted the new mural design to embody the spirit of Brown’s mural, but updated for our present time, and hopefully for our future,” she says. “One issue with the original mural I notice immediately is the absence of women and people of color. The central figure in my design was consciously chosen to be a young woman. My hope was to create something colorful, expressive and vibrant.”
In late August, the second mural will be installed at the Harvey Rice branch of the Cleveland Public Library. In the fall, the third mural, by the late Christopher Darling, will be installed at Cleveland Metropolitan School District New Tech Collinwood.
“Cleveland has a great history of murals that have brought color and creativity to the city landscape, which we’ve seen reborn in recent years, thanks to the Creative Fusion program at Cleveland Foundation and the Front Triennial,” says Moulthrop. “These murals tell the stories of our neighbors and our neighborhoods and create new connections in our community. We hope that the City Club’s Freedom of Speech Mural Project will bring our mission ‘to create conversations of consequence that help democracy thrive’ into the community and add to the breathtaking resurgence of mural art in Cleveland.”