Cleveland Walls! Artist Talk on Social Change through Artistic Practice

On Tuesday evening, August 24th, we went to the headquarters of Cleveland Walls! at 7119 Euclid Avenue to attend an artist talk titled “Taking Action: Social Change through Artistic Practice” wherein the participants discussed the potential for murals, like those being created in the Cleveland Walls! process, to positively impact a community.

The artist talk was moderated by CWRU Art History Professor Erin Benay, who, as her bio states, is “dedicated to the cultivation of public humanities initiatives in Cleveland.”

The entrants were:

Mr. Kaplan Bruce who is an Apache artist, carpenter, and designer from Kauai, Hawaii

Mr. Max Sansing who is a Chicago-based fine artist and muralist

Ms. Amanda King who is the founder and creative director of Shooting Without Bullets, a non-profit dedicated to encouraging Black and Brown to express themselves by engaging in art/photographic projects  

As Professor Benay reminded us, murals have for a long time been employed as a method of delivering a message as in the depression via the WPA and during the civil rights movement such as was the case with the Wall of Respect in Chicago which was later revealed to be a stimulus for Mr. Sansing.  

During the dialogue, the artists discussed how their public art projects were inspired by their own backgrounds/personal experiences as well as feedback from the inhabitants of the locale where they were producing the artwork both before and during its creation because it was vital that the artistry reflect what is going on in the nabe in order that lives might be touched.

On this matter, we appreciated how much the artists involved in the Cleveland Walls!/Midtown Murals endeavor have been willing to put aside their tools and talk to us for a moment or two as we toured the various sites.

During the Q and A, we asked if any of the interlocutors had any thoughts concerning immigration being the subject of many imaginative undertakings as of late.

To be sure, Mr. Bunce was quick to reply and displayed genuine wisdom, as well as a touch of humor, as he recounted that when the colonies were first settled measures had to be enacted to prevent the settlers from too much commingling with the indigenous tribes, who were quite welcoming. This was because the newcomers were very much attracted to a lifestyle that was both far less rigid than what they were accustomed to and seemed to be working quite well.

Regarding current conditions, Mr. Bunce told us that he, and other Native Americans that he knew, would be willing to work with those who have recently immigrated to the United States to impart to them what it means to be a proper steward of the earth so they could properly treasure and respect new opportunities.

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