Cleveland wants its public art to be a truly moving experience. So this spring, large-scale murals will be installed along the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's Red Line, transforming the 11 miles of rail between Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and downtown in advance of the Republican National Convention in July. The $507,000 project, which will include works inspired by the 80-year-old Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, is the first phase of a three-plus-year plan to bring more public art to the city's entire Rapid system. "The art will become an artistic experience," says Tiffany Graham, project director at LAND Studio. "It will become a space where the whole thing starts to feel like a moving art gallery."
Q. What do you think the current art on the Red Line — all the graffiti — means to Cleveland?
A. In any world-class city you visit, there's graffiti along public transit lines. It's part of the urban fabric and shows the talents of their artists. In Cleveland, there is certainly no shortage of graffiti along the Red Line. We are not painting over any existing graffiti. We're not taking walls away from people who have been enlivening the public realm in their own way. There are a lot of people who enjoy the graffiti. There's other folks who don't like it — that's just what art does to people.
Q. What do you hope to achieve with this project?
A. The goal is to elevate the transit-riding experience and turn the transit line into a cultural attraction and cultural connection between different places in the city. ... We need to have a legacy for this beyond the [RNC] convention.
Q. How will the murals use the route from the airport to downtown?
A. We are looking at public art projects that are responding to the architecture where they'll be installed. ... What we want to do is elevate the architecture of the space. If you were looking at a wall underneath the bridge, we'd seek to paint corner to corner, edge to edge, making it more of an artistic experience, like you're riding through the artwork.
Q. What's your favorite piece of public art in Cleveland?
A. The Eastman Reading Garden. [New York sculptor] Tom Otterness designed the gates. Maya Lin, [who created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial], designed a beautiful fountain. Her brother, Tan Lin, he wrote poetry that's scattered throughout the garden. ... What I think is really great is not when you say, "This is a really fantastic piece of public art," but when you are in a space where art has been thoughtfully integrated.