by Nancy Lewis
(Plain Press, August 2014) The richest piece of public art in Cleveland’s west side, It’s up to us, a mural by artist John Rivera-Resto, was completed on July 10, 2014. The busy intersection of Clark Avenue and West 25th Street on Cleveland’s near west side has been made an iconic landmark by the addition of this large-scale mural. The mural’s realism and panoramic scale (2000 square feet) is visually stunning in its own right but what is strongly resonating with audiences is what it shows: a hard hitting and thought provoking commentary about the damage that social, economic and political ills do to a neighborhood.
The mural’s location is at the heart of one of Cleveland’s most vibrant and culturally rich neighborhoods, home to large Hispanic, Asian, African-American and Italian communities. Its central theme, inspired in part by John F. Kennedy’s speech about reaching for the moon by putting aside personal differences, being accountable and making sacrifices, and Bob Dylan’s song, “The Times they are a-Changin”, urges people to take responsibility for their actions to improve their lives and their neighborhoods.
The mural’s design is as ingenious as any renaissance masterpiece. The illusion has been constructed within a life-size scale backdrop of six storefront facades that cleverly incorporate the real entrances to medical offices. Within this framework, a cast of over 40 individual characters, the mural grittily captures many elements of urban life in a seamless blend of form and content.
What’s more, pedestrians walking along the mural really appear to inhabit the space thereby adding more to the realism. When seen with the attentiveness it commands, the artistry and depth of the design provides almost the richness of a great panoramic novel. The universality of its theme and imagery is one that can easily speak to any urban community in the world.
The artwork, created by master-muralist and Cleveland native John Rivera-Resto, a 40-year veteran in the international stage, with degrees from Cleveland State University and Norwich University of Vermont and hundreds of works to his credit. Rivera-Resto is considered, by many, as one of the top-ten muralists in the nation. His specialty in propaganda art and a background in theatre, writing and lecturing make him a natural for this type of narrative painting.
Rivera-Resto’s artistic philosophy is as thoughtful as his paintings. He states: “A great mural lives within an environment. But it does not preach, it does not blame; it makes us understand.”
Rivera-Resto and his young apprentices spent three years developing and painting It’s up to us on site. Completing this ambitious project was challenging and fraught with many obstacles. Cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles have large and well-funded professional mural painting programs that highlight the cultural riches of their neighborhoods, beautify their urban areas, and bring new forms of revenue to their economies. With this mural, Rivera-Resto means to throw down the gauntlet with the challenge: “Why not Cleveland? This is proof that it can be done.”
In fact, the mural is surpassing all community expectations and people from other parts of the city are taking notice. With It’s up to us, Rivera-Resto managed to hit a cord in the public’s consciousness, and, in the process, he created the richest piece of public art in Cleveland and the most thematically relevant to the community.
Editor’s Note: The author, Nancy Lewis, is a business agent and representative for Muralmaster. She is also a longtime Lakewood resident whose career spans the fields of international travel management and culinary arts. To find out more about this project and see detailed photos, please visit http://www.muralmaster.org/current/curr_2012_mural_it%27s_up_to_us/It%27s%20up%20to%20us.html To see other works by the artist, please visit http://www.muralmaster.org Contacts: Nancy Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org (216) 228-2325 John Rivera-Resto www.muralmaster.org email@example.com (216) 225-4833.
Artist’s Statement of Recognition: Artist John Rivera-Resto placed this statement of recognition on the It’s up to us mural:
This Mural is dedicated to
His vision and tireless effort made
this gift to the neighborhood a reality.
Master Painter & Mural Designer
Young Student Apprentices
Surface Prep and Underpainting
Mural My Neighborhood Program
City of Cleveland
Thalia Fomby Yanna Morgan
Jacob Buntyn Shamyra Johnson
Margaux May Gabriel Pichardo
Victoria Vélez Omar Bright
Our deepest gratitude to:
Megan Meister, SCFBC
Councilman Brian Cummins
Nancy Anne Lewis
Ricky Nelson Rivera
And Dr. Nicholas Rinaldi
“Your commitment to the project was invaluable.”