University School Seventh Graders Visit North Collinwood
This spring, a group of University School seventh graders took part in a week-long field study of the North Shore Collinwood neighborhood. Among the things the students saw while in the neighborhood were the Zoetic Walls, Cleveland’s first organized street art project.The students came to understand that among the goals of the project were a visual enlivening of the neighborhood, a contribution to the neighborhood’s sense of identity, and the aspiration that residents might become attached to abandoned infrastructure in hopes that these buildings would not be demolished. Nonetheless, as the students interviewed neighborhood residents, they heard contrasting opinions regarding the walls: The neighborhood residents generally love the idea of public art, but some feel that the murals do not properly represent the neighborhood’s identity – its history, its future, or its residents. Others feel that these murals are, indeed, representative of these things. The boys were intrigued by the way in which art inspired such a rich conversation on the topic of Collinwood’s identity.
We gave the seventh graders the following task: Now that they had spent a week in the neighborhood, learning its history, hearing of its hopes and plans for the future, and interviewing several of its residents about their lives in Collinwood, the boys were to create their own Zoetic Wall representative of Collinwood’s identity as they saw it. The boys’ creations conveyed that Collinwood is full of vibrancy, perseverance, vision, hope, creativity, tradition, and innovation. Here are two student examples, each with a student-written explanation of what they drew and their rationale for doing so.
Zoetic wall 1, by Jack Rogen and Simon Tropper: “Our wall represents many aspects of Collinwood. The carnation at the bottom is the Slovenian national flower, and it represents Collinwood’s roots. The crisscrossing paintbrush and pencil represent the many artists like Jerry Schmidt and how they help make Collinwood a more attractive place to live. The ship to the right represents Collinwood’s location next to the lake and the people’s determination to sail forward. The hand on top represents the people in Collinwood who lend a helping hand, like Councilman Polensek and Amy Callahan, a local artist. Finally, the tree to the left represents Collinwood’s steady regrowth. The different colored lines in the background represent Collinwood’s diversity.”
Zoetic wall 2, by Josiah Pope and Alex Sharkunov: “The trees represent many things. The roots represent companies and industries. At first there were a lot, but when the recession hit, some roots shriveled up or fell off, but a few small roots have started to grow as well. This is the tree in winter. Now the tree is alive and healthy again (spring and summer), but problems can still happen and the leaves can still fall down (fall). What the heart represents is what makes Collinwood what it is. It is the heart of Collinwood. It shows how Collinwood attracted artists and how their artistic vision is transforming Collinwood. The light switch represents Project Light Switch, which is opening new businesses in the neighborhood.”