A giant trumpet player, sculpted in concrete, towers over the
intersection of Buckeye Road and East 118th Street, blasting his
horn while an imaginary breeze blows his tie in the wind.
Created by Pittsburgh artist James Simon, the "Buckeye Trumpet
Man" is the centerpiece of the new Art and Soul of Buckeye
Community Park. It's also one of the latest additions to a growing
collection of outdoor art that's turning Cleveland into a vast,
alfresco art gallery.
Outdoor art in Cleveland traces the history of modern sculpture.
It also reveals how public art in America has swung over the past
century from populist expressions of civic virtue to idiosyncratic
visions of individual artists and back to boosterism and pride.
Early-20th-century sculptors such as Daniel Chester French, Karl
Bitter, Max Kalish and Henry Hering adorned downtown civic and
government buildings and public spaces with heroic statues of
allegorical figures or political and military heroes.
From the 1970s to the '90s, government agencies encouraged
leading American artists such as Isamu Noguchi, Tony Smith and
Claes Oldenburg to impose abstract or intentionally provocative
forms on public spaces, sometimes with controversial results.
Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's "Free Stamp," intended as a
humorous critique of bureaucratic rubber-stamping, was famously
rejected by Standard Oil of Ohio, which originally commissioned the
work to stand at the base of its 1985 office tower on Public
Square. In 1991, the company, then BP America, gave the work to the
city, which installed it at Willard Park.
Funding of public art has remained strong, thanks to grants from
private foundations or percent-for-art programs like those of the
state of Ohio or the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's
Arts in Transit program.
Controversies over public art are rare nowadays, perhaps because
public art promoters are minding their manners, or perhaps because
government agencies and community organizations have grown wary of
Works like Simon's "Trumpet Man," whose goal is to bolster
economic development and neighborhood identity, are becoming the
rule. But some artists still find ways to exploit the city's
outdoor spaces in more personal ways.
Cleveland Public Art, the city's leading, nonprofit public art
agency, founded in 1986, wants to straddle all approaches to public
"The public realm is a place that can and should support the
work of leading-edge artists and designers," said Greg Peckham, the
agency's executive director. At the same time, he thoroughly
endorses art that's allied to neighborhood revitalization or
integrated in public projects such as RTA's soon-to-be-finished
Euclid Corridor rapid bus line, for which artists have designed
everything from tree grates to trash receptacles.
"Artists are working hand in hand with design teams to make
ordinary objects a little more extraordinary," Peckham said, "to
give distinctive flavor to what would otherwise be off-the-shelf
Let's look at some recently completed public art projects in
Cleveland, and how they stack up.
Buckeye Road pocket park. The 16-foot-tall "Buckeye Trumpet Man"
by James Simon dominates the $200,000 Art and Soul of Buckeye
Community Park at East 118th Street and Buckeye Road in Cleveland,
a project led by Cleveland Public Art and the Buckeye Area
Development Corp. The park includes decorative ceramic benches by
Angelica Pozo, a dramatic mural by Cleveland artist Francisca
Ugalde and photo murals by former Cleveland artist William Carter.
With landscaping by Cleveland landscape architect James McKnight,
the investment is impressive, although some elements -- especially
Ugalde's mural -- are stronger than others.Grade: A-