CLEVELAND (AP) — A wall that for decades has isolated one of the country's oldest low-income housing projects from the rest of a Cleveland neighborhood has been covered with a colorful mural of local children as part of an artistic effort to brighten the area.
It splits the Ohio City neighborhood from the dozens of buildings in the Lakeview Terrace housing complex, which opened in 1937 and first housed immigrants and military families. Now it's home to mostly minority families, who worry that encroaching development on the other side of the wall may eventually leave them displaced.
Brazilian painter Ananda Nahú created the mural over more than 600 feet of wall with help from several other artists. She had planned to use only vibrant patterns but changed her mind after interviewing residents of Lakeview and being struck by the underlying strength of black culture there and the children's vulnerability, The Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/2ghvJhG ) reported.
"I figured out maybe I should paint something to protect them, their innocence," said Nahú, 31. "Each one is very precious. Each kid here is like a king and like a queen."
So she put them on the wall — three boys and three girls, surrounded by what looks like patterned fabric that Nahú researched. There's green and yellow from Brazil's flag, a tie to Nahú's culture, and a red and black swath representing royal garments gives these kids a touch of majesty. Some of the patterns inspired from Congo and Niger were used for rituals of protection.
"I'd wear those patterns," said 13-year-old Montrell Barron. "I'd feel like Bill Gates, really rich."
He and other participants at Brick City, an arts drop-in program run by Cleveland Public Theatre that helps Lakeview children manage their thoughts and feelings, had been thinking about the wall. Sometimes walls can't be taken down, Brick City's director had told them, but they can be changed in other ways.
"We been trying to say these things about our own community, and finally someone said it in a way we couldn't," said Brenda Tate, the president of the residents' association, said of the mural. "Nobody does anything like that unless they know we are better than what people portray us to be."
Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com