Bringing Art to the City

Mary Anne Cramption: Director of Main Street Lakewood ( one of the sponsors) opens up the concerts

When it comes to the arts in Lakewood, there really is strength in numbers.


At least that is the general idea that the members of Lakewood Is Art (LIA) believe. They feel that collaboration is the way to get things done.


“We're a small group of art-minded enthusiasts who get together to promote art events,” said Ruth Koenigsmark, one of the founding members and current head of LIA, an organization that is known to work together with other like minded groups to push for more art in the community.


Despite being founded only about one year ago, LIA has already gotten their hands into a wide variety of projects and events, most notably the Madison Art Walk in the spring, which was done in conjunction with the Madison Avenue Merchants Association (MAMA).


But that is just the start of LIA's involvement with the arts in Lakewood.


“We're working with the city to make October 'Arts and Culture' month in the city,” said Koenigsmark. “There are so many things going on in October. The idea is to get everybody revved up about art.”


In October alone there will be two more Art Walks (one on Detroit and one on Madison) the annual store-front painting, Lakewood High School's Pumpkin Palooza, and a dog masquerade parade.


More recently, LIA helped to establish the summer staple Band2gether, a series of Friday evening concerts at Sinagra Park that provides a venue for young musicians, along with Vance Music Studios and Mainstreet Lakewood.


“It's great,” said Chris Vance, the owner of Vance Music Studios, where 10 of the 13 bands featured at Band2gether are students. “It's excellent for these guys to get a chance to come play and do something different. We're planning on expanding it next year.”


In fact, Vance is the first participant in one of LIA's newest projects: Adopt an Artist. Vance sponsors artist Mike Heasley and his various paintings of rock stars in his studio.


“When I started it, Mike set it up for the Art Walk,” said Vance. “I let him leave them there and he sold one or two of them. It looks great and the theme works with the store.”


Koenigsmark wants to work with the landlords of vacant storefronts (or even occupied ones) to house works of art done by local artists, so “you can see art instead of an empty storefront”.


“We've had discussions with the Chamber of Commerce and Virginia Marti College of Art and Design,” said Koenigsmark. “Right now we have one business, Vance Music Studios.”


The students of Lakewood High School are also part of LIA's future plans.


“The school would like an art gallery,” said Barbara Michel, VP of LIA.


Taking advantage of the current building renovations, LIA hopes to preserve some of the artwork built into the school. There are, of course, the obvious contenders for preservation and restoration: the Schreckengost mural of Lake Erie in the L-Room and the Early Settler set atop the Civic Auditorium, both of which have increased in value since the death of their creator. However, unknown to many, there are 23 student murals adorning the “Old” Building as well.


“The murals started in the 1960s,” said Michel. “We're working with the Alumni Foundation to restore and preserve all of these [murals].”


Ideally, the murals would be relocated to the part of the finished building to which their subject relates. Music murals by the music wing, football pieces by the gym, etc. Of greater interest to LIA, on the other hand, are the histories behind the artists and their work.


“The first mural was done by David Deming, who is now the President of the Cleveland Institute of Art,” said Michel. “How many of these painters did go into art?”


Michel would like to see plaques placed under each mural detailing the art as well as the artist, much in the same vein as the Cleveland Art Museum.


“That's so people can say 'Wow, people are involved in art. You can make a career in art.'” said Michel. “Unfortunately, schools cut art-based programs first. There is a lot of talent in the community.”


Around Christmas time, the L-Room used to feature reasonably priced art done by the art students, a tradition that is now nonexistent. It was possible to “buy your family a present right off the wall while eating lunch” as Michel phrased it.


Also in the foreseeable future are independent films, which were lightly represented at the Madison Art Walk by students from Grant School and some independent filmmakers.


“That could be a whole other event in itself,” said Koenigsmark.


As for this year, there is only one more event planned.


“Sip Into the Holidays is a fabulous fundraiser for the Commission on Aging,” said Koenigsmark. This themed auction showcases donated decorative glasses and all profits go to the Commission on Aging.


“I feel this is a place for artists to come,” said Koenigsmark of Lakewood's viability in the arts community. “For walks, we have over 100 artists.”


Many of those artists reside in Lakewood and so, Koenigsmark feels that an “Art Census” would give a more accurate count of how many artists actually live in the city.


“We want to show that Lakewood is a place for artists to come,” she said.


Read More on Lakewood Renaissance
Volume 4, Issue 17, Posted 1:15 PM, 08.14.2008