LENS Show: Art and Public Spaces

Rethinking the City

How Public Art and Vibrant Spaces are Changing Cleveland

Public Square water fountain at night with children on bicyclesPHOTO: SAHAR COSTON-HARDY

Public Square: The water fountain in this newly renovated public space in the heart of downtown is a magnetic draw.

Great cities are built around great public spaces. And Cleveland, which is in the midst of a renaissance, gets it.

The city's newest shining example is the $50 million renovation of Public Square in the heart of downtown, which opened just before the Republican National Convention. For more than a decade, I have had a front-row seat in the square's remaking. Today, it is hard for even me to remember the dysfunctional and uninspiring space that today is so engaging and full of life.

Through our work at LAND studio, a nonprofit that helps create vibrant public spaces in Cleveland neighborhoods, we're trying to raise the bar with every project we take on. We know that inclusive, interactive social spaces are at the core of desirable and competitive cities. Cleveland is a completely different place than it was five, 10 years ago, and it understands the value that well-designed public spaces, inspired architecture and engaging public art bring to the quality of life of all members of the community.

Two very large snail sculptures, one blue and one pinkPHOTO: BOB PERKOWSKI

Cleveland Public Library's Eastman Reading Garden: Each summer, this downtown urban space becomes a venue for new and temporary art installations. This year's highlights are larger-than-life animal sculptures by the Italian artist collective Cracking Art.

The Eastman Reading Garden at the downtown Cleveland Public Library has long been a special place for me. Almost 20 years ago, the Committee for Public Art, one of LAND studio's predecessor organizations, helped redesign the space into a green oasis in the middle of a largely concrete-covered downtown. Paralleling the city's development, the garden also has morphed, acting as home through the years to numerous art installations, including this year's Cracking Art animals, as well as my own wedding.

As Cleveland continues to evolve, it is my hope that public spaces lead the change and engage people in ways that foster and challenge the city's culture.

Statue of a boy playing trumpet with a dog statue watchingPHOTO: RYAN DIVTA

Art and Soul Park: Artist james Simon's Trumpet Man sculpture creates an iconic landmark in Cleveland's Buckeye neighborhood and underscores its focus on arts, music and local culture.
A black and white wave sculpture attached the the transit ceilingPHOTO: BRANDON SHIGETA

Along the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's Red Line east of the Tower City Station: Artist Brendan Monroe created this undulating mural for a public art initiative designed to enhance the transit experience.
A glassy bluebird sculpture perched above the W. 76 street signPHOTO: MARK A. REIGELMAN II

The Detroit Shoreway neighborhood Artist Mark A. Reigelman II created and installed 40 blue birds, celebrating the community’s lakefront location and connection with nature. The gem-like sculptures are perched in street trees, buildings and other unexpected places, creating a sense of discovery throughout the neighborhood.

—GREG PECKHAM (MNO ‘99) is a Cleveland native, managing director of LAND studio and an alumnus of Case Western Reserve. The accompanying photos are from the nonprofit’s portfolio of projects. We asked Peckham to select some of his favorite spots and explain how they resonate.