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Cleveland Free Press

The richest piece of public art in Cleveland's West Side is completed

Cleveland, Ohio USA - 10th July 2014

The busy intersection of Clark Avenue and West 25th Street on Cleveland's near west side has been made an iconic landmark by the addition of the large-scale mural titled: It's up to us.The mural's realism and panoramic scale (2000 square feet) is visually stunning in its own right. But what is strongly resonating with audiences is what it shows: a hard hitting and thought-provoking commentary about the damage that social, economic and political ills do to a neighborhood.

The mural's location is at the heart of one of Cleveland's most vibrant and culturally rich neighborhoods, home to large Hispanic, Asian, African-American and Italian communities. Its central theme, inspired in part by John F. Kennedy's speech about reaching for the moon -by putting aside personal differences, being accountable and making sacrifices, and Bob Dylan's song "The times they are a-changin", urges people to take responsibility for their actions to improve their lives and their neighborhoods.

The mural's design is as ingenious as any renaissance masterpiece. The illusion has been constructed within a life-size scale backdrop of six storefront facades that cleverly incorporate the real entrances to medical offices. Within this framework, a cast of over 40 individual characters grittily capture many elements of urban life in a seamless blend of form and content. What's more, pedestrians walking along the mural really appear to inhabit the space thereby adding more to the realism. When seen with the attentiveness it commands, the artistry and depth of the design provides almost the richness of a great panoramic novel. The universality of its theme and imagery is one that can easily speak to any urban community in the world.

The artwork was created by master-muralist and Cleveland native John Rivera-Resto. A 40-year veteran in the international stage, with degrees from Cleveland State University and Norwich University of Vermont and hundreds of works to his credit, Rivera-Resto is considered by many as one of the top-ten muralists in the nation. His specialty in propaganda art and a background in theater, writing and lecturing make him a natural for this type of narrative painting. His artistic philosophy is as thoughtful as his paintings. He states: -"A great mural lives within an environment. But it does not preach, it does not blame; it makes us understand."

Rivera-Resto and his young apprentices spent three years developing and painting 'It's up to us' on site. Completing this ambitious project was challenging and fraught with many obstacles. Cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles have large and well-funded professional mural painting programs that highlight the cultural riches of their neighborhoods, beautify their urban areas, and bring new forms of revenue to their economies. With this mural, Rivera-Resto means to throw down the gauntlet with the challenge: "Why not Cleveland? This is proof that it can be done."

In fact, the mural is surpassing all community expectations and people from other parts of the city are taking notice. With 'It's up to us' Rivera-Resto managed to hit a cord in the public's consciousness, and in the process, he created the richest piece of public art in Cleveland and the most thematically relevant to the community.

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