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'Art x Love's' latest public art installation is a lesson in building community

Posted at 11:12 AM, Feb 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-24 11:12:11-05

CLEVELAND — We have no shortage of amazing public art on display in neighborhoods across Cleveland, and typically, we know it's talented artists creating for our community.

But News 5 anchor Mike Brookbank met one man who flipped the script and is allowing the community to have its say in future projects.

For people who live in Cleveland's Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood, a new mural is creating much-needed momentum, and helping make Northeast Ohio a better land.

While you may not have heard about Mac Love before, or the creative agency he co-founded with his wife in 2015, if you drove under the Main Avenue bridge in Cleveland, you saw his 10-foot chalk murals.

"Those big 'Believeland' ones," said Love.

Love's "Art X Love" does mapping, branding and public art projects.

"If we all just walked around a little bit more, and if we walk down streets we don't normally go down just to be seen and to see the people who are there, we really would be starting to build a healthier community," said Love.

Over the course of several weeks, Love, along with students from John Carroll University walked every single street in Buckeye-Shaker.

"And just by seeing young people out in the neighborhood, I think it gave them a little bit of hope," said Love.

With every step, the team logged the condition of the sidewalks.

"We can tell you whether the sidewalk is sunken, uprooted, inaccessible or missing," said Love.

They also assessed the condition of the buildings, greenery and perception of safety in the area.

"There's no reason why Buckeye should look the way that it does. That comes down to equity," said Jennifer Carter, Buckeye-Shaker resident.

Carter hopes the data collected leads to change.

But there's another catalyst that Carter believes can help.

"I love the mural," said Carter.

Love's latest creation now hangs on the side of a vacant building along Buckeye Road. Love didn’t just roll up to Buckeye and 120th and slap the mural on the side of the wall.

"It's actually been a really beautiful thing to see come to fruition," said Love.

While logging each piece of busted concrete, the team got the chance to hear from those who call Buckeye-Shaker home.

"Through those conversations, the words and the stories and the affirmations came from the residents and were then incorporated into the artwork," said Bianca Butts, Buckeye-Shaker resident.

The mural, titled Aspire, is filled with words shared along the journey.

"It was their thoughts, it was their ideas, it was their concepts," Carter said.

And Love said there's a flow and energy.

"How we can go through these swings of, you know, uplifting and positivity. But then there's also some harsh truths and realities like overcoming trauma and grief," Love said.

As for the woman depicted in the middle of the mural, Love said she's a combination of several different women they met on their walks.

"There was always a strong black woman who was really kind of carrying a lot of the responsibilities in the neighborhood on her shoulders," Love said.

The goal is to celebrate strength while inspiring a community.

"Art can be a great catalyst for change," Butts said.

Love's message to Buckeye-Shaker residents: change is not impossible.

"If you bite off just a little bit each time, we can overcome those things like this broken sidewalk didn't happen overnight. You know, this happened over 30 years," Love said.

It's the motivation Jennifer Carter wants to see transformed into momentum for her neighborhood.

"This I think, is an excellent start to having people be engaged and continuing more projects, like I hope to see more murals, more home projects and more involvement from the community," Carter said.

Mike couldn't end his interview with Love without mentioning his last name, and how through a project like this, you can't help but see love being spread.

The artist responded by saying the best compliment he ever received was that he lives up to the name, and he hopes that's the case.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.