CLEVELAND - Cleveland native Chris Webb is many things. A poet, performer, multi-media artist, social reformer, filmmaker. After graduating from the Cleveland School of the Arts, then getting his B.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts, he fielded offers in commercials, television and film. He was far from the streets of Glenville where he’d go to bed at night in high school hearing the sounds of gunfire.
But the stories of crime, violence and death coming out of the Cleveland neighborhoods where he grew up were hurting him.
“Every time I’d see a news report about someone I grew up with in a horrible situation, I’d feel like it’s me – in a sense. Literally, same backstory, same influences, same streets we walked down and grew up on,” he said.
The neighborhoods in and around Glenville that he knew as a kid are blighted, the streets he walked are lined with abandoned homes. But Chris wants the children who are growing up there now to know they come from more than the hopelessness they see around them.
“I know there’s potential here, beauty here, dreams and goals. So many different things are represented in these streets. I think we have an overwhelming influence of negativity, but not a lot of people have the voice box to make change. I don’t think we see that too much. And I think we’re starved for that.”
Starting with that idea, Chris is producing a film to offer people, especially youngsters, some other truths about what he describes as “a legacy of greatness here. If I had known (as a teenager) that I stood on more than abandoned buildings, poverty, drugs, guns, gangs and violence, I could have stood on that.” The movie, “If These Walls Could Talk,” starts with the premise that a trio of abandoned homes have come to life. Using animation transposed onto the homes, Chris uses their “voices” to tell stories about their history and what they’ve seen – the bad, but a lot more good.
His movie has been realized through a $15,000 grant in 2015, from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture. Chris is among 40 artists who received grants last year for their individual work.
Now in post-production, Chris calls his movie a love letter to his neighborhood, to his city. “We should take pride in who we are, should take pride in where we come from and we should begin to foster love and a sense of community in places we live right now. Because the future deserves it.” He expects the film to be ready for release sometime in the spring of 2017.
For more information on Chris Webb's work, go to his website.