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Artist restores Cleveland's 'Whale Wall' after more than two decades

Artist restores Cleveland's 'Whale Wall' after more than two decades
Posted at 4:03 PM, Oct 02, 2019

CLEVELAND — Cleveland’s famous “Whale Wall” mural on the Cleveland Public Power building is getting a face lift, more than two decades after it was originally painted.

Wyland, the artist who painted the original mural 22 years ago, returned to Cleveland this week to restore “Song of the Whales.”

The restored mural will be rededicated on Friday, Oct. 4, according to West Creek Conservancy.

“The idea is that the whales, the ocean, they’re all connected to the lakes,” Wyland said. “So what’s happening to our oceans is really reflected in what we do to our other water, our freshwater habitats, including Lake Erie right here.”

Artist restores Cleveland's 'Whale Wall' after more than two decades
PHOTO: "Song of the Whales" stretches across more than 32,000 square feet of the Cleveland Public Power Building.

That idea is what led Wyland to paint the mural in 1997. It stretches over more than 32,000 square feet and is one of 100 murals he’s painted in countries around the world throughout the course of 30 years.

“We’ve done them in Micronesia, in Guam and Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada,” said Steve Creech, president of the Wyland Foundation, a nonprofit.

The murals are gifts to the people of the cities in which Wyland paints. As another gift, he’s restoring Cleveland’s mural, 50 years after the Cuyahoga River Fire, which he said inspired him as a young artist growing up in Detroit.

“I heard about that and I thought, ‘Man, how much crap do we gotta be putting pollution in our water for it to catch on fire?’” Wyland said.

Wyland’s art is a way for him and his foundation to spark action on environmental causes.

“These days, you know, 2019, you can’t just protect the coasts and say our job is done. We really have to look at what we’re all doing as individuals, in our own way,” Creech said. “Upstream, in our watersheds, and again, it may be whales on the shores of Lake Erie, but it really matters to all of us everywhere.”

Creech added that the mural restoration was part of a National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.

“One of the reasons why we did select Cleveland to kick off our National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation was because it was the 50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River Fire,” Creech said.

Wyland said he was happy to celebrate a now-healthy Cuyahoga River. As volunteers joined him to restore his mural, Wyland said he hoped his art would inspire other young artists to get involved like he has.

“If we can do that, we can inspire an environmental renaissance, a sea change, and that’s what I’m looking to do,” Wyland said.