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Grog Shop mural takes new life 17 years later

Posted at 3:55 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 18:25:21-04

CLEVELAND — Jake Kelly has a very distinct style.

"I do murals for restaurants. I do flyers for shows," and the Cleveland native just released a comic book.

The day he spoke to News 5 he drew, what he's calling, a zombie elf.

Kelly outlined the undead character quickly with a black pen.

The eyes took shape first then the dark hole where a nose should be and, finally, brains busting through the elf's skull.

"I've drawn better things," he said. "This is idiotic."

Some of Kelly's commissioned work stalled when the stay at home orders started.

"I should have diversified more," he said.

Despite the pause in some of his work, Kelly found something to do during the quarantine.

"Living in Cleveland I always had this kind of post-apocalyptic aesthetic."

That aesthetic is prominently displayed in one of this first murals.

Seventeen years ago, Kelly painted one wall inside the Grog Shop before it opened it's Cleveland Heights venue.

When COVID-19 hit, the crumbling landscape on the wall of the Cleveland staple started showing up on social media along with it's famous couple.

"If I'm being totally honest, I have no recollection whatsoever of how or when I came up with the caption 'This is a weird time to be alive, right?...'Yeah, totally,'" he said.

But people found meaning in the caption even if no ones what Kelly meant.

"Little did I know it was going to get progressively weirder and weirder as the decades went on until now when things got really weird."

Kelly won't give his spin on the mural. He wants people to find their own meaning in the ghoulish drawings.

"It represents - I don't know what it represents," said Grog Shop owner Kathy Blackman. "It's a little doomsday-y but it's also rock and roll and community."

That community has asked Kelly one question for nearly 20 years.

"Are you going to make prints of that mural? Can I get a print of that? Are you going to do prints ever?"

In April, Kelly answered their questions.

Kelly approached Blackman when she closed the venue about how he could help.

Within a week he'd redrawn the mural into a print and it was being sold online.

"I'm always blown away when anyone buys any art from me," he said. "But, the response to the print has been heartwarming."

Money from sales of the print go to help Grog Shop employees.

"It's heartwarming to me that people like or care about that mural," he said.

The posters are selling online for $30 each.