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An international mural festival brings art to Cleveland's walls


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Hari Sreenivasan: In 2009, artist Jasper Wong founded an international mural arts festival and arts outreach program in Hong Kong. Since then, the festival has taken place in cities worldwide -- with the goal of building community by beautifying physical spaces.

NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Karla Murthy travelled to Cleveland Ohio this summer - to see how the city celebrated this larger than life art form.

Karla Murthy: On the corner of Superior and East 39th st in Cleveland, Ohio - a once-blank wall is being transformed into art.

Antwoine Washington: This is probably the biggest piece I've ever done. It's a little bit intimidating at first. But, yeah, I just look at it as another big canvas.

Karla Murthy: Local artist Antwoine Washington is painting his first large scale mural, with the help of another artist, Chad Fedorovich.

Antwoine Washington: I usually draw and paint realistically, but with this style I wanted this to be a little bit more colorful, to have some fun,

Karla Murthy: Washington's previous work has been shown in galleries and museums including the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Antwoine Washington: A lot of people in my culture don't get a chance to go to the museums, or even feel comfortable to go to museums or sometimes a building doesn't feel welcoming to them. And so to be able to put work inside of the community where they're able to walk past it every day, able to interact with it every day, I love it.

Karla Murthy: Washington is one of over 20 artists who participated in an international mural festival brought to the city this past summer called "Cleveland Walls!" During the festival, 20 murals were painted on buildings across the Midtown neighborhood.

Samira Malone: As someone who is from here and grew up in the neighborhood being able to see color in areas in which you don't typically see it, being able to experience art in a way that's tangible, something that you can walk up and interact with is definitely invigorating.

Karla Murthy: Samira Malone works for a non-profit called Midtown Cleveland that's hosting the festival. The neighborhood near downtown is home to 2000 residents and also attracts over 18,000 people daily who work in the area.

Samira Malone: Our neighborhood has a very interesting fabric. We have a strong industrial footprint. We also have several major commercial corridors. But we do have a residential population. We have a large black population as well as a large, large Asian population. So the artists that we selected are working with through this process are also reflective of both of those communities.

Karla Murthy: Can you tell me a little bit about what it is you're painting?

Julia Kuo: It's a Mandarin character and it means strong. And I feel like the rest can be open to interpretation.

Karla Murthy: Julia Kuo is a Taiwanese-American illustrator for children's books as well as newspapers and magazines. She says most of her work is a solitary process. Painting a mural in public has allowed her to interact with people.

Julia Kuo: You know, some people are doing like the mural tour, but other people just live here and they pass through and the like, well, they're going to have to look at this every day. I'm going to leave, right? So to hear people's comments is really nice too. It's just different for me.

Karla Murthy: And what do you hope people will get out of walking by.

Julia Kuo: I think I hope they'll just enjoy the images. I enjoy drawing people who look like me, and kind of the way I see myself in the world. So, it's nice to put out a little bit of the representation that I always wish that I would have myself.

Karla Murthy: That's also the goal of Antwoine Washington's work.

Antwoine Washington: The content around black family is often overlooked and so I wanted to actually put that black father back into that family unit and push back against that narrative about how we're not present. And pretty much as a depiction of my everyday life, my friends, everyday life and even how I grew up.

Karla Murthy: I take it you're a dad also?

Antwoine Washington: Absolutely. Yeah. I got two kids. I have a son that's one. I have a daughter that's four. And yeah, me being a new dad is something that has been near and dear to me. And so I wanted to actually share that and put that out there as also a message to combat the negativity against our families and our communities.

Julia Kuo: You know, some of the murals bring themselves into it, like mine. Other people's are more abstract and like, you know, are more harmonious with the environment. And others, like, are so educational.

Karla Murthy: One of Kuo's favorite murals is a portrait of Garrett Morgan by the artist Detour.

Julia Kuo: So he's a black inventor from Cleveland who invented the stop sign and gas masks. And no one knows him and no one knows his likeness. But now we will.

Karla Murthy: Although the festival has moved on to California, the Netherlands and Washington DC, people will be able to enjoy these murals for years to come.

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