It has taken nearly three years for Cleveland native John Rivera-Resto and his group of volunteers to complete the newest outdoor mural which is located at the intersection of Clark Avenue and West 25th Street. The mural’s location is at the heart of one of Cleveland’s most vibrant and culturally rich neighborhoods, home to large Hispanic, Asian, African-American and Italian communities. The huge (2,000 square feet) artwork has become an instant iconic landmark and is visually stunning to all who view it.
The title of the mural is “It’s Up To Us” which was taken in part from a speech by John F. Kennedy when he talked about Americans putting aside personal differences, being accountable and making sacrifices as America set a goal of a manned landing on the moon. The other theme comes from the Bob Dylan song “the times they are a-changin” that urges people to take responsibility in their own neighborhoods. The mural depicts a before and after scene (one of urban blight on the left and one of urban restoration on the right) and is meant to make a hard hitting commentary concerning the damage that social, economic and political ills do to a neighborhood.
“The mural’s design is as ingenious as any renaissance masterpiece. The illusion has been constructed within a life-size scale backdrop of six storefront facades that cleverly incorporate the real entrances to medical offices. Within this framework, a cast of over 40 individual characters grittily capture many elements of urban life in a seamless blend of form and content. What’s more, pedestrians walking along the mural really appear to inhabit the space thereby adding more to the realism. When seen with the attentiveness it commands, the artistry and depth of the design provides almost the richness of a great panoramic novel. The universality of its theme and imagery is one that can easily speak to any urban community in the world.”
The artwork was created by master-muralist and Cleveland native John Rivera-Resto. A 40-year veteran in the international stage, with degrees from Cleveland State University and Norwich University of Vermont and hundreds of works to his credit, Rivera-Resto is considered by many as one of the top-ten muralists in the nation. His specialty in propaganda art and a background in theatre, writing and lecturing make him a natural for this type of narrative painting. His artistic philosophy is as thoughtful as his paintings. He states: -“A great mural lives within an environment. But it does not preach, it does not blame; it makes us understand.”
Rivera-Resto and his young apprentices spent three years developing and painting ‘It’s up to us’ on site. Completing this ambitious project was challenging and fraught with many obstacles. Cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles have large and well funded professional mural painting programs that highlight the cultural riches of their neighborhoods, beautify their urban areas, and bring
new forms of revenue to their economies. With this mural, Rivera-Resto means to throw down the gauntlet with the challenge: “Why not Cleveland? This is proof that it can be done.”
In fact, the mural is surpassing all community expectations and people from other parts of the city are taking notice. With ‘It’s up to us’ Rivera-Resto managed to hit a cord in the public’s consciousness, and in the process he created the richest piece of public art in Cleveland and the most thematically relevant to the community.