Heights Arts stitches the community together

What is it for, anyway? As artist Carol Hummel and her small army of volunteers were on Lee Road and Larchmere Boulevard this past August covering parking meters and tree trunks with colorful crocheted cord, a common assumption was that Heights Arts was raising money for a cause through art. 

This assumption is very thought-provoking. For one thing, why are artists so often asked to donate their art in support of a cause, instead of the other way around? Wouldn't it be nice to hear your doctor say, “A portion of my fee for your gall bladder surgery will be given to an arts organization.” Yes!

On another level, there are several causes that this project does support: 

We need to pay attention to the streetscape. Parking meters, for example, are ubiquitous. Why not make them visually interesting? The striped covers create a colorful repetitive pattern that demonstrates how to do that.

We can create community through the arts. People flocked to help out with this project, attending gatherings to make the hundreds of pieces needed to cover more than 200 parking meters and 40 trees. Some, like Carol and Tom Hanger, stitched pieces to trees in the rain. Ben de Rubertis abandoned sitting at his desk for several weeks to help the artist because he found working on the street and talking with passers-by as illuminating as his calligraphy business.

We should support our local independent businesses. Small businesses account for 50 percent of our national gross domestic product, and they have even more economic impact in our own community. More than 35 businesses sponsored this project to pay for materials because they understood that an original and interesting streetscape is attractive to customers. Several hosted gatherings at their stores, which introduced new patrons to their businesses.

Another common question is whether the cord will hurt the trees. Fear not. No trees (or meters) have been harmed in this project. A very large tree in front of Cleveland Heights City Hall was covered for four years with no harmful result.

Lest you find the color scheme not to your taste, keep in mind that this is a temporary project. The cord will be removed in a year. Hopefully it will leave a lasting impression so that we will be ever aware that each element installed on the streetscape has visual significance.  

And finally, as one Heights resident said: “What's not to like? It's silly, it stops you in your tracks, it gets people talking and it can't possibly last forever. I also happen to enjoy the way it looks and I'm thankful to the folks who pulled it off.”

Peggy Spaeth is the executive director of Heights Arts.

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Volume 2, Issue 10, Posted 1:15 PM, 09.21.2009