Noble Neighbors: We are Home
In mid-April, an artistic message suddenly appeared woven into the chain-link fence opposite the Oxford Elementary School driveway: “You Are Noble.” Our Noble communitywide home and yard sale was coming up soon and it certainly seemed that this display anticipated our April 26 event, but no one from Noble Neighbors had considered including public art in our mass communications strategy. Who knew the artists and what was their intent?
Early the next day, I saw that the word Noble in the message had been torn to shreds and was littering the ground. I returned home to fetch a shovel and broom, and fielded phone calls from city personnel and residents complaining about the mess, assuming we were responsible for the artwork.
Remarkably, this simple public art installation quickly became a focal point for the neighbors, although it was not yet a focus of pride or joy.
When I was finally able to return to the damaged art, I found a young mother picking up pieces of braided T-shirt strips that she and her second-grade son, Reuben, had used to create the letters in the display. The family had moved here only a few years ago, and I asked the mom, “Are you aware of the rivalry between Noble and Oxford schools?” I explained that, for a long time, the city’s neighborhoods had been identified by their local elementary schools.
Not only was she unaware, but she and Reuben had also heard about the efforts of Noble Neighbors to showcase our area. They had wanted to celebrate the efforts of the people who live near Noble Road by using the term, with its multiple meanings of place, character and event. As an author, Reuben’s mom appreciated the power of a single word and would use this disappointment to help her son learn a critical lesson about communication.
Reuben came home from school a few days later announcing that he had solved the mystery of the art vandals. They were fourth- and fifth-graders who also attended Oxford Elementary School and believed they were valiantly defending the Oxford neighborhood with their misguided actions.
Reuben still wanted to encourage his classmates, so he and his mom considered a revised message. They reinstalled the perfect words: “We are Home.”
“We are Home” proclaims the sentiment we all share. This propels us to continue our efforts to improve this important Cleveland Heights neighborhood.
Public art has become one of the projects in the works. We hope to create focal points that declare our pride in our place and our joy in our journey through life together as neighbors. We’re considering murals and sculptures, permanent and temporary works, professional and student-led projects.
While Reuben’s installation is nearing the end of it’s natural material life, it is still proudly proclaiming a message worth rallying around. A second-grade boy and his desire to make his friends smile is inspiring us to continue toward a hope-filled future. Come and join this project of “place-making” in our neighborhood. It will be a truly Noble project.
Brenda H. May
Brenda H. May is one of the many Noble Neighbors—residents who are finding ways to uplift their neighborhood. Find them at www.nobleneighbors.com and join in our journey.