Public Art talk and bike tour planned for August

The Coventry Arch was installed in 2001.

For a community of fewer than 50,000 people, Cleveland Heights is home to quite a few public art installations. The city refers to itself as "home to the arts," so it seems fitting that public artworks can be found in parks, on street corners, at schools and libraries, and elsewhere around town.

When Heights Bicycle Coalition (HBC) president and City Council Member Mary Dunbar contacted former Heights Arts executive director Peggy Spaeth about leading a bicycle tour of public art, she consented enthusiastically. Instead of talking and riding at the same time, however, Dunbar and Spaeth will present a two-part event—an illustrated public art talk at Heights Arts’s newly renovated gallery on Thursday, Aug. 20, at 7 p.m., and an accompanying bicycle tour on Saturday, Aug. 22, from 10 a.m. to noon.

In the past 15 years, Heights Arts has helped facilitate the installation of 11 permanent and four temporary public artworks—primarily in Cleveland Heights business districts—so there is plenty to see. "Part of Heights Arts’s mission is to make the creativity of our residents visible," said Spaeth, who helped establish the nonprofit community arts organization in 2000. "We knew we had a lot of artists in the community and felt that the city itself should tangibly reflect the creativity of its residents. Public art was just one of the initiatives, along with streetscapes, signage, and the gallery on Lee Road." From 2000 to 2013, three permanent murals were created, along with a tile mosaic, six streetscapes consisting of artist-designed furniture and signage, and one site-specific sculpture.

"Our initial public art project was developed just as Heights Arts was starting," Spaeth explained. "I was contacted by Coventry to help raise money for a soccer field, which wasn’t my area of expertise, so we started with the Coventry Arch. We had a statewide competition for the project, which was ultimately awarded to Barry Gunderson, a professor of sculpture at Kenyon College." The aluminum arch, with its whimsical, abstract figures, was designed as "a symbol of greeting, accommodation, and celebration of differences," in line with the Cleveland Heights community spirit. Most of the public art projects were funded through grants, gifts from individuals and businesses, and fundraisers. The arch, for example, benefited from the generous help of Tom Fello, owner of Tommy’s restaurant, which has been sponsoring an annual New Year’s Day pancake breakfast to benefit community arts programming since 2001.

While the Aug. 22 bicycle tour will focus on permanent public art installations around Cleveland Heights—starting at the Cedar Lee mini-park next to Heights Arts and pedaling through the Coventry and Cedar Fairmount neighborhoods—the hour-long illustrated talk on Aug. 20 will also highlight four temporary art projects that are no longer on view. A public art street map, with information on all the works facilitated by Heights Arts from 2000 to 2015, is being published in conjunction with the talk and tour. Both events are free and open to the public. Because seating is limited in the gallery, please RSVP for the talk by calling 216-371-3457.

More information on HBC and other sponsored rides can be found in an article in this issue of the Observer. No registration is required for the Aug. 22 ride, but helmets will be mandatory. For more information on public art in Cleveland Heights, visit

Mary Ryan

Mary Ryan is the marketing and communications coordinator at Heights Arts.

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Volume 8, Issue 8, Posted 10:21 AM, 07.31.2015