Held in mid-April under blue skies dotted with an array of puffy white clouds, the arts festival was an inaugural experience on its own by serving as the first time in 11 years that the Greenway sanctioned an event. Over the years, and especially since the completion of the Phase 5 connector in early 2012, the fitness trail has hosted a menagerie of civic fundraisers and community awareness observances on behalf of others.
When “Chalk” was organized, it became the Greenway’s first attempt to help itself. The attempt was deemed an “overwhelming” success by those who hoped it would be.
One is Cameron Fisher, an avid runner who chairs the Greenway board and who admittedly is “head over heels” with excitement over the work of the Greenway Public Arts Committee.
“Since its formation, GPAC has been tireless in its work to explore ideas that will bring public art to the Greenway, and therefore deepening even further what we like to call ‘the Greenway experience,’” Fisher said. “When committee members came up with the idea of ‘Chalk the Walk,’ we knew from the get-go that this initiative had strong potential, especially among the vast number of artists in our community.”
That potential served up notice on Game Day — a gorgeous Saturday morning that was competing with a slew of other outdoor community events held simultaneously — that “Chalk the Walk” had cornered the market in the hearts of plenty of artists and art-loving individuals and groups.
“‘Chalk the Walk’ was a huge success,” according to Tara Brown, an involved community volunteer who chairs the GPAC group in conjunction with her chairmanship role on the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library. “The sun was shining as local artists transformed sidewalk squares of the Greenway into beautiful works of art.”
Of GPAC’s purpose in organizing the event, Brown explained, “The committee’s goal is to provide opportunities for cultural and artistic expressions on the Greenway with a goal to enhance outdoor experiences through public art. We feel that ‘Chalk the Walk’ was a great way to introduce our committee’s goal to the community. All the proceeds from the event will help to establish a master plan to achieve this goal.”
To borrow from a familiar adage, success breeds success. And that’s happening with “Chalk the Walk” as evidenced by GPAC’s focus on extending, and expanding, the “Chalk” experience into 2014 and beyond.
“With the success of this year’s ‘Chalk the Walk,’ our committee is already making plans for next year,” she said. “We are extremely appreciative of all the artists who participated this year and hope they will make plans to join us again next year.”
Not only was the sidewalk — actually, Greenway — art innovative and appealing to those with an eye for outdoor beauty, it was created by talented chalkers who used their colorful tool of trade as a sampling of their other talents whether as sketch-pad artists or those who prefer canvas or those who create murals, among other expressive outlets.
“Chalk the Walk” winners came in four key categories, including:
n Best of Show: Square No. 32 by Karen Bowles and artist Trevor Ledford;
n Honorable Mention: Square No. 22 by Andrew, Jordan and Ashley Rogers;
n Honorable Mention: Square No. 42 by Samantha Garrett, Deborah Garrett and Janet Turnmire; and
n People’s Choice: Square No. 17 by Houston Burns.
“Organizers of ‘Chalk the Walk’ set out to establish awareness for public art as a benefit and enhancement to our community, and to place a spotlight on the talents of local artists,” said Joe McCullough, a GPAC member who coordinated the ‘Chalk’ fundraiser. “The event handled both objectives in a single day, but now the hard work begins ... developing enhanced features for the next version of the Greenway for all residents to enjoy.”
Thousands of Cleveland and Bradley County outdoor and health enthusiasts use the Greenway monthly — and even weekly, and some daily in the spring, summer and fall seasons — whether as walkers, runners, cyclists or skateboarders, and some just use it as a safe, pedestrian connector from Point A to Point B.
But its potential is unlimited, a point that isn’t lost on GPAC members and the “Chalk” organizers.
“We want to cast a vision of our future that taps into the collective desires of the community, and not just the arts community,” McCullough stressed. “Supporters of the arts do not need to be convinced that art displayed in public spaces can enhance the landscape of our city, that it drives commerce and that it generally adds to the quality of life in Bradley County.”
He added, “Cleveland will benefit for generations from engaging in a conversation that leads to a developed plan that can bring action to ideas. The best way to get involved is to ‘Like’ our Facebook page and let your voice be heard. Find us on Facebook at Greenway Public Arts Committee — GPAC.”
Earlier this year in his “Keeping It Green” column, Fisher pointed to a variety of projects the Greenway is interested in pursuing, but all require different levels of funding. Last week in a front-page article in the Cleveland Daily Banner, he looked ahead at future plans for the linear park — both short- and long-term.
Developing displays of public art along the Greenway is one of those visions. The success of “Chalk the Walk” serves as a first step in deploying future pieces of art to coincide with the existing donation by Cleveland artist Joshua Coleman whose interpretive work, “Sitting Tall,” is currently on display alongside the Greenway between the People for Care and Learning playground and Raider Drive.
Obviously, the Greenway vision goes far beyond public art, but the success of “Chalk the Walk” shows that such fundraising is possible, especially if its mission is the betterment of the linear park.
“The best projects are those that provide a benefit to everyone,” Fisher said in last week’s article. “Projects that honor someone are certainly welcomed, but they must be more than just a plaque of commemoration. So far, we have been blessed with donors who have understood the purpose behind enhancing the Greenway experience along with honoring someone.”
The Greenway board’s shopping list for future projects is extensive; however, the group must also be selective especially in regard to everyday wear and tear.
“Items or projects should be things that are all-weather and can tolerate being under water for short periods because the Greenway has sure been under water,” Fisher said with a chuckle. “But, about the only thing that has washed away from a donated project has been mulch.”
Fisher said Greenway board members remain open to suggestions or to talks with potential project sponsors and supporters.