October 17, 2016

Field Notes: The ‘Bridge that Bridges’ the Racial Divide in Cleveland

By Erick Rodriguez, Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow

The current Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellows share their ideas, inspirations, and photos from the field on our blog. Learn more about the Fellowship.

‘Bridge that Bridges’ the Racial Divide in Cleveland, photograph by Erick Rodriguez

When I initially started working in Cleveland, I was shaken by the racial and economic divides of the city.  Now, as a third year Rose Architectural fellow for Burten, Bell and Carr Detroit Shoreway  I have learned a lot about the severe impacts racism has in our everyday lives. One of my outlets became a practice called ‘Make Art, Talk Race’.

This creative workshop brings residents and local stakeholders together to have an honest conversation about racism. They are carefully paired with opportunities for creative expression. In the last six months, we have worked together to confront how systemic racism impacts us individually and collectively. The conversations hold a space for each of us to reflect, give input, and lead discussions that can otherwise feel tense and uncomfortable.

Mural on the W22nd Street Bridge connecting Downtown Cleveland and the Central Neighborhood, photograph by Erick Rodriguez

Over the summer, we took our voice to the streets using art. Together, we designed and painted a mural on the W22nd Street Bridge connecting Downtown Cleveland and the Central Neighborhood over a freeway, two areas which predominantly have opposite associations for people throughout the region. One a symbol of progress for Cleveland, while the other an area burdened with public housing and crime. The mural came to be known as ‘ The Bridge that Bridges’.

My experience with this program broadened my understanding of the cultural history of Cleveland’s near eastside, the challenges they face, and the people willing to make change. The group includes residents, activists, painters, photographers, housing authority staff, high school students, and teachers, among others. We were encouraged by the support of the community and the willingness of strangers to pick up a brush and contribute to the discourse around racism.

Our group looks to continue building on the energy and conviviality sparked by this work. We look forward to support one another and continue building on our aspirations. Aspirations that one day Cleveland, and cities across the country, will be made of equitable and just places for all.

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