Parade The City Includes New Cleveland Museum Of Art Community Center

Extended Family members Brenda Parker and Keesha McMillian helped create this quilt for Parade the City with the assistance of Sue Berry, center, who stitched it together.
Extended Family members Brenda Parker, left, and Keesha McMillian, right, helped create this quilt for Parade the City with the assistance of Sue Berry, center, who stitched it together. [David C. Barnett / ideastream]
Featured Audio

Parade the Circle is still on hiatus this year due to pandemic precautions. Instead, starting Saturday, a modified version of this popular event will take place all across the city, including the Cleveland Museum of Arts’ new West Side location.

It was common to find out-of-this-world creatures in Parade the Circle. Everything from stilt-walkers with butterfly wings to lumbering 15-foot puppets traveled through the University Circle cultural district every June for three decades, much to the delight of dense crowds watching along the curb.

But, planners retooled this year’s celebration of creativity. They’re calling it: Parade the City. Area artists are pairing with community groups to create art installations at locations across Greater Cleveland. One of those groups is Extended Family, co-founded by Keesha McMillian.

“We've been in the parade every year and we always do something very cultural,” she said.

Extended Family was founded in 2005 by 12 African American women to pursue creative projects that engage young people and families. Without a parade this year, the group decided to create a large quilt that will be on view at several places, starting Saturday at Church of the Good Shepherd in Beachwood. Fabric expert and artist Sue Berry coordinated the quilting project, but she gives all praise to the Extended Family members, who created each panel in the 10-by-10-foot work.

“I just sewed them together,” Berry said. “I just kind of did the grunt work. They did all the creative things.”

The end result is a tangible history lesson – from coded symbols you’d find along the Underground Railroad all the way up to the challenges of today, including a coronavirus germ sporting a white mask.

“As the quilt was worked on, people were telling their stories, you know,” McMillian said. “We were calling out different ancestors names and telling their history. And actually, the quilt really took a life of its own after a while.”

The art museum's new Community Arts Center is the anchor tenant in the Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression on the city's West Side. [David C. Barnett / ideastream]

Coordination of all these art projects is taking place at the art museum’s new facility in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood, another stop on the Parade the City tour. The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Community Arts Center is the anchor tenant in the Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression on West 25th Street. The CMA Director of Community Arts Stefanie Taub, provided a recent tour inside. 

Painter Debra Sue Solecki's trompe l'œil octopus seems to hover in mid-air as an inspiration to young artists in one of the community center's studios. [David C. Barnett / ideastream]

“Community members will be able to come into the community arts center free of charge during public open hours,” she said, walking past big black work tables. “There will be art activities at these community tables. They can make art here. They can hang out here.”

A giant puppet from a past parade is on display in the community center's gallery. [David C. Barnett / ideastream]

This 20,000 square-foot space is bathed in natural light pouring in from large windows. There are several studios stocked with art supplies. Plus, there is a production shop, storage space and a large gallery that currently features some of the immense creations from 30 years of Parade history. Jennifer DePrizio, the museum’s interim director of public and academic engagement, said this new outpost offers all sorts of possibilities.

The Cleveland Museum of Art's Stefanie Taub and Jennifer DePrizio pose by a mural created by Rafael Valdivieso for the museum's new Community Arts Center in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood. [David C. Barnett / ideastream]

“You know, it’s the community arts department – it’s arts with an ‘s’ intentionally,” DePrizio said. “Because we're really excited about the opportunity to have organizations that work in the other areas of the arts, not just the visual arts, to partner with us.

For Extended Family’s Keesha McMillian, artistic partnerships are a way of threading back together the fabric of a sometimes-frayed city.

“It's just like with the Underground Railroad quilt,” she said. “Many hands make freedom possible. It wasn't the Black, it wasn't the white, it was many hands that made that occur, because one could not see the freedom without the other. And I think that today we need to remember that.”

And although there won’t be hundreds of people marching and drumming and shouting and laughing in University Circle this year, a timely reminder of the power of collaboration remains.

The members of Extended Family traced and decorated their hands as a signature on the back of their quilt. [David C. Barnett / ideastream]

Support Provided By

More Wksu Schedule
More Wclv Schedule
NPR Hourly Newscast
The Latest News and Headlines from NPR
This text will be replaced with a player.
This text will be replaced with a player.
This text will be replaced with a player.