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Heights Arts Hopes to Install Window Art at Vacant Storefronts

Artwork would feature images specific to each business district

They seem to be everywhere. Windows covered in brown paper. Barren shops dotting an otherwise vibrant street.

Vacant stores are a somber fact of life in Cleveland Heights as of late, like many communities, and while the city waits for an economic turnaround and to move in, has an idea to make the streetscape come alive.

The idea is to put a banner in the windows of vacant storefronts, replacing the drab paper or other covering hung by property owners with artistic photographs of the area, rent info as well as a map feature that indicates business locations along the street.

“The economy’s been so bad, and small businesses have been hurt,” said Andrea Joki, program director with Heights Arts. “Instead of inactive storefronts, we’d dress the windows themselves. It gives people something else to look at instead of brown paper.”

The photos, taken by Heights Arts staff, would capture each business district’s unique character. Vacant shops in the Cedar Lee neighborhood might have a photo of the , while passersby in Cedar Fairmount could be greeted by renditions of the artwork that adorns the side of buildings there. The photos would be voted on by members of committees that represent each business district.

“People are tired of seeing windows with brown paper in it,” said Tom Fello, owner of in Coventry and a proponent of the idea. “Instead of showing them this store is boarded up we can show them, ‘Here, this is what’s happening in the street,’ or ‘here is what’s happening in the district.’

“It’s a better way of marketing the district and turning a negative into a positive. It’s a very simple, low-cost way of doing that.”

Heights Arts would charge property owners $350, which includes the design, production and installation of the banner. The organization is also in the process of looking for grants to help subsidize some of the cost.

John Zagara, owner of , called the idea a “no-brainer.”

“There’s nothing worse than looking into a vacant store and seeing darkness and a place that hasn’t been cleaned in months,” he said. “This is something to catch the eye.”

Zagara said the art would not only grab the attention of a possible suitor to lease the store, but would also entice possible customers, getting them to stop just long enough to check out the art and maybe glance at a few stores while they’re at it.

The project is still in its early stages, said Joki, and Heights Arts is still meeting with business district committees to discuss designs and gauge the level of interest.

Paulette George Krieger March 22, 2011 at 06:14 PM
It is a wonderful idea, and I would be willing to volunteer some of my time to help - One idea: I am a local visual artist ( landscape ) working in traditional media: pencil, paint, pastel. I have several professionaly framed/glassed artworks which could be displayed. Possibly other Heights artists have some work, and would consider volunteering to watch over rotating exhibitions within a store which would provide exposure for the artist. If there are any sales - a decent commision amount would go to the city project. Paulette George Krieger 1401 Ardoon Street Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44121 216-382-0144 ArtGirl1401@aol.com
Adam Horwitz March 22, 2011 at 11:57 PM
Thanks Paulette for your comments. I think it's a wonderful idea to get other community members involved in making the Heights more beautiful.
Diane Marksz-Wright March 28, 2011 at 12:45 PM
I love the idea! Can anyone get involved in taking artistic pictures to be on the banners? Maybe a contest for the art community in general to get involved as well as the business owners!
Michelle Simakis (Editor) March 28, 2011 at 03:23 PM
I think that's a great idea! I would contact Heights Arts at 216-371-3457 to find out, as the project is still in its early stages.
Jara Anton May 02, 2011 at 08:46 PM
What a cool idea!
ILUVCH May 03, 2011 at 07:41 PM
A contest is a good idea, there are many artist in this community.

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