(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Amy Callahan, executive director, Waterloo Arts)
Perhaps you have lately noticed a fresh spot of color acting like a beacon to Waterloo Road. The new mural, designed by French-born and British-educated designer and artist Camille Walala was commissioned by Jack Mueller, a real estate investor who owns the former bank building on Waterloo Road. The building, upon completion of its interior, will be home to Poplife, a pop-up gallery, health food space, and donation-only yoga studio.
Walala’s work is inspired by the Italian-led Memphis Movement from the 1980s but is updated with influences from the Ndebele tribe and optical art. She has large-scale works in some of the most important cities in the world: New York, Paris, London, Sydney, and now Cleveland. Mueller says he stumbled across Walala’s work online and was excited about its Memphis influences. From there, the artist and the investor developed a friendship through Instagram, both sharing a love of graphic shapes and bold colors. When Mueller saw an opportunity to commission a mural from his favorite artist, he reached out to bring Camille and her partner, Julie Jomaa, across the Atlantic for the project.
Mueller says it is important to him that the building’s exterior reflect its interior by revealing his business’ dedication to the sublimity of bold shapes and bright colors. He puts it simply, “I want to make the world a more colorful place.” Walala’s aesthetic, bursting with sunny colors, such as cherry red, millennial pink, canary yellow, and nifty turquoise, adds a splash of color, hopefully a smile, and a little bit of wonderment to the days of many Clevelanders.
Waterloo is lucky to have an investor like Jack, who believes in public art and in making art as accessible as possible. Public art is important because if you live in a neighborhood where there’s poverty, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be able to see art on their walls just for art’s sake. Every neighborhood deserves something beautiful, something that provides a unique point of pride and helps carve an identity out for residents. In particular, street art is like having a conversation outside, and murals act as canvases that humanize our urban landscape. Walala’s piece starts a conversation about the creativity and energy of humanity and about the egalitarianism of street art to passersby.
Collinwood Photographer Stephen Bivens stopped by HGR’s offices on May 23 for a Q&A and to conduct a photo shoot with his model, Felissa. He chose HGR for the juxtaposition between elegant and industrial/urban. He will be using the photos on his new website and social media.
Tell us about your style of photography.
I’m interested in industrial spaces, old bridges, urban decay, condemned houses or vacant houses. I learned on film and in black and white. I still tend to shoot that way. I send my film away to be developed. I have a studio in my home but I do not have my own darkroom.
How did you hear about HGR?
I talked to Industrial Artist Larry Fielder of Rust, Dust & Other 4-Letter Words when I was looking for an industrial space in which to shoot models. He’s an HGR customer and suggested the location.
When did you seriously get interested in photography?
About 12 years ago I bought a 35mm pocket camera with film and started taking pictures of people. People thought it was cool and began to pay me to take their portraits. I started reading books and buying cameras.
What brought you to Collinwood?
I worked in Tampa for Progressive in sales and marketing. I was promoted and moved to the headquarters in Cleveland. At first, I lived in Mayfield Village close to the office. My then-girlfriend, now-wife lived in Collinwood. We used to go to a coffee shop and an art gallery there. We volunteered to be sitters in the gallery to keep it open for visitors. The area is really cooperative with artists, and the artists are cooperative with sharing locations, methods and secret sources. After I left Progressive, we moved back to Florida to follow my ex-wife and kids, but when they moved out West, we moved back to Collinwood.
Who have you photographed?
I got in with a group of artists and bands then did tour photography, mostly hip hop and rock. To do so, I had to take vacations from work. About five years ago, I left Progressive to do photography full time. For three months, I had no work then slowly it picked up. To supplement my income, I shot portraits. I take photos at The Beachland Ballroom and drive to regional concerts now. I shoot the photos for the bands to use promotionally. I’ve worked with local businesses such as Six Shooters Coffee and at The Crossfit Games.
Who is the most memorable person that you have shot?
I was LeBron James’ party photographer during his rookie year. I also loved shooting Alternative/Folk/Country Artist Jessica Lea Mayfield.
What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t shooting photos?
I’m a former Marine. I like to shoot guns, too. I love music and concerts, especially grunge.
Photos provided courtesy of Stephen Bivens Photography
On May 8, 2017, The City of Euclid, Euclid Chamber of Commerce and Northeast Shores Development Corporation hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening of Sammich, 651 E. 185th Street, Cleveland. Mayor Holzheimer Gail opened the ceremonies with a few words about the ongoing 185th-corridor improvements followed by Camille Maxwell, executive director of Northeast Shores, and Sheila Gibbons, executive director of Euclid Chamber of Commerce. Randy Carter, Sammich’s owner and owner of Jack Flaps breakfast and luncheon bistros, says, “We are proud to support the neighborhood and help the community grow to make it a better place for everyone.”
After the ribbon cutting, members of the community started ordering sandwiches. Um, I mean sammiches. And, these aren’t your average sammich. Definitely not Subway. Carter uses local, fresh ingredients and cures and smokes his own meats in-house, including house-made sausage. I tried the HOT pickled vegetables with cucumber, celery, Spanish onion and carrots, as well as the cucumber salad made with Spanish onion, red bell pepper and dill. My sandwich was Sammich’s version of Vietnamese bahn mi called Cung Le. Since I don’t eat bread, they made mine as a lettuce wrap. It was amazing — huge and full of Vietnamese sausage, roast pork, cilantro, fresh-sliced jalepenos — seeds and all — and house-made kimchi. The sandwiches are wrapped in butcher paper and usually served on fresh-baked Orlando hoagies. I was going to take a picture of my food but I was so busy wolfing it down that I forgot. So, how’s this for testimony as to how good it was?
From 1993-2005, I worked for a construction trade newspaper with Monica Potter’s Aunt Sue. I heard office tales about her stunning niece who was doing catalog modeling and commercials and even got to meet her once at some company event or other. I also crossed paths with Monica’s Uncle Bill of Brokaw Inc., an advertising agency, since I had begun my career in advertising.
Fast forward to October 2016 when I heard about Monica’s newest TV venture, “Welcome Back Potter,” a reality TV show on HGTV in which Monica, her mother and her sister work to renovate their family home in the North Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland, which is right around the corner from my office at HGR Industrial Surplus. I decided to send her a message on Facebook to see about an interview. I figured, “What do I have to lose?” A few days later I got a response basically saying, “Yes.” I messaged her the questions. I got a message back with a phone number. After some phone tag and texts, we chatted for almost an hour. Who knew that she cares so much about manufacturing and a skilled workforce, and is actually doing something about it?
She is a passionate, intelligent, earthy, kind, fun, friendly, infectious person that you immediately want to hang out with for hours over a few double-dirty martinis with blue-cheese stuffed olives. In the first few minutes of our conversation, she jumped right into the nitty gritty of her philosophy, “It’s not about the business or the house but about doing something on a bigger scale, which I have wanted to do since I was 10. My projects can be a catalyst for people in Cleveland to begin a dialogue with government and politicians.” She says that when she opened her second Monica Potter Home store in The Old Arcade in Cleveland, it was timely because she wants to bring back small businesses and jobs to Cleveland but can only do so much; she need everyone’s help – the mayor, councilmen and law enforcement.
I asked her what she wanted to do when she was 10. She tells the story of calling then-Mayor George Voinovich’s office and leaving a message for him through his secretary because she had an idea. She wanted to take the old Memorial School Building in Collinwood where she went to kindergarten and have a place in that building where people could sleep, eat and learn how to do something in order to get a job, graduate, move out and get a house so that their families could be proud of them and they could feed their families.
How did a 10-year-old come to have thoughts like that? It all goes back to her dad. He’s the reason she bought back the family home in Collinwood, started Monica Potter Home and is looking to do even more. He was an inventor, with 78 patents, who made all of his inventions in the basement of their house then started a fishing-lure business on St. Clair Avenue. She was included in his inventing process and tinkering. She says, “I always did small construction and renovation projects with my dad. I was the boy of the family – changing oil, changing tires, building things from nothing.” She worked at the lure business pouring molds, putting in wires and hooks, and packaging. He had an interest in chemistry, biology, medicine and alternative medicine. He experimented with essential oils and other compounds to treat her eczema. Now, she also is inventing and wants to patent her designs and currently works with a chemist to go through formulas to create the bath and beauty products available through Monica Potter Home. Her mother cleaned on the side at Euclid Square Mall and would take her kids with her. Monica says she learned to act by watching and imitating people in the mall. She started Monica Potter Home because she wanted to make great products for the home that were inspired by her father and mother who liked to keep a nice house and decorate even if they didn’t have a lot of money. You can see how much family, hers and yours, means to her.
Her family originally moved into Collinwood in June 1971. She was born two weeks later. They sold the house in 1987 to move to Alabama. She bought the house back in 2012 and had a film crew come from Los Angeles that summer to document more than 1,000 hours of footage on the work that they did on the home with the intention of creating a documentary. And, when something is meant to be, it is meant to be. Renovation was finished in June 2016 as her lease on a farmhouse in Hiram, Ohio, was up. She occupied the home on June 30, her birthday, and had her family’s priest come to bless the house. She says it was her best birthday ever. She still lives in L.A. full time and spends 10 days per month in Cleveland to work on Monica Potter Home and efforts to renovate more homes in the area.
She originally decided to film the renovation as a documentary because she wanted to tell a story; so, she banked the footage and was working with a filmmaker in L.A. Then, she was approached by a couple of
networks about doing a home renovation show. She said she would do it as long as could produce it and not exploit her family. She went with HGTV and is really happy with result. She says that, “although they showcased the house, it was a different show for them because it showed the City of Cleveland, sisterhood, and what we are doing here and why, not just doorknobs and doors and hanging drywall.” The family worked 7 a.m to 10 p.m. each day, sometimes even sleeping in the car. Monica designed the fixtures, and everything is repurposed. She has an inventory system the documents everything down to the nails pulled from the walls, and she is recycling them to make other things.
With her roots in Collinwood and her passion for manufacturing, her ambitions include getting the useable space and machinery to make everything for Monica Potter Home from North Collinwood at a workshop with an apprenticeship program where people can learn from master craftsmen and technicians. This is a family grassroots effort, and she is working hand-in-hand with Brokaw Inc. to create a training space that currently is self-funded with no grants or partners. She said it’s not about a celebrity having a store or two but about creating jobs and making people proud of what they are doing, as well as helping people have incredible products at an affordable price in their homes that are made in the U.S., not overseas. She says that she wants to put up a sign that says, “Who wants to work? Who wants to learn to do something?” when she sees all the shutdowns and empty factories along St. Clair Avenue and as the Baby Boomers age out and are not being replaced with skilled labor.
With heart and soul, she blurts, “We’ve got to get our s!*# together. The Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Cavaliers did great. I love that we’re winning, and our teams, and the resurgence in the area. It’s Believeland, but now it’s time for us to believe in ourselves. Our great sports teams are catapulting us and making us proud. Now, it’s our turn.”