When she was growing up in the heart of Denver, nature meant the mountains encircling the city. But in 1992, Frazier Mueller packed up her easels and palettes, and followed her then-husband from Colorado to his native Cleveland, where she discovered sand and shells she couldn't find back home. She also elbowed her way into the city's "vibrant and exciting" art colony.
Three years ago, Frazier Mueller and a skeleton crew of volunteers started the Sparx Gallery Hop, a three-day jaunt that spans seven neighborhoods between Ohio City in the west and Little Italy in the east. A fleet of eight Lolly the Trolleys will shuttle participants from one district to the next, pausing at stops colorfully sheltered with orange tents. Along the way, nearly two dozen musical and dance acts -- including DJ-artist trio 2% Milk, Afrobeat quartet Hue People, and stilt-dancers Alexandra Underhill & Zancos -- will perform on the sidewalk.
But the true stars of the show will be the 93 galleries showcasing paintings, sculptures, and pottery by more than 200 Northeast Ohio artists. "There's a lot of territorialism in the art community, and for good reason," says Frazier Mueller, the event's producer. "We're trying to find a balance to put all artists and galleries on the same pedestal."
To give props to the region's creativity, the hop will spotlight art at six fests -- including the Tremont Arts & Cultural Festival in Lincoln Park, ArtJam on Superior Avenue and East Ninth Street, and the Chalk Festival at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Culture mavens can also head for Centerfest on Star Plaza, the Theatre District Discovery Tour on Playhouse Square, and the Cool Cleveland party at West 25th and Church streets. "People who come to a city want to know what makes the city special," says Frazier Mueller. "What sets our city apart from other cities is that we have unique neighborhoods specific to Cleveland's identity that are really rich in arts and culture."
The U.S. Conference of Mayors thinks so too. Recently, the association awarded one of five annual City Livability Awards to the Sparx project and its sister program, the Street Beats performance series, because they're "a catalyst for stimulating vibrant street life." To Frazier Mueller, it's an award that's been three years in the making. "It's about finally saying, look, Cleveland can promote its neighborhoods around its art scene," she says. "That's the reason why it's an arts-and-cultural destination."