Cleveland producer and director Devin Cathcart had already taken his camera to a number of the local racial justice protests when he heard about the Black Lives Matter mural project on social media. He said he been looking for a way to more deeply capture local BLM efforts and was intrigued by making a short documentary about the effort.
"I thought this was a good story because it was a one-day shoot, it was outside so it's Covid friendly, and I thought it might have an opportunity to challenge people's perception about what BLM is."
Cathcart's five-minute documentary, which he published on YouTube earlier this week, chronicles the project from start to finish on June 20. It features commentary from organizers Ricky Smith and Stamy Paul, overhead drone footage of the mural in progress and the festive atmosphere that accompanied the artists' work.
"For me the best part was the people," Cathcart told Scene. "The different artists, the residents of the neighborhood coming out and talking with people. I've shot all sorts of projects all over Cleveland and you don't often see that kind of crowd congregating in neighborhoods like that. It was impressive. Had a totally different vibe than the protests. It felt more like a block party."
There had been some discussion about the placement of the mural. Many felt that its location on E. 93rd between Bessemer and Laisy, on the city's southeast side, would make less of an impression than if it were on a more prominent stretch of street downtown.
Organizer Ricky Smith evidently felt the same way. He tells a crowd early in the video that he'd initially hoped for a more central location, but was actually pleased that Mayor Jackson's Chief of Government and International Affairs Valarie McCall had talked him into the ultimate location.
McCall, who owns the home and the adjacent parcels on the corner of E. 93rd and Laisy, speaks briefly on the subject as well.
"The councilman picked 93rd," she says, referencing Councilman Blaine Griffin, but using air quotes. "In the midst of what we're going through right now in this nation, we're at an important time.... This is a very proud area. Understand why this is so important right here, right now, today."
The mural has also kicked off a public art initiative on the city's east side called "Elevate the East." It aims to bring public art work to wards 4, 5 and 6 based on community input.
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Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...