Downtown Cleveland Guerilla Gardeners Exposed!

click to enlarge Jack Brancatelli, Vince Lucic and Zach Schauer, Cleveland's own guerilla gardeners. - Jack Brancatelli
Jack Brancatelli
Jack Brancatelli, Vince Lucic and Zach Schauer, Cleveland's own guerilla gardeners.

The day after recent Cleveland State University graduate Jack Brancatelli planted a small garden in a sidewalk hole on Euclid Avenue with two of his former CSU classmates and chums, he was walking home to his campus apartment from the Red Line rapid downtown and saw a News Channel 5 camera crew capturing images of his handiwork.

In the same rascally spirit with which the garden was planted, Brancatelli approached the crew and asked them what the deal was. Someone had planted this delightful little garden overnight, Brancatelli was told. When he confirmed for Channel 5 that he was a downtown resident, they asked if he'd be willing to be interviewed on camera for the story. He agreed.

And so Brancatelli, one of the "guerilla gardeners" himself, appeared as a random bystander in local news coverage of the unknown green-thumb vigilantes. During the interview, he never tipped his hand, applauding "whoever did this." 
click to enlarge Downtown Cleveland Guerilla Gardeners Exposed!
Screenshot News Channel 5 / Courtesy Jack Brancatelli

Whoever did this was Brancatelli and his roommate Zach Schauer, 2022 and 2021 alums, respectively, of CSU's Levin College of Urban Affairs, and their friend Vince Lucic, a CSU history major who graduated last year and lives in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood.

All three arrived at the site of the Euclid sidewalk hole across from Heinen's grocery store in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.

"Monday at midnight seemed like it would be a little too early, a little too active," Schauer told Scene by phone from Albuquerque, where he's currently vacationing with Brancatelli before Brancatelli begins a summer job in New Mexico. "So we decided on three a.m. Who's walking around downtown at 3 a.m.?"

The answer, as it turned out, was nobody.

With a wheelbarrow and approximately $120 in topsoil and tools from Home Depot, the three buddies carefully planted their garden and ringed it with a small white picket fence. All told, the installation took less than two hours.

"Jack and I had been complaining about this hole for months," Schauer said. "We had joked about things to do with it." 

Brancatelli stressed that while both he and Schauer were now well-versed in streetscape design and urban planning, thanks to their CSU degrees, their act was not explicitly political — at least not in the same vein as the guerilla urbanists who installed a speed bump on a residential street last month after an immigrant child was killed by a reckless driver.

"I don't think we were thinking that deeply about it," Brancatelli said. "At the time, we just thought it'd be kind of a fun, funny thing to do. We're both urban planning majors and would probably agree with the interpretations that people have come up with [protesting the city's sluggishness on repairing the public right of way, for example]. It's not like we're naive, but we've lived downtown for four years now, and we were confident that our neighbors would get a kick out of this."

Schauer and Brancatelli said that they have been overwhelmed with the response, which has been almost universally positive.  The garden is regarded as a delight, the craftsmanship as top-hole.

"It was one last message of love for the neighborhood I've grown to love," Brancatelli said.

All three would have been content to remain anonymous, they said, but the response has been so over-the-top on social media that they felt it couldn't hurt to come forward, in the same spirit of fun that they undertook the project in the first place.

"I'll be down here in New Mexico," Brancatelli said. "But a bunch of people said they'd buy whoever did this beers, and Zach should be able to cash in on those. But honestly there was kind of a mysticism growing around it. And we wanted to say that we're just some college guys, and this was just a simple, fun thing. Hopefully coming forward keeps it that way."

Bummer update: Cleveland photographer Michael Collier Tweeted Thursday afternoon that the white picket fence had been removed and replaced with orange traffic cones.  ***
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About The Author

Sam Allard

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...
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