“Sing Unburied Sing” Gets Its Own Mural In Cleveland
Tara Jefferson November 27, 2018
Look closely at the multicolored mural in the old Irishtown Bend in Cleveland and you’ll spot a small teal “JW” in the lower interior of an archway.
Author Jesmyn Ward initialed the mural inspired by her Anisfield-Wolf award-winning book, Sing Unburied Sing, during her second trip to Cleveland this year, thanks to a suggestion from the Cleveland Foundation’s Alan Ashby. She got an intimate tour by the artists themselves, Danielle Rini Uva and Katie Parland from Agnes Studio, who completed the mural one month prior for Phase II of the Inter|Urban public art project.
“We were basically tasked with doing four murals – two pillars split by a road,” Uva said. “We liked the idea of having two pillars in conversation with each other, but they would never touch. There’s a lot [in Sing, Unburied, Sing] about ghosts and remembering the past. About parallel lives that never can connect in real ways.”
The trio journeyed to the installation a few hours before Ward took the stage at Case Western Reserve University to participate in its Writers Center Stage series. From first glance, Uva said, Ward was eager to soak it in.
“When we met with Jesmyn, she said so many people interpreted [Sing] in different ways and she never really got the same questions when asked about it,” Parland said. “The way we interpreted it was fresh and surprising for her.”
While Uva and Parland typically work on digital and print graphic design concepts, the task of creating an expansive mural, covering two full pillars under the RTA Red Line, was a new challenge.
“It wasn’t a basic mural – just a rectangle on the side of a building,” Uva said. “The physical feat of doing it pushed us in a way that we ultimately are pleased with.”
Their design came together over a few months — they decided to select six different colors for each of the six different arches, each representing one of the main living characters of Sing. The black interior archways mimic the spirit world, giving a home to the two ghosts that appear in the book.
“We’re hoping people will experience it multiple ways,” Uva said. “There are people who just will drive by and say, ‘This is colorful,’ and then there will be people who will walk or bike through the arches and experience it on a more intimate level. There are some surprises and discoveries throughout the whole piece.”
Ward pronounced herself pleased by one of those surprises – a sentence Agnes Studio plucked from the book and memorialized in the mural. Pay a visit to read it there yourself.