Cherokee mural celebrates community

Marissa Mikolak

Cherokee artist Edwin George explains the story behind his mural titled “Love” and the important spiritual symbols within it yesterday afternoon across from the North Water Street Gallery.

Credit: Steve Schirra

Colorful animals were the center of attention on North Water Street yesterday.

Students, Kent residents and members of the Eastern Band Cherokee tribe were among those who gathered to celebrate the completion of a mural next to the North Water Street Gallery.

The celebration, called A Delightful Dedication Downtown, was held in honor of the Kent community.

The mural is a replication of a painting by Cherokee folk artist Edwin George. George grew up in Cherokee, N.C., and moved to Kent about 25 years ago.

The 72-year-old artist began his art career at the age of 60. George began drawing instead of watching television or doing other activities at night, but he threw the sketches away at the end of each evening. His late wife would secretly remove the sketches from the garbage and kept her husband’s work. When his wife passed away, George discovered the secret collection and was inspired to further his career in art.

The mural, titled “Love,” is a colorful assembly of animals, including two turtles along the Cuyahoga River. The turtles, which are placed in the center of the art, represent a tribal legend.

“The two turtles are doing a ceremony called branching,” said Dona Greene, George’s girlfriend who helped organize the celebration. “This is a ceremony where people go to a river, splash their face and give thanks for the water.”

The painting of the mural was organized by Standing Rock Cultural Arts, a non-profit community art organization founded by Gary Lockwood and Jeff Ingram six years ago.

“Love” was completed by members of Standing Rock Cultural Arts and volunteers including passers-by on North Water Street.

“We would tell people who were just walking down the street to grab a brush, sign a waiver and paint,” said Jeff Ingram, director of Standing Rock Cultural Arts.

Steve Balazs, who owns the building the mural is painted on, purchased the building two years ago.

“I wanted to buy the building to do something just like this,” Balazs said. “I wanted to do something for the community.”

During the ceremonies of A Delightful Dedication Downtown, George placed a Cherokee arrow next to his signature on the mural, and musicians played wooden flutes and hand drums.

Contact off-campus entertainment reporter Marissa Mikolak at [email protected].