Saturday, April 24, 2004

An Afternoon at the Track

"Wha?" I gasped and spun around, my startle reflex, once again, embarrassing me in public. A loud screeching thump had triggered that involuntary rush of adrenalin.
"That's just the sound of the brake." chuckled Tim Meese, as the little car slowed, and finally stopped at the bottom of the hill.

I'd never seen soapbox race cars until today. At least not up close and personal. I'd noticed them before on television news reports about the Akron National Soapbox Derby, but truthfully, hadn't paid much attention.

At the request of Tim Meese, a member of the Cleveland Soapbox Derby Commission, I stopped by the Cleveland racetrack near Edgewater Park this afternoon. I was there to watch a few of the trial runs, as area kids ready their cars for this seasons races.

A logical question would be "Why the sudden interest?" and the answer is " For art's sake".

Last year, I wrote a proposal, and received funding (from Young Audiences of Greater Cleveland) for a project that would bring sculptors into the shops at Max Hayes Vocational High School to incorporate art and design concepts into teaching the trades curriculum. One of the goals of the proposal was the fabrication of outdoor sculpture, and the development of a sculpture park in a vacant lot across the street from the school. Unfortunately, some legal issues prevented that site from being used for that purpose, so we began the quest for a new location to install our artwork.

With the help of Cleveland Councilman Matt Zone, and the generosity of the Cleveland Soapbox Derby Commission, we now have a marvelous hilltop with a picture postcard view of Cleveland's skyline and Whiskey Island. The space is dream location for any public artist, let alone a group of high school kids. Not only is the view phenomenal, but twenty thousand people driving on the shoreway pass the site every day, and it is accessible to pedestrians in the neighborhood via a classic art deco styled bridge and stairway.

We are now in the process of designing site specific sculpture using the themes of soapbox cars, kids, racing, and family. Last week, I drove out to Classic Cars in Auburn Township to checkout their custom stainless steel works facility with artist Steven Tatar. Steve will be working with the students in the fall, fabricating a stainless steel sculpture of a stylized soapbox race car. Classic Cars has generously donated the use of their laser cutter for this project.
It is AMAZING. If we can draw it, this machine can cut intricate minutes...totally clean....awesome...really, really awesome....makes a plasma cutter look primitive.

We have two other proposals for the park in the works: A sculptural fence designed by the students with the help of Mike Spencer from the David Davis Foundation, and a mosaic-tiled seat, designed by the students under the guidance of Cleveland ceramist David Alban.

I'm so excited to be able to give my students these opportunities.
I feel very lucky to be working at such a unique school, in a neighborhood that reaches out to its young people, encouraging them to become a part of the community, and enabling them to create their own artistic legacy.

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