Cleveland's comeback behind theme of Parade the Circle on Wade Oval this weekend

Amateur and professional artists bring it to life

CLEVELAND - On Columbus Road in the Flats, a brick warehouse bears a colorful sign: "Cleveland Museum of Art." Inside, a half dozen artists are at work, creating one-of-a-kind costumes for marchers in this year's Parade the Circle, presented by the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Led by the museum's director of community arts, Robin VanLear, these artists -- some here from other states -- are using native flowers and plants, and found objects such as rusted copper screen and railroad spikes to create intricate designs on cotton long johns, just one costume category for the parade.

The effort represents a small portion of a massive, months long push by museum employees, volunteers and various community organizations to put together this unique event. VanLear said Parade the Circle is "a rare opportunity for all parts of the community to come together and show how creative we are, how amazingly talented we are whether it's visual arts, dance, music, and it really seems to be an event that draws the whole community."

VanLear has been the creative force behind the parade since its inception. Each year a theme is chosen, and this year it's a metaphor for Cleveland's resurgence. "Branches Become Roots: Cycles Coming Back/Going Forward" is the framework for this year's event. VanLear observed that downturns in the economy and the housing market have opened opportunities for re-growth, in areas such as green technology and community gardens. The parade includes colorful frogs and sparkling canaries, both creatures used as a measure of health in the environment.

One hundred community groups have been working on their individual units for the parade. Some will tie in to the theme, others will go their own way. VanLear said she is endlessly amazed by what these creative groups will come up with for their parade presentations.

"We learn as much from people in the parade as they learn from us," said VanLear.

Workshops at the museum on Wade Oval build some of the larger mask heads and character structures for the event. And every year, artists from across the country and the world travel here just to be a part of it.

Parade the Circle steps off at noon from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and will progress clockwise around Wade Oval onto East Boulevard and then back onto Wade Oval. And from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., Circle Village on the Oval will offer live music, great food and all sorts of activities for families.

If you can't make it to Parade the Circle, The Cleveland Museum of Art will be live streaming the event on its website: http://www.clevelandart.org

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