Self-taught Cleveland artist finishing 100-foot long mural inspired by a JFK's moon landing speech

Image depicts the reclaiming of a neighborhood

CLEVELAND - John Rivera-Resto is a painter. But you don't have to visit the inside of an art gallery to see his work. His paintings can be found on the outside of buildings throughout Cleveland.

Rivera-Resto has been painting for nearly forty years and this self-taught Cleveland artist specializes in murals.

"A mural really is—they're called the Kings of Art," said Rivera-Resto. "It's the biggest piece of advertisement and education and promotion that you can ever have. This is your bulletin board. You are sending out a message, except you're doing it in images."

His latest project is on the corner of West 25th and Clark Avenue on Cleveland's near west side. This image of six neighborhood storefronts is life-size. It's 18 feet high and more than 100 feet long. The mural is called, "It's Up To Us" It's much more than just a way to decorate a tired brick wall.

"This project is a slice in the life of this community. It covers several decades from the Seventies all the way to now. It could be any neighborhood in the inner city but this one is particular to this particular neighborhood because it reflects somebody who would live in it. It's an allegory of Cleveland itself. When things started to go down economically or politically in all our travels, what the average Joe on the street went through, what it did to families, what it did to youngsters. Everything had to be overcome. And then it gives a glimpse at the end, of what it could be if everybody pulls together and does his share of the work."

Rivera-Resto feels this is his best work of the past ten years. But the long days and warmth of summer is fading. With the help of assistant Richard Owens, he struggles through the hand numbing cold and wind to finish this project by the end of November.

Ironically, this month, this year, also marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the man that helped inspire the murals message.

"I was going through speeches of different people who wrote about these situations and one speech that pulled my attention was John F. Kennedy's reaching for the moon. And there's a section of the speech where he says we have to put away our differences. Everybody's going to have to put together their efforts and there's got to be sacrifices that are willing to be made. And really to build a neighborhood, and to make it prosper, everyone has got to put in their share."

Rivera-Resto has done more than 200 murals throughout his career.  This west side project was designed and painted using the same techniques that artists have used for centuries.

"You could put Renaissance costumes on us and the process is identical. From doing layouts, to transfers, to plastering the walls, to chalking, to doing a color wash, doing the detailing.  And we have several assistants who specialize in certain skills to do the process. Of course, I have to do the final detailing, so my brush has to be in every square inch of that wall until it's completed."

Weather permitting "It's Up To Us" will be completed by the end of this month.

You can learn more about this project and John Rivera-Restos by going to www.muralmaster.org .

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