By Sarah Hess
CIA students have been lighting up- sometimes literally – the Campus District with their creative talents, and Campus District, Inc. (CDI) couldn’t be happier about it! Baillie Davis (‘14) and Nolan Beck (‘15) both began their involvement as artist/activists with CDI in the past year, and now provide integral leadership and initiative to projects that address real community issues through collaboration and creativity. Focused on The Superior Arts Quarter, their projects include conceptual design for a public bathroom, the string lights project, and Superior banner project. While Baillie and Nolan connected with Campus District, Inc. individually and of their own initiative, their efforts have been supported by CIA’s legacy of student community involvement.
Baillie, a Clearfield, Pennsylvania native and soon-to-be graduate of CIA’s Industrial Design Program, connected with CDI in Fall of 2013 as a part of her senior capstone project. From the start, Baillie knew that she wanted her project to meaningfully address a social issue. In the early stages of the process, she interviewed over 20 community organizations to explore community needs and pinpoint an issue that could be addressed through industrial design.
As Baillie explains, “Going into my senior year I really wanted to work on something that had meaning and was not just going to be another arbitrary project in my portfolio. Looking at the city and issues I knew I could get involved with, homelessness became a natural place to start my research. Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) was one of many shelter and service agencies that I met with and interviewed a handful of the staff. Talking with Michael Sering exposed more opportunities and he became my go-to guy. Michael further introduced me to Bobbi Reichtell, (director of the Campus District), and the rest is history. The project has grown tenfold since.”
Baillie ultimately chose the homeless as her target population and identified the need for a public restroom in the area near Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries men’s shelter on Lakeside Avenue. She worked closely with CDI and LMM staff during her design process which culminated in creation of a life size model of an artistic public restroom. It was on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of CIA’s Spring Design Show held there from April 22nd-25th. LMM and Frontline Services brought a dozen of their clients to see the restroom model and give feedback on the design. The Public Restroom project is in its early planning stages but has a committee organized by CDI of community stakeholders and homeless service providers. “I think design has the power to impact others, but action needs to be carried out to do that. This has by far been the most fulfilling project of my undergrad experience,” explains the dynamic Baillie Davis.
Nolan Beck, a Graphic Design major and Campus District resident, has worked over the past year at improving neighbor relationships and building community ownership through artistic collaboration. Nolan moved to Cleveland from Williamsburg, Virginia to attend CIA. A resident of the Superior Arts Quarter, Nolan found himself frustrated by neighborhood tensions with homeless people who live nearby in shelters. After encouragement from fellow artist and resident Derek Hess, he attended a community meeting in June 2013. New to community activism, he wasn’t sure what to expect
at the meeting. Nolan explains, “I went to this first meeting last year because I was pretty upset about my car being broken into numerous times. I went in in a bad mood and left feeling positive thanks to Bobbi [Reichtell, CDI Executive Director] and Anna [Meyer, then CDI Programming and Research Intern] who were both so enthusiastic and passionate about the future of the Campus District,” and left the meeting moved to further involvement by their enthusiasm and passion. Since that initial meeting, Nolan has worked as an artist and resident leader to promote the Superior Initiative through his graphic design and social media skills. Nolan is the Resident Coordinator of this community group, whose projects include plans to brand the arts district with string lights in the trees along Superior, bring together artists and homeless populations to create artistic banners and mosaic covered garbage cans, and utilize the logo that Nolan is developing for the Arts Quarter. “Graphic design is so much more than just designing album covers and T-Shirts. “ Well-designed signage and wayfinding elements help people get where they’re going. Information design educates people and can make them see a viewpoint they’ve never seen before. Adding good design to places that don’t have it can brighten up and completely change a space or area. Ultimately, I want to work in the marketing department of Herman Miller, but I think I’ll always want to do design work for social good, too.”
While Baillie and Nolan connected with Campus District, Inc. individually and of their own initiative, their efforts have been supported by CIA’s legacy of student community involvement. In a recent meeting with Grafton J. Nunes, President & CEO of Cleveland Institute of Art, he discussed the work of Baillie Davis and Nolan Beck and CIA’s investment in the Greater Cleveland community.
Mr. Nunes emphasized the high emphasis that CIA puts on the social engagement of its students. He noted that “while the perception is often that artists are starving… isolated… suffering for their art,” CIA students are “profoundly interactive and engaged, and don’t retreat from the world around them.” Their art “comes from interaction,” and, appropriately, the theme for the 2014-2015 academic year is The Artist and Designer as Social Agent. Mr. Nunes stressed the social obligation of their students and noted that “when students use the opportunities offered to them by CIA they turn out articulate, they turn out confident… they turn out like Baillie and Nolan!”
As a Cleveland transplant whose 1979 visit to the city made a lasting impression of the city’s cultural vibrancy and participation, Mr. Nunes adeptly perceives Cleveland’s composition as “centers of activity… connected by different corridors- Superior is one of those,” and emphasizes the importance of citizen investment in projects like those led by Nolan and Baillie, in addition to government-initiated projects.
To join with community members like Baillie and Nolan on projects in the Campus District/Superior Arts Quarter check out the Facebook pages of The Campus District and Superior Initiative or contact Campus District Director Bobbi Reichtell at 216.650.6945.