Shaker Artists Create Van Aken Chalk Art

Shaker art students were chosen by Arts Van Aken to create interactive chalk murals in the Van Aken district


David Vahey

Honors drawing student Alona Miller, assisted by a teacher and student, draws her first place design on the chalk wall in the Van Aken District.

Arts students from the high school have been chosen to create interactive chalk murals in Van Aken as a part of the Arts Van Aken project in the new district.

Arts Van Aken was created this year and is part of the Shaker Heights Development Corporation. According to Laura Wiegand of Arts Van Aken, the program was created as a way to use art to support economic development in Shaker and make Van Aken an arts destination.

“It is an initiative that we are trying to launch to bring arts and culture programming to the Van Aken district with the aim of reflecting and celebrating the diversity found in Shaker and the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Wiegand.

The chalk murals are its first project and was inspired by artist Cindy Chang who wrote “Before I die, I want to…” on an abandoned building in New Orleans according to Wiegand. She left chalk for people to write on the wall and since then the idea has blown up and similar projects have been created around the world.

David Vahey
Honors drawing student Alona Miller uses chalk to sketch her original design.

Arts Van Aken approached the high school arts department to find students to create four interactive chalk murals that will stay up for a week at a time on the large chalk wall currently on an empty storefront in the district.

After the four student murals are completed, there are no other artists scheduled because Wiegand hopes that the chalk wall storefront will be replaced by an actual store after the four weeks.

Wiegand said that Arts Van Aken choose high schoolers for this project to send a message that the Van Aken District is inclusive of everyone and is meant to be a gathering place for all of the Shaker community, including teenagers.

The art department decided to have Kristina Walter’s Honors Drawing Class create three murals and Christina Stouffer’s Art Club create one. Walter assigned each student to design a mural with an interactive prompt for homework, and the class voted on the top three. “I was really impressed with the creativity, the variety of ideas they came up with,” said Walter.

Alona Miller’s design won first place and was installed on Friday Sept. 21. Her design of flags from around the world on hot air balloons was drawn with the prompt “My family is from…” People passing by are invited to answer the prompt in the empty space incorporated in the design.

A week later, her design was washed away and replaced with the design of second place winner, Zoe Rosenfelt. Her design is a multi colored drawing of the of the Cleveland skyline with space underneath for people to respond to the prompt “If I wasn’t afraid, I would…”

“I wanted to do something that had something to do with Cleveland and something that was local so that’s why I did the skyline. And then my mom helped me think of the prompt,” said Rosenfelt.

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