Agency Spotlight: Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority helps to preserve Depression-era art treasure

CMHPart of Louis Grebenak’s WBOE mural which is to be incorporated at Ideastream in downtown Cleveland. 

Art preservation isn’t exactly a typical job for a housing authority, but the way CMHA sees it, they’re making sure the public will be able to experience artworks – both now and in the future.

When the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority was planning to demolish its Valleyview Estates housing complex to replace it with a new mixed-income neighborhood, Cleveland architectural historian Walter Leedy was concerned for the Depression-era artworks located there.

So CMHA teamed up with Cleveland State University as well as art specialists like ICA Art Conservation to have the murals and sculptures restored and returned to various housing authority locations.

That project, it turned out, was the start of renewed interest in art conservation in the Cleveland area.

The City of Cleveland is now looking into conservation for some of its city-owned artworks. Cleveland’s public broadcasting corporation is on board too. It’s hoping to install a mural from the early 1940. The Louis Grebenak mural, like many of the works CMHA is working to preserve, was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, part of a New Deal initiative to give the unemployed jobs creating public works, from public buildings and roads to works of art.

CMHA isn’t stopping there, either. It hired an art conservation company to preserve art at its Lakeview Terrace Community Center. And ICA came back into the picture to help the housing authority conserve and reinstall a set of paintings later on at its Woodhill Homes Community Center.

“CMHA is honored to partner with noteworthy organizations like Intermuseum Conservation Association and Cleveland State University on the WPA art projects throughout our housing portfolio. It is truly a collaborative effort in which together we have been able to preserve and redisplay these important pieces of art so they can be appreciated by the entire community,” said Jeffery K. Patterson, CMHA Chief Executive Officer.

“From ceramic tiles to cement sculptures, to beautiful murals, we have been able to showcase these pieces in a way that conjures a sense of pride and tells a real story about the history of the city.”

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