Creative Fusion: Michela Picchi & Ryan Jaenke, SPACES

With love from Berlin and Cleveland: Artists leave their mark in Hingetown
On a sunny Sunday in mid-October, artist Ryan Jaenke stands in the bucket of a hydraulic lift, putting brush to brick to finish his mural on an old apartment building on W. 25th Street. His blazing black and red design shouts FULL TILT. A barber pole, a pigeon, a diamond and an ice cream cone jump across the surface. Jaenke isn’t sure how wide the building is, but he knows it’s the biggest he has painted—longer even, than his recent contribution to the RTA Red Line’s Inter Urban project.


Jaenke, Cleveland born and bred, and Michela Picchi, an Italian artist living in Germany, were hosted by SPACES Gallery while they planned and executed their street art.

Bruce Edwards, residency coordinator at SPACES, says the artists have enlivened the neighborhood with their distinct voices. Picchi’s work melds a cheerful aqua, pink and yellow palette, and tiger iconography, with references to her stay in the United States. Jaenke’s wall is more biting, Edwards notes.


That’s all to the good. “The thing about SPACES is that we’re interested in what the artists want to do, rather than telling them what to do,” Edwards says.
Jaenke pulled ideas from his sketchbook for his final composition. “I wanted it to be a tribute to West 25th Street, and I’d been playing with the idea of using the visual language of a pinball machine or a game crossed with a mandala to express things in this sort of graphic way,” he says.

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Picchi finished her W. 28th Street mural weeks earlier, and spent the rest of her time painting canvases for an exhibition back home. The experience was a thrill, in part because, like Jaenke, she hadn’t ever made such a large piece. She had fun, too, interacting with passersby, who came to take photos and hear her story.

She heard concerns here and there about gentrification, but she’d rather look at the positive. “In Berlin, you really understand what gentrification is,” she says. “The building (prices there) rose like 400 percent.”

She doesn’t see that happening in Cleveland, she says. “I think it’s nice that the Cleveland Foundation is investing in making this area more beautiful.”
Jaenke isn’t a fan of development that prices people out of their homes, but neither does he see gentrification as the inevitable result of neighborhood art.
“What we consider modern-day street art owes everything to graffiti art, which is the antithesis of gentrification,” he says. “Without graffiti in this city, I don’t think we’d have a developing mural culture.”

As for now, he says, nodding to the RTA stop nearby, “my primary audiences here are the people waiting for the bus. So I hope it gives them something to look at when they’re waiting for the bus.”