Maya: David Biro’s installation at Goodrich Kirtland Park
If you live in Cleveland and drive a car, you have almost certainly seen Goodrich Kirtland Park. Driving the Shoreway just east of Dead Man’s Curve, you’ve probably craned your neck to get a better look at its terraced amphitheater, cut into the bluff on the south side of the highway. But you’ve probably never been there. That’s because the park is completely surrounded by infrastructure, including I-90, Cleveland Public Power, the Kirtland Pump Station, railroad tracks, and block after block of industry.
Artist David Biro gives you reason to visit with the installation of his composite wood and steel sculpture, Maya. In the form of a low tunnel, it’s a colorful anomaly placed on the stage, at the focal point of the park’s truly remarkable, but neglected, amphitheater. It’s on view August 3 to September 3, so you’ve got just a few more days to see it.
You may have seen Maya before. It was installed at the Ingenuity Festival in 2018, but Biro considers its official debut to be the Artificial Horizons show at American Greetings Gallery W in September, 2019. It’s an example of what he calls “large scale, interactive art,” or occasionally “Burning Man art,” after the famous festival of “radical self expression,” catharsis, art installation, and of course fire, which began in the 80s in San Francisco and moved to Black Rock City, Nevada, in 1991. Biro has visions of building a community of artists to make large scale, interactive works in the style of the installations that appear at the festival.
He emphasizes the interactivity of it. You can walk through, and if you are short, you don’t even have to bow your head. Minimum height clearance is 5 feet 8 inches. “Maya has been adult-proofed with pool noodles to protect adults from hitting their heads,” he wrote in an email. A sign at the installation warns people to enter at their own risk, notes low clearance, and cautions against climbing. With light, on a sunny day, you can lay down inside and check out the shapes and shadows created by light shining through patterns cut out from the steel shell. There are readily available comparisons to playground equipment.
The road to bringing Maya to a public space in Cleveland has been a challenge. Biro says he was greeted by silence from nonprofit organizations when he sought their help. He says he was “minutes away” from filing a “Federal 1st Amendment case” which he says would test the question, “is public art protected free speech?” when he got approval from the Design Review and City Planning commissions. Goodrich Kirtland Park is the first of those sites. It was also approved for a location at Carnegie and Ontario, but, as Biro says, “Unfortunately, the Mayor didn’t approve of the second location. … I asked for a reason and was just told no.”
Of course there are reasonable safety concerns associated with the installation of public art, and the sign at the Goodrich Kirtland installation makes clear. It would only get more traffic at Carnegie and Ontario, directly across from Progressive Field. The piece did withstand 80 mile per hour winds from an August thunderstorm, and that’s not nothing.
Whether the piece sees installation downtown or elsewhere is an open question, but Biro is on to other things, including a piece he calls Jali, an elaborately designed composite wood shelter with plenty of cut-outs for the dance of light as the sun carves its arc over the parking lot at Biro Sales, 4307 Detroit Avenue, right next to Cleveland Bagel. Installation is taking place on the cusp of August and September. The artist invites musicians and other creatives to gather there, and plans to take it to Burning Man as part of a “temple complex installation” in 2022.