Submitted by Jeff Buster on Sun, 12/30/2007 - 15:00.


Carl Pope is in Cleveland and on December 4, 2007 I heard him present his  (second to last of ten public presentations)   “mind of Cleveland” “bill board public art”  project at Cleveland State University’s (CSU) Levin College forum.


For the “Mind of Cleveland” Mr. Pope solicited one sentence statements from the 15 audience members at the Levin just as he had from school kids and all the other groups to which he had outlined his project over the last month in Cleveland.


From the all the one sentence statements submitted, Mr. Pope will have a second grade public school class reach into a basket and randomly select  25 statements.   Those 25 statements will be copied on billboards around Cleveland and also put on handbills which will be posted around Cleveland.


Here’s what stood out for me in Mr. Pope’s discussion.


1.  Use of handbills and billboards as the medium.   In this age of internet and TV and newsmagazines and newspapers,  billboards still command unavoidable LOCAL attention.  Billboards are seen by the public, in public, while all of the other advertising mediums are viewed privately.      Is the “persuasion” quotient of a public sign greater than a private ad in a magazine?  Is there power in a public sign just because it is bold enough to be out on the street in the sunlight?  


Is this public power one of the reasons for graffiti?


I think so.


  Isn’t it interesting that the Cuyahoga County Commissioners used taxpayer money to buy publicly posted handbills to put spin on the Breuer boondoggle, and isn’t it interesting that the Cleveland Plus reality-altering campaign put $60,000 into hanging signs on the bricks and mortar around Cleveland. There is a new “we’ve got it all together sign hanging on the Cleveland Clinic.   And as Norm Roulet has reported elsewhere on Realneo, Harry Sysack uses a billboard to make his points public.  The Downtown Alliance uses sandwich boards to push the homeless out of sight and Tower City Center uses its too close ties with the RTA chief Joe Calabrese to plaster sticky messages in RTA cars. 


It seems clear that public advertising is effective in promoting a position. 


The Mind of Cleveland follows a similar project of Mr. Pope’s (called “A Celebration of Blackness”) in Mobile, Alabama where Mr. Pope used public billboards to present one sentence statements about blackness.  

A similar presentation will be made here in Cleveland on billboard space donated for “public service announcements” pursuant to FCC regs. 

 2.              CBS has bought the rights to all advertising on the Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit (RTA) and has not responded to Mr. Pope’s request for donated space.

3.                  Slogans, not images, are the new branding goal.  Point in fact, there is no image associated with the “Cleveland Minus” campaign, and there is no image associated with “One Cleveland” (the fiber optic campaign that isn’t going anywhere), and there is no image associated with Fund for Our Economic Future (the campaign which proceeded Carl’s Mind of Cleveland and which sucked a lot of the volunteer spirit out of Cleveland and ended with zero results at the cost of millions).   

4.                  Mr. Pope said he has not had any coverage in the Dirty Dealer, though he has attempted to get printed.   He thought this was pretty curious.


I look forward to seeing what statements the second graders pick out of the hat.   If the statements are not censored, (I don’t believe they will be by Mr. Pope, but some sentences could be very controversial and be censored by Clear Channel Advertising – the billboard donator?)  we could have the public finally being faintly heard in Cleveland.

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the mind of Carl Pope

Good questions posted here Jeff on The Mind of Cleveland. I will be interested to see the billboards, handbills and the show (March 27-30, 2008 at CIA, I presume). After that, it would be very interesting to interview Carl Pope and see what has been on his mind as he visited our city and region, what in the world must this guy have thought... It is kind of like inviting a total stranger (and an artist at that) to rummage through your drawers. Maybe this go round with an arty twist will leverage as much or more than the Voices and Choices business. Has anyone heard anything from Voices and Choices lately? Anyone felt that as a result of that project, we now have voice or choice? Since both projects were funded by The Cleveland Foundation, it would be very interesting to compare the budgets and methodologies of the two approaches.

I found Carl to be an intriguingly quiet and shy man at the podium. His demeanor changed once he was out from behind the microphone. Perhaps he is opinionated (though this exercise is about Clevelander's opinions). In the photo he is wearing what he termed his "lucky green sweater" perhaps so we would give him a break. He seemed nervous thought there was no need to be nervous until after the crowd began to speak; at that point he seemed to realize that this event might be different than others he had held. This was the Levin Forum -- a rising star on the horizon of civic engagement in our region. Some biting commentaries came from the people gathered as I recall.

It would be great to publish a list of the statements that don't make it to Clear Channel billboards at the hands of the second graders.

PS about graffiti and how Cleveland is losing out by intimidating young artists:

Does anyone remember the "radical art terrorists" of the early 80s in Cleveland who painted "OBEY" on billboards around town? I hear they were CIA students.

It's a Joke

This seems to be the same joke played on us by the same crew that brought us and art house.

Pope and other artists are being used by the unimaginative power brokers to camouflage their harebrained agendas with crayons.

Thought For The Day...

Society is like a stew. If you don't keep it stirred up you get a lot
of scum on the top. -Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)