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Restored and rededicated: ‘Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench’ mural in downtown Cleveland

The iconic mural was last retouched in 1993
Published: Oct. 9, 2021 at 3:07 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - For more than five decades, the stark black, white and brown of the mural at East 9th Street and Rockwell Avenue in downtown Cleveland has drawn people to the location.

“I remember as a teenager and then as a person working downtown, coming to this park on my lunch break and just being so inspired. Because looking up and seeing art and a brown face like mine was not something you saw every day,” Jeremy Johnson, Executive Director for Assembly for the Arts, said.

Created in 1969 by the late John F. Morell, the “Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench” mural was commissioned by Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes, the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city.

But for years, the mural needed retouching. It was last retouched in 1993.

Now, thanks to non-profit, LAND studio, the mural finally received one.

Restoration was recently completed by Alan Giberson of the Old Soul Sign Co. The paint and special anti-graffiti protectant for the mural were donated by Sherwin Williams.

Tara Turner of LAND studio told 19 News it’s important to preserve Morell’s work and his contribution to history.

“He was a rather prolific Cleveland public artist at the time and he did quite a few murals. This is the last one that hasn’t been painted over or the building razed,” she said.

Saturday afternoon, dozens gathered for a rededication ceremony, as African drummers greeted them.

Created in 1969 by the late John F. Morell, the “Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench” mural was...
Created in 1969 by the late John F. Morell, the “Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench” mural was commissioned by Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes, the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city.(Source: WOIO)
Created in 1969 by the late John F. Morell, the “Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench” mural was...
Created in 1969 by the late John F. Morell, the “Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench” mural was commissioned by Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes, the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city.(Source: WOIO)

LAND studio also installed four new park benches throughout the space.

Some of Morell family members attended the ceremony and were grateful to see this day.

“I envision my dad, sitting on one of these park benches sharing his views and engaging any passerby,” Katy Panasiewicz, his daughter, said. ”You’re thrown into what you’re thrown into, you really have very little control, just like you have no choice with who you sit next to on a park bench. You can only choose your reaction.”

“To have public art like this that sends a message in 2021 about us coming together, Black and white, young and old,” Johnson said. “I’m so glad this mural has been restored.”

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