Tremont mural once a painful reminder of neighborhood’s past, but now a symbol of understanding

Published: May. 3, 2023 at 3:33 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Almost 10 years after three Cleveland women escaped captivity, the mural “It’s Up to Us” still stands near the corner of Clark Avenue and West 25th Street.

Artest John Rivera-Resto recalls the tense atmosphere as the mural was painted. “How chaotic the situation was down here,” he said, “the FBI looking for bodies two blocks from here.”

The “It’s Up to Us” mural depicts a wide range of history, culture and criticism of Cleveland’s West-side neighborhoods. Work on the mural started in 2012 and ended in 2014.

This coincided with the day Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight were found alive in a Seymour Avenue home in 2013.

“The whole community around them was living in fear, so it affects all of them,” Rivera-Resto said.

The mural was completed with the help of several volunteers.

Many of them were teenagers, who were shocked to find out what was happening just blocks from where they were working.

Rivera-Resto explained to 19 News what the volunteers where thinking, “‘That guy could’ve been looking at us while we were doing [the mural] it’s only two blocks away!’”

The mural also had its share of controversy, such as the depiction of a young woman with a black eye who is waiting at a bus stop.

“A lot of people loved it, a lot of people hated it,” Rivera-Resto said, “we even got a lot of death threats about it.”

Community members decided to keep the depiction, which, after the discovery of the kidnapped girls, took on a whole new meaning.

“Every time they saw this image, that’s the first thing that came to their minds: Oh my God, yeah, this is where this thing happened,” Rivera-Resto said.

Ten years later, the muralist has witnessed exactly what his wall predicted: a growing and tighter-knit community.

“People are taking pride in this particular spot, and we’re right at the center of it,” he said. “What they couldn’t understand before, they understand now, that’s what good art does.”

While Rivera-Resto is glad the mural has remained, he hopes what was lived during its conception never happens again.

“I hope no more tragedies like this are repeated,” he said.