Growing recognition

08 Dec 2011

Unveiling of designs for African American Cultural Garden realises a 34 year old objective

Stretching back 34 years ago, in a faded version of Cleveland Ohio, when George Voinovich was Mayor, four acres of land were decidedly destined for a noble dedication. After an inspired local drive, headed by the late politician Booker Tall, it was decided to cultivate at Cleveland Cultural Gardens, at Rockefeller Park, a befitting project to recognise the African American community.

Whilst the realisation of these designs was certainly a long time coming, the wait seems finally to be over, as that former vision looks set to become a reality. Last Wednesday, revealed at a ceremony at Cleveland City Hall, prospective plans were finally unveiled, by local leaders and residents, for the upcoming African American Cultural Garden. Several attempts had been made in the past; failings for which this latest try, spearheaded by architect W. Daniel Bickerstaff II, head of locally based Ubiquitous Design Ltd, will look to amend. Benefiting from this characteristic of passing years, the architecture of the project will incorporate several components representing a shifting tapestry of time, looking at the past, present and future. Whilst alluding to the motivations and emotions behind the original concept, water, stone and trees have been incorporated into the overall aesthetic, underscoring the themes of justice, democracy and hope.

Bickerstaff’s botanical park will become one of 27 cultural gardens at Rockefeller Park, all imbued with contemplations on various ethnicities, cultures and countries, that encompasses the diverse population of Cleveland. At its heart will rest a long, masoned walkway and platform, descending down a declining slope. Comprising of light stonework, before meeting darker hued marble, this amalgamated, impressive stair walk has a trickling water feature running down its midst, stemming from an ornate source at the feature’s peak. Forming a solemn, yet enhancing ring around the structure, are firmly rooted a circular thicket of trees, casting shadows in the sun, sheltering those who need it.

On the significance of finally obtaining an end, to this long-running saga, Andrew Jackson, chairman of the African American Cultural Garden Task Force, plainly stated: “We think this is a major milestone for us to unveil the design we have been working on for 34 years. I think it is going to be a wonderful opportunity to galvanize the African American community." Construction on the $2.2 million project, funded through donations and grants, is expected to begin and be completed in 2013.

Tom Aston

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