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Issue Date: July 2013

Monster Draw

A group of local artists band together to bring live art to the city. 
Alyssa Morlacci

Three inches of snow has already fallen as six bundled-up artists work feverishly with layers of multicolored paint on an 8-foot-long wooden canvas. It's 19 degrees, their fingers are numb and a serious chunk of their five-hour time limit has already elapsed.

Obstacles? Maybe for some. But for the Rust Belt Monster Collective, this passes as inspiration for their February Brite Winter Festival live art mural performance.

Randy Crider, wearing a navy fur-lined coat and two layers of gloves, uses a small brush to add a huge white Yeti with a gap-toothed expression to the left side. In the top right corner, Jim Giar paints an icy woman glaring coolly past her popped fur collar. The other artists follow, filling in the gaps with spray paint, completing what others began. The finished product blends comic illustration, graffiti street art, dark overtones and a dose of whimsy (including a cartoon creature with two large white eyes named "the watcher").

"With all of [the murals] there's a little bit of rolling with the punches and adapting and changing," says artist Erin Schechtman.

It's this improvisational, collaborative approach that has earned Schechtman, Crider and Giar along with artists Tim Switalski, Craig Worrell and Ben Hale a following for their live art mural installations.

"When we paint together, it becomes its own distinct style," Schechtman says. "It's something neither of us can replicate without the group."

The members of Rust Belt Monster Collective, all professional or freelance illustrators, bring their own styles — comic book for Giar, Switalski tends toward fantasy, Schechtman has a children's book flair — that comes together in the murals with no preplanning.

Members refine their skills during monthly Drink and Draw events hosted at the Lava Lounge, where other artists or art supporters can join them for the boozy art session. Their next live art mural performance takes place at Angela Oster's Gallery show at Arts Collinwood July 5.

"We really just wanted to build as much of an artist community as we could in Cleveland," Crider says. "We were just kind of frustrated drawing at home."


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