An image of Stephanie Tubbs Jones appears suddenly once you’re standing in just the right spot. The eight cut and aligned steel panels melt into the late Congresswoman’s instantly recognizable face, her eyes focused on something in the distance, determined and unwavering.
The 5-foot-tall piece of public art created by local sculptor Michael Murphy stands at the corner of the new $9.3 million Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center at the intersection of Prospect Avenue and East 21st Street. Inside the transit center’s enclosed waiting area, a long, thin mural wraps around the perimeter of the room. It’s made of 39 individual aluminum panels painted with scenes of a vibrant sky, doves and a female figure with a tree of life emanating from its torso. The husband-and-wife team of creators, Rickey and Garner Lewis, call it The Spirit That Soars. The hundreds of tiny bricks lining the bottom of each panel represent people Tubbs Jones worked with, cared about and loved.
“Rickey and I blended together the feelings we had for Stephanie,” Garner says. “It evolved into something that we felt was really an homage to who Stephanie was: warm, powerful and spiritual.”
The couple had the benefit of knowing Tubbs Jones personally. Garner first met her while working for the state of Ohio in Columbus. Their friendship continued after Garner moved to Cleveland and realized she and Tubbs Jones went to the same beauty salon. The couple’s design for The Spirit That Soars and Murphy’s steel sculpture were chosen following a design competition sponsored by RTA.
“[She] was such an outgoing, caring and devoted person, and we wanted people to see that she lent her beautiful heart to everyone she met,” Garner says. “We want people to understand who Stephanie was through the images and messages within the mural.”