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Inside the Parade Tent: Preparing for Parade the Circle

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Inside the Parade Tent: Preparing for Parade the Circle

If you’ve visited Wade Oval in recent weeks, you may have noticed the large white tent that took up residence next to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in late April. This is the Cleveland Museum of Art’s parade workshop tent, an annual fixture that serves as a home base for guest artists, community groups, and families and individuals participating in Parade the Circle. The parade tent is where the action happens in the weeks running up to Parade the Circle: professional guest artists build their entries here; tent staffers provide creative and technical assistance to any parade participant with a workshop pass; and pass holders can stop by the tent any time the museum is open for consultation, materials, and/or a communal workspace to use while they craft their floats and costumes for Parade.

The parade tent is open to pass holders any time that the museum is open, with additional designated workshop times on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Parade the Circle, now in its 23rd year, draws an annual crowd of thousands and fosters a great deal of community participation. Many participants may not know, however, the extent to which a parade workshop pass can open up a world of inspiration, assistance, and supplies. The parade tent houses a woodshop area where both light and heavy-duty construction work take place, and basic materials such as foam, wood, or papier-mâché are available to pass holders for free (more exotic materials, such as fiberglass or bamboo, can often be ordered through the museum for a fee). During the weeks before Parade the Circle, the museum also transforms its art classrooms (located in the building’s lower level) into specialized spaces where pass holders can construct masks and costumes. Seasoned parade experts are often standing ! by to help pass holders who need inspiration, or have a great idea but aren’t sure how to execute it. Pass-holding participants may also draw inspiration from the opportunity to observe and work alongside professional guest artists, who can be found at all hours of the day constructing their breathtaking entries inside the tent walls. Guest artists fill the parade tent with a whirl of energy, and understandably so; many artists travel to Cleveland for the parade and have to build everything from scratch, often in the span of a few weeks.

Inside the parade tent, guest artist Pedro Adorno crafts a giant head out of wood, Styrofoam, and clay.

Participants who like to work on their parade entries at home can benefit too from a visit to the parade tent, where staff is happy to offer advice and assistance to groups and individuals working off-site. The museum also provides a robust Parade the Circle community outreach program that involves groups that may not have otherwise known about Parade or had the resources to participate—mostly youth groups from schools or community centers, although adult groups (such as regular participants from the Abington Arms senior center) can also take part. Prep work for these groups’ entries is often facilitated by Community Arts tent staffers.

Guest artist Rafael Valdivieso, who is participating in Parade the Circle for the eighth time, houses his larger-than-life parade entry inside the parade tent.

Naturally, the parade tent grows especially busy in the days and nights leading up to Parade the Circle; as as Community Arts staff member Chuck Supinski states, “It used to be that we were up all kinds of hours. I’ve grown older—now I go home around ten o’clock and am back here by six in the morning—but in the olden days, we were here; we saw the sun come up. Actually, one year we got to take showers in the Green Room; we didn’t even go home.” Artist Debbie Apple-Presser added: “It’s crazy. And then we have to get up and be, you know, normal and awake at the Parade. There was one year when we had these amazing artists from Mexico, and their float was wet—the paint was still wet—as they were going around the parade. That’s just how it is.” Parade the Circle takes place this year on Saturday, June 9 at noon. -- Caroline Smith