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Parade the Circle

On the afternoon of Saturday, June 8, Wade Oval will come alive with color, art, music, and creativity. The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Parade the Circle is Greater Cleveland’s signature summer event and it is just around the corner. In anticipation of our annual celebration, we spoke with two of Parade the Circle’s veteran staff for a behind-the-scenes look at how this one-of-a-kind event comes together.

Jesse Rhinehart has been the Production Manager for Parade the Circle since the beginning—that’s 23 years. He is married to the Parade’s creator and visionary, Robin Van Lear, and together they brought the concept with them to Cleveland from California, where Robin was the artistic director of The Summer Solstice Parade in Santa Barbara. She designed the first Parade the Circle in 1990 for the museum’s 75th anniversary.

Wendy Mahon is a featured artist and has been involved with Parade the Circle since 1996. She also leads workshops for participants and conducts community outreach. She is originally from Trinidad and Tobago.

Every Parade the Circle begins with a new theme – this year’s is Sol de Luna Nueva (Sunshine of the New Moon). Once participants have a design that encompasses the theme, they can join the museum’s workshops to help breathe life into their idea with help from artists like Wendy Mahon. Wendy leads the mask making workshops and helps people create headpieces to wear in the Parade out of cardboard, paper and papier mâché There are also costume-making workshops and the tent outside for large productions. Ms. Mahon says everyone from professional artists to little kids is welcome at the workshops, which are held the five weeks prior to Parade day. Wendy also conducts outreach by going into the community to help schools and groups create ensembles for the Parade.

For Jesse Rhinehart, the Parade process begins in January or February each year - thinking about the previous year’s event and how to build on and improve techniques, materials, tools, etc. Rhinehart manages the Parade logistics. The museum has a Community Arts studio in the Flats and it is Jesse’s job to oversee the movement of material from there to the temporary workshop tent. Jesse and fellow Production Manager, Mark Jenks, oversee the tent, which is set up on Wade Oval every year and is where all of the large pieces are made. Jesse also leads artist workshops and helps them construct the big pieces, like floats and giant puppets.

Ms. Mahon says Parade the Circle reminds her of one of the biggest festivals from her home country. Trinidad and Tobago has a huge Carnival event two days before Lent every year, similar to Mardi Gras. “Parade the Circle and Carnival are similar in that they both celebrate the arts in all its forms and expressions,” Wendy says. Parade the Circle has had visiting artists from Trinidad and Tobago, other than Wendy, for several years. This year’s Parade features two artists, Kelvin Keli Cadiz and Rudolph “Murphy” Winters, from Trinidad. Wendy notes that several Parade staff has visited Trinidad in the past to work on the Carnival celebration and absorb new ideas and techniques. One of her favorite Parade memories was the year when there were at least five visiting artists from Trinidad. “It felt a little like home here in Cleveland,” said Wendy.

Over the past 20 years, Jesse Rhinehart has seen Parade the Circle has grown exponentially. “The level of public acceptance has gone from zero knowledge of the event, to Parade being one of the most popular events not only in Cleveland but in the state and maybe beyond,” he says. “How many one day events, void of big name celebrities or entertainment acts bring 70,000 people?” —We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Come see the incredible work of Jesse, Wendy and countless other dedicated artists on Saturday, June 8 for Parade the Circle 2013. The Parade starts at noon with Circle Village, presented by University Circle Inc., running from 11 a.m.–4 p.m.

—Therese Conway

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