Mystery Nose at Hart Crane Park a Reminder of the Power of Public Spaces and Art

When a nose sculpture mysteriously showed up at Hart Crane Park In Cleveland Saturday night, the immediate question was “Who nose anything about it”? Social media seemed the perfect place to turn to for some answers and boy did it not disappoint.

But the guerilla art “installation” by the Cuyahoga River also provided an opportunity to consider the value of public spaces and how art can provide a new perspective on familiar turf.  

Cleveland Scene Magazine’s Sam Allard got folks on the scent with his tweet. Our biggest questions were: 1) where did the nose come from and 2) who should we return it to?

Crain’s Cleveland’s Michelle Jarboe showed off her journalistic credentials with her recollection that the nose was part of the 2018 Parade the Circle. A quick search found the nose in Cleveland Museum of Art’s video of the 2018 parade.

But HOW did the nose get to Hart Crane Park? One sharp-eyed driver answered that question when she caught the nose westbound on Carnegie on its way to Hart Crane Park.

Other local media recognized the nose-worthiness of the story:

Even Destination Cleveland, the organization responsible for promoting Cleveland and its surrounding cities as an outstanding business meeting and tourism destination, smelled an opportunity to encourage people to share their “picks” of the top Cleveland experiences. It almost felt like a #BernieSandersMittens vibe. Almost…

Unsurprisingly, the nose even turned out to be a hit with youngsters.

The public reaction to the nose reminded us that Hart Crane Park, named for Cleveland poet and former Plain Dealer reporter Hart Crane, has been the site for previous art and music experiences:

  • The first Brite Winter was held at Hart Crane Park in 2009. It has since grown into an annual music and arts behemoth that’s an eagerly anticipated February event. 
  • Never Ever Give Up CLE, Allison Meyer’s art installation that collected and displayed one-page, anonymous, handwritten stories, from people in Northeast Ohio, all answering the question: What is the hardest thing you ever had to do? Allison was a category winner at the 2019 Cleveland Leadership Center Accelerate pitch competition.
  • REVIVE, Sphere Presents Electronic Music + Art festival.

The park, owned by Canalway Partners since 1994, is home for the Hart Crane Memorial Sculpture by contemporary artist Gene Kangas. Below is an excerpt from The Sculpture Center’s description:

“This environmental 65-foot-long sculpture commemorates famed 20th century poet Hart Crane, who was born in Northeastern Ohio. Columbus Road Park is located along the Cuyahoga River, which flows directly into Lake Erie. It was redesigned specifically as a home for the Hart Crane Memorial Sculpture. A dominant theme of water and its sights and sounds occurs in Crane’s work. One of his most important poems is titled “The Bridge.” The multi-sectioned Memorial features a large arch or bridge accentuated with selected poetic phrases from Crane’s poetry that refer to water. His words touch on the lives and deaths of those who sailed the Great Lakes. A silhouette of the ill-fated Edmund Fitzgerald commemorates those lost at sea.”

Some might see the unmasked nose sculpture as an unconventional sign that, after a year of covering our noses, the nation is beginning to emerge from the shadow of the pandemic – and the joys of a “normal” summer are not far away. It also was an opportunity for Hart Crane Park to be viewed with fresh eyes.

“Pop-up parks and art events have surprised and delighted people for a long time” said Michael Gill, Executive Director, Editor/Publisher of CAN Journal. “Sometimes they’re planned, and sometimes they’re guerilla things. Art like “the nose” capture attention and cause you to look at the location differently. A lot of people drive by that park all the time. Something different gets noticed and allows people to rediscover the space.”

Gill added “The warmer weather and the arrival of vaccines is a good sign. There’s good reason for hope now. Even though the pandemic is still not over, we can begin to see other people outside, get together with friends and family.”

“The nose reminds me of the monoliths that have been popping up in Utah, California, Romania” said Liz Maugans, curator and director of Yards Projects (she’s also a tireless advocate for northeast Ohio’s creative community). “What’s extraordinary is that whenever a rogue sculpture shows up, it’s immediately put into an arts context. Both the nose and the monoliths have gotten more press than most formal art presentations.”

Maugans sees how “speculative art” can spur conversations about how public outdoor spaces can be reenergized in exciting ways. “Daily tous les jours in Montreal is doing some really interesting work using technology and storytelling to explore collective experiences, the future of cities and the power of humans. It would be interesting to explore how existing outdoor spaces can be activated through temporary art installations, making Greater Cleveland a more appealing arts destination in the post-pandemic world.”

With sunny skies forecast for the weekend, consider taking a trip to check out the nose at Hart Crane Park and while you’re at it, check out the newest section of the Towpath Trail, Canal Basin Park, or the Cleveland Foundation Centennial Lake Link Trail! Oh, and if you happen to nose where it came from, please let us know!