By Stefanie Taub, Director of Community Arts
The sun is shining as it always does on the second Saturday of June in Cleveland, and the air is warm. People begin to arrive on Wade Oval with anticipation for one of Cleveland’s most treasured celebrations of the arts. Ornate floats, giant puppets, and costumed performers take their positions. The parade is about to begin.
The Cleveland Museum of Art’s beloved Parade the Circle is returning to Cleveland! When the pandemic put the parade and other in-person programs on hold for the sake of community safety, it caused many of us to experience a feeling of disconnection and longing for normalcy. The return of Parade the Circle allows us to reunite with each other, reestablish community bonds, and celebrate through art.
Parade has always been about community and art. While Greater Cleveland hosts a multitude of festivals and events, Parade the Circle unites art and community from start to finish. Individuals, families, friends, coworkers, and neighbors work side by side with professional artists, often spending weeks and months creating elaborate ensembles reflecting their lives and the world around them. And then on the second Saturday in June, the parade bursts into Wade Oval with lively sounds and colors, spilling art into the street, delighting thousands of participants and spectators.
Parade the Circle, the CMA’s beloved celebration art parade for the past three decades, will once again feature innovative costumes, handmade masks, giant puppets, and magnificent floats made by the community for the community. New for the 2023 parade is the appointment of a lead artist: Héctor Castellanos Lara. Originally from Guatemala, Héctor has called Cleveland his home for more than 30 years, sharing his passion for art and cultural expression with the Cleveland community. Throughout the spring, Héctor will guide the artistic vision for the parade and inspire artists and community members at workshops at the CMA’s Community Arts Center (CAC) and at the parade tent by the museum.
This year’s Parade the Circle theme is TRANSFORMATION (Dragonfly/Libélula).
“As we strive to regain normalcy after the pandemic,” Héctor reflects, “we are all looking for a positive moment of transformation. We need a formula to bring us together again. One of hope, change, new beginnings, prosperity — a new way to celebrate life. Like the transformation of a dragonfly or libélula, we all need change in our lives to grow, self-reflect, and adapt to any environment or circumstance we may face.”
The dragonfly also symbolizes strength, joy, creativity, and happiness. The theme is meant to inspire everyone to make the most out of each moment in life. Parade participants may use the theme when creating floats, puppets, costumes, and performances, symbolizing change in any way they see fit.
Now is the perfect time to start thinking about the many ways to participate in Parade the Circle. People of every age and artistic ability are invited and encouraged to take part. For a minimal entry fee, all who create a handmade costume, mask, puppet, or float are invited to parade around the circle.
For those who are considering participating in the parade but don’t know where to begin, the CAC will host free weekend workshops in April and early May. These sessions, led by Héctor and veteran parade artists, are designed to provide an introduction to Parade the Circle — for new and returning participants. The first workshop allows participants to explore past Parade the Circle puppets, costumes, and floats at the CAC, and learn about the elements that go into a parade ensemble. In the following weeks, specific topics will be discussed in detail, including the construction of headpieces and masks, structures of puppets and floats, costuming, and movement. Participants can also consult with parade artists to create a plan of action and begin work on smaller elements of their ensembles in the CAC’s spacious workroom. A variety of free supplies and equipment is available to get started.
In early May, a tent dedicated to the parade will be installed next door to the museum. This temporary giant studio will serve as home base to the many professional artists who will be designing and creating their ensembles for the parade. It also functions as a community space for the participants in the weekend workshops in May and June. Community members with a workshop pass may use the tent to create and store their entries and access the expertise of staff artists. A one-time fee entitles you to attend all workshops and includes parade registration for all pass holders. Visitors are always welcome to go inside the tent to explore what people are creating.
Volunteer opportunities abound — whether it’s helping an artist or a group with their parade ensemble, donating materials to the parade, or assisting on the parade day. Help is always welcomed.
Visit cma.org/parade for more information about the parade, registration, and workshops, and for volunteer opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Arts Center Workshops
· Saturday, April 8, 1:00–3:00 p.m., Introduction to Parade the Circle
· Sunday, April 16, 1:00–3:00 p.m., Breaking It Down — Headpieces and Masks
· Sunday, April 23, 1:00–3:00 p.m., Breaking It Down — Structures
· Sunday, April 30, 1:00–3:00 p.m., Breaking It Down — Costumes
· Sunday, May 7, 1:00–3:00 p.m., Getting Started
The CAC is located in the Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression, 2937 W. 25th Street, Cleveland, OH 44113 (free parking on Castle Ave.).
Parade Tent Workshops
· Saturdays and Sundays, May 13–June 4, 1:00–4:00 p.m., and Wednesday, June 7, 6:00–9:00 p.m.
· Workshop Pass: first three participants in your group $50/person; additional participants $25/person. A workshop pass allows the pass holder entry to all public workshops at the parade tent and includes the parade registration fee. (For a group of pass holders, any additional members without a pass must register for the parade separately.)
· Workshops are open to all ages; however, children 15 and under must register and attend with someone 16 or older.
· The parade tent is located adjacent to the CMA, in the East Bell Commons, 11141 East Boulevard, Cleveland, OH 44106.
Parade the Circle begins at noon from the CMA and will proceed counterclockwise around Wade Oval until it spills into the oval in front of the art museum.
From 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., visitors are invited to participate in Circle Village, presented by University Circle Incorporated. Hands-on activities offered by local organizations and live music on the Kulas stage are free for the whole family.