Parade Babies Grow Up

This year marks the Cleveland Museum of Art's 25th Parade the Circle event. Since 1990, the Cleveland Museum of Art has been bringing this FREE signature summer event to Greater Cleveland. University Circle comes alive with color, music, and art for all ages. International and national guest artists join Greater Cleveland artists, families, schools, and community groups in a spectacular display of bright costumes, giant puppets, stilt-dancers, handmade masks, and colorful floats. Circle Village, which includes activities, entertainment, and food, is presented by University Circle Inc. Leading up to the June 14, 2014 event, we feature some of the stories that make up the last 25 years of Parade the Circle. In our final post in the series, we focus on Parade's youngest participants, now all grown up.

Parade is a very large and peculiar extended family, where some uncle or cousin or niece is always coming to visit and then deciding to stay. Couple this with our expansive intern and guest artist program and you have the perfect environment for the youngest of artists to grow, thrive and develop from Parade takers into Parade givers. The artists in this final post of our blog series have all taken and given with the very best of our Parade family.

Story, my daughter, has been as she puts it parading since before she was born.  She cut her teeth on the concept of an open exchange of creative ideas and nurturing of individual talents. She is today one of the most complex and conceptually thoughtful artists I know in the field of the Celebration Arts. Julia began Parade in time for our 75th anniversary year and is now one of Cleveland’s pre-eminent ladies of stilts. Much more than that Julia too believes in art that encompasses families and generations. Abby joined the Parade in just our third year, through Parade met her husband Carl, and after using Parade as a jumping off point to their careers, she and Carl have begun a new Parade web in northern Vermont. Gerald has also taken his early training and left Cleveland. Although his newest career is perhaps further removed from his Parade skills I feel confident that the love of people and joyous spirit that he shared with us here will help him in his new endeavors.  And Aytch, during her time with Parade she has grown from Hannah into Aytch, from a young girl into a young lady fully confident, with strong leadership skills that she is about to take with her as she transitions to her new home in Ashville, North Carolina.

All of these Parade babies will be in town this year to help us celebrate our 25th Parade with an eye to furthering our web of Parade babies into the next generation.

Gerald Abt

Being part of Parade the Circle was a great experience and enriched my childhood growing up in Cleveland. The exposure it gave me to people of remarkably diverse backgrounds extended my awareness of the world and gave me a new view of what art can be. Unique experiences like working on a larger than life replica of Picasso's bulls with a float designer from Trinidad, or trying to salsa dance on stilts couldn't possibly be experienced anywhere else. And working with such a wide array of people at a younger age was great preparation for the working world; interaction with a variety of personalities, backgrounds and cultures is invaluable as a working professional. Being part of the parade also gave me opportunities to pursue my own ideas and encouraged creativity and self-motivation. The parade workshops give an opportunity to take your own ideas from your own mind to a physical costume or float, with all the materials you want in front of you as well as experts to consult with and quite literally help make your dreams reality. Parade the Circle was a great and very enjoyable experience that helped me develop into the person I am today.

Aytch Bures

When I was eight years old, a friend of mine who had been in the Parade asked me the question that changed my life: “Want to learn how to walk on stilts?” As a fearless, adventurous kid, this was the coolest question I had ever been asked. Propped on a ladder, my legs were soon tied to a pair of stilts that were only a little too big, and within 20 minutes I was walking around her backyard all by myself. This was my introduction to Parade the Circle.  

I impatiently waited until I was ten, which is the minimum age to be on stilts. And after weeks of workshops, lots of brainstorming, many adventures on stilts, and days of ironing wax out of silk (okay, so maybe it was only a few hours, but I was ten, so it felt like forever!), my Mum and I were lining up for our very first Parade! I was a salad, she was a bottle of salad dressing, and I ran the whole way through the Parade. From that moment on, I was hooked!

I no longer remember a world without Parade, and fourteen years later, it is still a huge part of my life. Since being that exuberant salad, I’ve worn the hat of participant, volunteer, perennial intern, and am now a workshop artist and the stilt leader (at least that’s what my name badge says). Parade The Circle has had a significant, positive impact on my life, and I’m thrilled that I am now the one who asks, “Do you want to learn how to walk on stilts?”

Abby Maier (pictured above left)

Parade is a web of emotions and memories for me: friends, mentors, community, my first job as an artist, a chance to meet different parts of Cleveland through outreaches, a chance to learn from other artists, and family. That means the Parade family, but also my actual family. My husband Carl and I owe a good amount of our current life to Parade. We met while working on the Parade when we were in our early twenties. We had both already worked on the Parade for years - he started as a high school intern, and I was part of a group of friends that had been coming back year after year since we were 12 years old. As we got older and more experienced with the workings of Parade, Robin always found a way to involve us and use our skills, and everything we learned has been useful in other aspects of our life. We now have two young kids of our own. And even though it has been hard to get any work done for the Parade so far, because of these two wonderful distractions, I know that without Parade, they probably wouldn’t be around in the first place. So I won’t worry – we’ll finish up the night before the Parade, just like we always did.

Julia Pankhurst

You could say I was born for Parade the Circle.  Not only does my birthday fall before, just after, or sometimes on the day of parade, it’s also that it is part of who I am. With the 25th parade I’ll have the honor of being in 24 out 25.

I was in grade school and my best friend Story told me of this parade her mom was doing and I should come and be in it. So I went to the workshops and never left. I started on the ground and slowly grew taller as a teenager, as well as I found a love for stilts! One year Robin brought these amazingly talented stilters from Toronto. They were teaching everyone to “walk tall.” I was a skeptic, but Rick assured me I would be a natural and strapped me up on a pair of stilts made of hockey sticks and I was off, like a weeble wobble, but I got it, and I have never stopped.

I’ve had the great opportunity performing for parades and events around this fair city and a few other states giving all the high fives I can. I have had the joy of teaching stilts for parade workshops. The excitement of seeing someone arrive at the moment when the fear trails off, their confidence rises, and their balance comes together and they get how to walk on stilts for the first time is like a proud parent seeing their kid’s first steps.

Aside from making lifelong friends that in my heart are like family, parade has taught me so many life lessons I will continue to share. It taught me whoever you are, whatever your dreams and talents are, to show and share them with everyone.

Story Rhinehart (pictured above right)

Every year of my life I have been in a parade. I don’t mean a parade with fire trucks, politicians and people throwing candy or handing out fliers. I mean an art parade where participants are expected to express themselves creatively and challenge themselves artistically. Before there was Parade the Circle there was the Summer Solstice Celebration in Santa Barbara, California. While in labor my mother walked the route of that parade four times. The next day I was born. You could say it was my indoctrination. For me, the celebration arts are my religion and Parade the Circle is Christmas. I can remember sleeping over at my friend, Marguerite’s house on “Parade Eve” (while my parents were working all night of course) and waking up at six in the morning. I was too excited to sleep. When we were moving here from Santa Barbara, by far the thing I was worried about losing the most was the Summer Solstice.  When the Cleveland Museum of Art agreed to put on Parade the Circle I was ecstatic.

For the first parade I was a honeybee. A group of us had a beehive float and we performed the “dance of the bees.” We also ran up to various members of the audience, swung our butts around and “stung” them. It didn’t matter to me that there were only a few people in the Parade and only a few more watching it. It didn’t matter that in most other areas of life I was incredibly shy. In the Parade I was on stage. It doesn’t matter now that what you make may be torn up and used for something else the very next day and it doesn’t matter if only a few (thousand) people see it. What matters is that you made it, you performed it and it was there. I guess that is why my two daughters have been in the Parade ever since before they were born too.

> Join the conversation: #paradethecircle
> BLOG: Parade the Circle: 25 Years Later and Looking Forward
> BLOG: Parade the Circle: In the Beginning
> Learn more about Parade the Circle

> Participate in Parade


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