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Angelica Pozo Casts Stories Of Cleveland In Clay

Angelica Pozo has literally left her mark on Cleveland through public art. Her ceramics are found around the region—including a recent piece highlighting a relatively unknown African American enclave that has lived on Cleveland’s West Side for over a century. Much of this work is hatched in her studio, which sits behind a big yellow house in Tremont.

It's an immense space, brimming with works in progress, stacks of tiles, jars of paint, colored pencils and books. Pozo’s love of nature is reflected in ceramic flowers on tables and shelves throughout three rooms. But, she's probably best known for her public art commissions around Northeast Ohio. These mosaic works range from images of airplanes at the airport rapid station to a celebration of an African-American community in Cleveland's West Park neighborhood. Back in her college days in the 1970s, Pozo aspired to be a painter, but something didn't quite click.

RTA Rapid station at Cleveland Hopkins Airport [Angelica Pozo]

“I had gone three semesters there already and every semester was just still life. Still life after still life. I learnt a lot of technique, but that's all I learned,” she said. “We were not really taught about concepts or, you know, just given any kind of entry into why we're painting. It was just how to paint.”

Pozo found her artistic fulfillment when she decided to take a ceramics class.

“That teacher was teaching us technique but was also giving us problems to solve, problems to think about, you know, to think about art concepts and life concepts that you would incorporate into your work,” she said.

But, beyond all that, Pozo just loves plunging her hands into wet clay.

“Since my imagery is about plants and nature and the environment, the fact that I’m working with something from the earth is very meaningful to me,” she said. “It’s a very primal material, and it’s a material that you can manipulate into anything you want to make it.

A tribute to the old Central Market, next to Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse [Angelica Pozo]

Many of her current public art projects involve research that helps her understand the community where the piece will live. That was a bit of a challenge when she was developing her design for the West Park display on local African American history.

“There was not a whole lot written in general Cleveland history,” Pozo said. “But that community did have their own little historian and historical society, so through the CDC there, I was connected to different people and I just kept on asking and looking through the photographs that people had. Then that's how I started to piece together how I would tell that story.”

A panel from "West Park African American History" [Cleveland Public Art]

And it's a story of ordinary people for the most part. They might not have changed the world, but these faces inscribed on ceramic tiles all came from this working class West Side community and are a source of pride.

“Two of them are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, because they were in Funkadelic,” Pozo said. “And there's a judge, there is councilwoman for Lindale, the only African-American in that council. There's people with sports accomplishments. And so there's, there's all this accomplishment and they need to be heralded. These are important people to this neighborhood.”

Pozo loves to “putz around” in her studio, fashioning a petal for a new flower or a reaction to the devastating global wildfires. But, she can only sit at her work bench with personal projects for so long.

“I am not so driven that I need to fill the world with my stuff,” she said. “Having a commission and knowing where it's going to go and knowing that it's going to be appreciated really gives me a sense of satisfaction. It takes me down avenues that I would never think to go down on my own. And I enjoy having taken that trip.

"The Winding Wall of Fairfax History" [Angelica Pozo]

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