Cleveland has seen its share of blunders over the years, and each one has been well publicized. What receives little or no acknowledgement though is that Cleveland has produced its share of treasures as well. One such treasure is the artist Ora Coltman, who was born in Shelby, Ohio in 1858. He studied at the Art Students League in New York City and the Academie Julian in Paris. Coltman was a painter, sculptor, block printer, muralist, teacher, and writer. He kept a studio in Cleveland where has was a member of the Cleveland Society of Artists and Cleveland Printmakers. Exhibitions of his work took place at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. He also created a mural for the Cleveland Public Library called Dominance of the City.
Coltman produced Dominance of the City between 1933 and 1934. It was the first New Deal mural commissioned in Cleveland. The New Deal was a federal program under the direction of the Treasury Department. The first program put into effect under the New Deal was the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), and it ran from December 1933 to June 1934. The purpose of PWAP was to employ struggling artists to create art scenes of American life for public and government buildings. Coltman's contribution was Dominance of the City, a mural triptych. A triptych is comprised of three separate and distinct panels. In this work, each section depicts a specific area of Cleveland. The largest part, the middle segment, displays a bridge rising over the Cuyahoga River in the Flats. The left portion is a painting of the Ohio Bell building, and the right panel portrays the St. Theodosius Church, which can be found in the Tremont neighborhood. It is a beautiful and thoughtful piece of art which came from a talented and unique artist in a resilient city full of treasures and possibilities.
Dominance of the City can be found at the Cleveland Public Library Main Branch on the 3rd Floor in the CD Room.