Photo of a wall mural being painted on a building.

“The Color of Water” wall mural newest addition to CWRU’s Putnam Collection

Part of Inter/Urban: Art & Culture Connector public art partnership

Riders are on the rapid transit line zooming past Case Western Reserve University will see a new flash of color. People visiting, working or living in Little Italy may notice a drab wall on an industrial building by the tracks has suddenly come to life.    

Photo showing the new mural in progress

A new public art project on campus adorns the Medical Center Co. (MCCo) power plant on Circle Drive, between Cornell and Mayfield roads. The mural wall, about 225 feet long and 45 feet high, is a commissioned work by New York City artist Kristin Texeira, called “The Color of Water.”

The work is part of an ongoing public-art program called the Inter/Urban: Art & Culture Connector, directed by LAND studio in partnership with the City of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA), the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards and the Cleveland Foundation.

The installation was done in partnership with the university’s John and Mildred Putnam Art Collection, a compilation of 50-plus sculptures and other pieces of public art that enrich the campus and University Circle environment.

“One of the best things about public art is you can come upon it in places you didn’t expect to see,” said Kathy Barrie, a local public-art administrator who directs the Putnam Collection. “It adds another layer. It makes you look at the architecture a little differently. The goal, for everybody involved, was to brighten someone’s day with something they might think is beautiful or at least thought-provoking.”

Gabrielle Bychowski, a lecturer in the Department of English, also was involved in the project throughout as an advisor to the artist. 

The Inter/Urban program is transforming the RTA line through a series of large-scale, artist-designed murals, installations and experiences. Artists draw inspiration from themes inspired by the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, which celebrates authors of literary works dealing with social justice and the celebration of diversity and the people of all cultures and backgrounds.

Artist on a scaffold painting a wall mural.

The artworks are all based on prize-winning books—in this case, The Color of Water by James McBride.

Texeira explained how the book and McBride inspired her mural in her artist’s statement: “The significance of the title The Color of Water comes from a conversation between James and his mother when he is grappling with racial identities and asks his mother what color God is. She replies that ‘God is the color of water.’ The ‘wave’ in the center of this mural is made up of many colors to shine a light on this moment…Overall, this is a color story highlighting the importance of human interaction. Being able to retell Mr. McBride’s story with color is a way to give thanks for his example of family love—honoring his family, honoring my family and all families.” 

For more information, contact Bill Lubinger at