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Posted 11.2.12

Local artist Elisa Newman discusses her 2001 watercolor “Under Construction” portraying the Peter B. Lewis Building construction site. The painting was recently donated to Weatherhead by Anthony Tavill, MD, professor emeritus at CWRU's School of Medicine.

I was teaching a workshop at the Cleveland Institute of Art and looked out an upstairs window. I noticed a metal fence surrounding the corner of Ford and Bellflower. Later, upon exiting the CIA, I realized the fence was around a deep, deep hole. The bottom of the hole was bustling with activity. Trains and cranes were moving equipment around, many men were working, and an American flag was proudly displayed. However, at street level, no one seemed to know the reason behind the activity.

I was simply fascinated by what I was witnessing and decided to do a watercolor to capture the scene. With composition being the driving force behind any work of art, I knew the composition of my painting was right before my eyes. I sketched and photographed the site. I decided to entitle the painting “Under Construction”.    

When I took the picture to be framed at Joe Arko Framing, the woman working there recognized the scene as her husband had been the general contractor for the project which turned out to be the Peter B. Lewis Building. 

I entered the painting in the One Hundred Thirty Fourth International Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society in 2001. The exhibition is a juried show in New York and it truly was honor to have the painting chosen for the exhibition. The picture was sold to a private collector. 

As a docent at the Peter B. Lewis Building, I had the privilege of meeting the architect for the project, Frank Gehry. The building originally was to be built to resemble the Guggenheim, but the university did not have the space to duplicate the sprawling design. As a result, the building was designed around two towers, giving it a more vertical orientation than first envisioned.    

It is only fitting that the painting has found its way back home to where it all began, at the Peter B. Lewis Building.

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