The Rust Belt Monster Collective know how to flex their art muscles
on July 12, 2013 at 2:53 PM, updated July 12, 2013 at 3:04 PM
The best analogy Erin Schechtman has ever heard for the Rust Belt Monster Collective, a group of six artists and illustrators who create impromptu murals for fun and sometimes profit, is that they are a “visual jam band.”
“That really describes what we do very well,” she said. “We each improvise our parts and try and complement each other’s skills. Hopefully we end up with something that entertains people.”
The artists originally met when they individually participated in a national drawing group called Dr. Sketchy, which used to convene at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood. Once they became acquainted, they created a blog to encourage each other to keep up with their skills. They called it rustbeltmonster.blogspot.com
Then in 2012, the Cleveland IngenuityFest came calling.
“They asked us to do a piece of ‘live art’ — a mural — at one of their fundraisers,” said Schechtman, 27. “At first we planned out this complicated theme like we were going to create an original comic. People were assigned different characters. But as soon as we arrived on site that went right out the window. Then we all just began drawing what we draw best.”
The murals have a fantastical, pop-art quality. Monsters are clearly in evidence as are other creatures more commonly found between the pages of comic books, such as superheroes and robots from distant planets.
“We’re all a bunch of art nerds,” said Schechtman, who was an art major at Syracuse University and works as a product designer at Darice, the company that owns the art-supply chain Pat Catan’s.
James Krouse, artistic director at IngenuityFest, was an early supporter of the RBMC.
“They are a special group of artists,” he said. “There’s a performance aspect to their work. Each one of them is extraordinarily talented. A lot of people prefer a controlled environment when they’re making art. Not everybody likes to work in a fishbowl like these guys. This year at Ingenuity I’d like to see them painting right next to the main stage.”
RBMC member Randy Crider credits his colleagues for their workmanlike attitude toward their craft.
“We work hard in this town, and that’s something to be proud of,” Crider said. “I come from a blue-collar family, and my earliest memories are being told ‘You’ve gotta do what you gotta do.’ Work ethic was a value held above all others. So, when we started doing live events it was important to paint in work shirts.”
So far, the RBMC has completed nine murals. They get a fair amount of love from the Cleveland community. Another supporter is Carol and John’s Comic Book Shop at Kamm’s Corners. The business let the collective use its space for art events and signings. The Lava Lounge in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood hosts a Drink and Draw event the third Thursday of every month where the artists gather to hone their skills while wetting their whistles.
Next on the RBMC agenda is the IngenuityFest at the Port of Cleveland on Friday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 22. It’s kind of a return to the scene of the crime for the group. Crider is looking forward to it.
“All of us sacrifice for this,” he said. “We lose sleep, we miss time with our families, and put harsh miles on our bodies. Art is hard work, but it’s what we gotta do.”
Rust Belt Monster Collective Members
Randy Crider, 33
Cleveland, illustrator at locally based company, instructor at BayArts.
Specialty: Cartoonist/illustrator/dinosaur puncher.
Ben Hale, 34
Newbury, office manager of escrow agency.
Specialty: Animation, video.
James “Reverend Jim” Giar, 50
Elyria, manager and estimator for a remodeling company.
Specialty: Comic-book artist, illustration.
Craig B. Worrell, 38
Brunswick, freelance illustrator.
Specialty: Book, poster, apparel illustration. Logo, character design.
Tim Switalski, 31
Brecksville, freelance illustrator.
Specialty: Digital painting.
Erin Schechtman, 27
Lakewood, product designer for the kids’ craft industry, instructor at BayArts.
Specialty: Realistic mixed-media fine art and children’s illustration.