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Parade History

2019 Parade the Circle booklet cover

2019—30th Parade the Circle

Mythology of Illusion

The word mythology derives from the Greek words mythos and logy, mythos meaning “a true narrative or a story of the people” and logy meaning “to tell”: thus, mythology means to tell the true story of a people. Illusion comes from Latin and Old French, and means “to play with.” So now we are playing with the stories of the people.

There was a time when people were open to the appearance of spirits or supernaturals among the general population. Homer wrote the Iliad during such a time. In fact, although today we think of myths as folktales or half-truths, they didn’t start out as such.

Myths began as stories about divine beings that were revered as true and sacred, endorsed by rulers and priests, and closely linked to religion. Once this link is broken and the subjects of the story are no longer regarded as gods but as human heroes, giants, or fairies, the story is no longer a myth but a folktale.

Today, while our interpretation of mythology has changed, it has also expanded. A city or a region establishes its own mythology. For example, the burning of the Cuyahoga River is part of Cleveland’s mythology. Parade the Circle and the artists of parade also have both shared and individual mythologies.  

For the 30th year of the parade, we invite you to take inspiration from the CMA exhibition Shinto: Discovery of the Divine in Japanese Art or think forward to this summer’s exhibition Medieval Monsters: Terrors, Aliens, Wonders. You may also choose to celebrate the anniversary of the river burning or look to your own mythology to create your personal illusion.

Parade the Circle 2018 poster

2018—29th Parade the Circle

Cadenza, a flourish of individual creativity

A cadenza is a parenthetical flourish in a classical or jazz composition in which a virtuoso solo passage is inserted into the work, typically near the end. While a cadenza is composed to showcase the virtuosity of the performer it is also written with space for the soloist to improvise and embellish the composition.

Parade the Circle is a day of cadenzas. Each parade ensemble has been handcrafted over many weeks by individuals, families, schools, and community groups for their moment to shine around the parade route. In essence, each float, giant puppet, stilt dancer, costumed performer, and musician is a personal cadenza within the whole of Parade.

2017—28th Parade the Circle

a composition
of often disparate elements
collected and altered to complete a vision

Collage, from the French coller, “to glue”, entered the art terminology lexicon in 1912 when it was coined by both Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.  

Certainly the techniques of collage go back to the invention of paper in 200 BC but most examples begin in 10th century Japan when calligraphers began applying their poems on paper to scrolls, soon followed by the application of gold leaf to illuminated manuscripts in medieval Europe.  

With Picasso and Braque collage went beyond a technique; it became a concept, which revolutionized cubism, taking it from analytic to synthetic, building up a form from small sections instead of breaking it down. Initially considered a lesser art form, collage soon revolutionized modern art.  It became an approach to making art. 

For me, Parade the Circle, is an example of kinetic collage, an assemblage of human beings interacting with each other, augmented by sets and costumes.  Through the use of an optional theme, the artistic creations that make up Parade, share exposure to a common idea, which whether incorporated or not, allows these creative impulses to compose an idiosyncratic narrative.


2016—27th Parade the Circle


a space considered safe
a labyrinth within
a sacred circle
of creativity

During the flourishing of the Mycenaean Civilization, Greek scholars created the first Temenos, a sacred place set aside for worship of the gods. Over time this term came to refer to any area set aside from ordinary use, available to anyone, and designed to enhance personal reflection and creative pursuits.  Carl Jung found profound power for the individual in the temenos, which resembled a squared circle, a symmetrical rose garden with a fountain in the middle where unconscious ideas can be brought to the light of consciousness.  In the catalog for the exhibition, Parade the Circle - 25 Years, Nan Eisenberg, Parade Coordinator Emeritus, reflects: “From the very first public parade workshops at the museum, parade has created what the ancient Greeks called a temenos, a play space, described by Stephen Nachmanovitch as a ‘magic circle’, a delimited sacred space within which special rules apply and in which extraordinary events are free to occur.”

This year as we celebrate 100 years of the Cleveland Museum of Art we can marvel at our museum that so fervently celebrates the opportunity for self-expression for all individuals, and provides the protective rectangle to bind this sacred circle of creativity we know as Parade the Circle.  


2015—26th Parade the Circle

BEAT! To beat. To breathe. To create.

Our initial interest was in the word animal and then the word animate. Assuming they must share the same Latin root, we were curious to know what it was. Both come from anima meaning “spirit, soul, breath, or mind.” The original definition of animate is “to bring to life” or “to create.” Following the thread of roots we looked up the word spirit, discovering its roots are virtually the same, spiritus (breath) and spirare (to breathe).

Our discussions of these overlapping meanings led to the question, what is behind the breath, what is our driving force? Our answer was the beat, the engine for our being. We felt this single word exemplified the shared energy among all living beings, human, or other animal.

In this 25th anniversary year of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we celebrate the many varied ways to animate, to create, to live.

Parade the Circle 2014 Program Cover

2014—25th Parade the Circle

Recologia Desigual
Never Odd or Even

Recology—Recovered Resources

In 1990 Recology San Francisco began an artist-in-residence program to instill a greater appreciation for art and the environment in children and adults.

In 1984 designer Thomas Meyer envisioned a new style of personalized artful clothing and he named it Desigual/It's not the same.
In 1990 this Ibiza based company began to think global.

In 1990 the Cleveland Museum of Art launched the first Parade the Circle, initiating a program of community engagement and interactive community art-making with a commitment to unparalleled artistic excellence.

San Francisco—Ibiza—Cleveland
Three Cities—Three Ideas
Inspiring creativity, individuality, global awareness, and community spirit.
Each without equal.


Recologia Desigual
Never Odd or Even

2013—Sol de Luna Nueva (Sunshine of the New Moon)

Throughout time humans have been looking around and appropriating both raw materials and "ready mades" to help create the world they want to live in. Enterprising individuals in contemporary times weave plastic grocery bags into rugs and sew juice boxes into market bags. We are no longer surprised when artists turn discarded items into sculpture or utilize newspaper print and magazine imagery in collages. More surprising is how far back in art history artists have found creative inspiration from unlikely sources. An annotated guide introduced works in the CMA collection that illuminate this practice.

2012—Branches Become Roots Cycles: Coming Back/Going Forward

A sense of place—an artist’s response to a familiar landscape or an exotic new locale—is a recurring theme throughout art history and in the galleries of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

As Greater Clevelanders, we are acutely aware of changes in our communities. Even decline becomes an opportunity for rebirth.

As plants, and organizations too, branch out, the branches themselves sometimes grow roots, becoming self-sustaining in a new environment while maintaining ties to their original source. In this way we support ourselves and each other and enable our community to flourish.

2011—Voices among Voices

Twenty-first-century artists create from within a global village. Whether we travel physically or connect electronically, our environment has expanded, allowing us to experience cultures, customs, and traditions that we previously could only imagine. Each new encounter may amaze us, challenge us, and stimulate us to respond with our own song.

The Cleveland Museum of Art stands as a metaphor for this wider world. Each gallery offers new cultures, new techniques, and new points of view to inspire us.

In spring 2011 we will have opportunities to enjoy South African art from the past century in the museum’s east wing and to meet contemporary South African artists. Parade the Circle will welcome three artists from Les Grandes Personnes d’Afrique of Johannesburg, South Africa, who will work in tandem with two artists from the parent company Les Grandes Personnes of Aubervilliers, France. We invite you to add your voice to this artistic chorus.

2010—Zounou Younou Hèrè, Une Porte S’Ouvre, A Door Opens

A door, a portal, a port—a marker of coming and going, welcoming and saying good-bye.

A beginning of sharing culture and tradition, creativity and innovation.

In late June 2010, the Cleveland Museum of Art opens its newest door, unveiling reinstalled galleries on the lower level of the original 1916 building. These galleries showcase the museum’s collections of the ancient art of Egypt, the Near East, Greece, and Rome; the arts of late antiquity, the Byzantine Empire, and the European Middle Ages; as well as the collection of African art.

The art objects in these collections were once integral to living cultures, and many were used actively in daily life, ceremonies, rituals, and festivals. What a perfect opportunity for Parade the Circle, a Cleveland tradition of ritual and celebration, to recognize this portal of cultural exchange. African mask makers, musicians, and dancers from Burkina Faso will share the living traditions of the Bwa people with Cleveland and enliven Parade 2010.

2009—Chiaroscuro: Beguiling the Penumbra

The 20th Parade the Circle precedes by two weeks the public opening of the museum's East Wing. This year's Parade theme highlights both the exterior and the collections of the East Wing.

One of the most evocative terms in the art lexicon, chiaroscuro illuminates the myriad ways artists render contrasts of light and shadow in a creative work. Whether exploring light and shadow, the interplay of dissimilar elements or what exists in partial shadow, within chiaroscuro lies the penumbra, the area between light and shadow.

In literature or art the penumbra also refers to that which cannot be defined as either real or fantasy; it is the area where dreams, daydreams, our muses and inspirations reside. One of the most difficult challenges an artist faces is to draw out the essence of an inspiration and develop it into a sculpture, painting, poem, dance or parade ensemble. Each creative individual must "beguile the penumbra" in their own unique way.

As the Cleveland Museum of Art prepared to open its new East Wing galleries, the chiaroscuro of the East Wing's exterior, its dark and light stripes, led us to the penumbra within, and helped us mine these artistic treasures for inspiration. As we realized our personal artistic visions, we shared them with all Greater Clevelanders in the 20th annual Parade the Circle.

2008—Skipping the Muse: Running the Fiddle

Artist> Muse> Ruminate> Create> a parade... a museum

The creative process begins with the Muse, the vision, frequently something on the periphery of our conscious awareness; then comes the fiddling with the idea, sifting its many parts like grains of sand, arranging them until everything finds its proper relationship and weight; finally committed to the statement, the artist "runs with it,” putting paint to canvas.

With its renovation and expansion project, the museum, literally “temple of the muses,” followed this same process. Now with the vision and the deliberating essentially complete, the commitment has been made, the skipping has picked up steam, and the running is underway.


A lyrical discord of harmonius contradictions


natural wisdom supporting an exuberant spirit

In Catalonia, Spain, two components form the Catalan personality: seny, an instinctive and reliable sense of order, couples with rauxa, an ebullient spirit and love of almost excessive gaiety and frivolity both in life and in the arts. These complementary elements formed the basis for Modernism, the art movement centered in Barcelona, which brought us Gaudí as well as Dalí, Miro, and Picasso. The Cleveland Museum of Art reopened with the special exhibition Barcelona & Modernity, October 15, 2006-January 7, 2007.

2005—Inside Out

Inside out and upside down,
The pimply faced boy is wearing the crown.
It sounds like a verb, but it's really a noun.
Outside in and upside down

Inside out and upside down
Only the mystic is wearing a gown.
It feels like it's pink, but is actually brown.
Outside in and upside down