Andrew Chakalis, a native Clevelander, is an artist, President of the Hellenic Preservation Society of Northeast Ohio, and the Greek Garden delegate in the Cultural Gardens Federation. In this 2009 interview, Chakalis describes how he and others went about renovating the Greek Cultural Garden in the mid-1990s, describing the cultural and historical significance of many of the garden's features and stressing his desire to stay true to the garden's original 1940s design. He also talks about the Gardens more broadly, discussing the work of the Federation in attracting new groups to add gardens, making improvements to existing gardens, and ensuring that the original philosophy and mission of the Cultural Gardens is adhered to. The nature of the Greek community in post-War Cleveland and its gradual migration out into the surrounding suburbs is touched on, as well.


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Chakalis, Andrew (interviewee)


Bell, Erin (interviewer)


Cleveland Cultural Gardens series 1



Document Type

Oral History


77 minutes


Transcription sponsored by DeChant Art Consulting & Titans of Space

Erin Bell [00:00:04] This is Erin Bell. It's February 20, 2009. We're here at Cleveland State University interviewing Andy Chakalis.

Andrew Chakalis [00:00:11] Chakalis.

Erin Bell [00:00:12] Chakalis of the Greek Cultural Garden. Go ahead and state your full name, where you were born, and a little bit about your background.

Andrew Chakalis [00:00:21] Okay. Andrew T. Chakalis, born Cleveland, Ohio. Currently artist, sculptor, past background, art history and studio arts master's degree. But currently I am the president of the Hellenic Preservation Society, as far as it's noteworthy, pertaining to the initiative with the Greek Cultural Garden. And I'm also the garden delegate for the Greek garden through the Cultural Garden Federation.

Erin Bell [00:00:53] Okay, and how did you get, how did you come to be involved with those two groups?

Andrew Chakalis [00:00:58] Interesting story. A gentleman in our community by the name of Pete Catavolos. He had been the garden delegate for many, many years, and he was perhaps the sole representative from our community to the Cultural Garden Federation, etcetera, etcetera. And Pete and I got to know each other. He approached me based on the forming of the Hellenic Preservation Society, and Pete and I spoke over his involvement with the history and so forth, past basically. So with that information, I took it to the board of the Hellenic Preservation site. I think this is a project that deems our attention. It is in keeping with our mission statement. Long story short, the Hellenic Preservation Society signed on to taking some responsibility as a lead organization for the renovation and replanting of the Greek Cultural Garden. Time wise, this transpired. I would say it was perhaps 1993, 94, and our garden was rededicated in 1996 during the city's bicentennial. But leading up to that, there was a lot of brainstorming thought process from our organization with the viability of us taking on the garden. I'd like to point out that when I arrived on the scene with our organization, very little was being done in the Cultural Garden necklace. Actually, it was very depressing, extremely depressing. We really approached the project as if this was a work of fine art. So we wanted to do some careful research, background engineering studies to see exactly what was going to be necessary to entail the success of a replanting and renovation plan. We certainly put together budgets, etcetera, etcetera. And the most problematic issue that was voiced within our community was that no one else was doing anything in the corridor. And that became a positive and it became a negative in the sense of weighing the possibilities. The outcome was positive, but we felt that someone in this community of gardens must step forward, not just to be a figurehead, but to bootstrap it up and not only realize an engineering plan, a landscape renovation plan, but to be there and hopefully promote that, if we're there, we could encourage our neighbors to do likewise. And don't get me wrong, there were individuals from the other gardens that were in some attempt to try to be active with the various gardens. But in general, it was very, very. We could not have people tour our gardens from our community and come back and say, someone else is doing this, someone else is doing this. It was pretty much dormant. So we felt that if we would put together a proper plan, we hopefully would be able to spearhead others to come aboard. And that did take place because it was easier to go to another community group and saying, well, look, the Greek community is doing this, the Irish are doing this and so forth. But we didn't have the luxury of that. So there were some very tight scrutiny over our reasoning to go ahead with the Greek garden renovation. So, in short, history, I think that brings us up to a point. But through Mister Pete Catavolos, to the cultural, to the Hellenic Preservation Society, those were, I think, the key links to get us engaged, to still find us active with the garden today.

Erin Bell [00:05:37] Okay. And during that kind of depressed, dormant era prior to the renovation, what did the garden look like as compared to what it looks like now?

Andrew Chakalis [00:05:52] We documented the current at that time, the condition of the garden. There were elements of the structure that were somewhat lost. There were an example, all of the stone pavers around the fountain feature were completely broken. They were really rubble. There was a column that was actually leaning the entry gate of the garden. The staircases, the ascending and descending staircases on the west slope facing MLK Boulevard, those were basically covered over from past growth, soil, so forth. We saw the lawnmowers, the large highway lawn mowers just basically go over those. We did not really sense from a physical walkthrough whether or not that was actually part of our garden. But once we unearth some of the original documents for the garden, in fact, on that plot plan, there are staircases, but overgrown bush trees and so forth. It was in dire strait of attention. The entry, the walkway entry was completely rubble. There were virtually no plantings, really, that had any correlation to the original planting scheme. So by and large, it was in disrepair. The fountain had been completely, or the water feature had been completely filled in with rubble. Aspects of graffiti that, tremendous amounts of rubbish. Our very first workday on the site, well, we thought we could clean this garden up in one day. We had a whole crew of individuals from our community. We brought a couple hundred bags and we thought we could rake this up and look at these split and we'll be on our way. Well, we stopped counting after 800 bags of debris just raking the surface of the garden. So it was almost like an archaeological dig, if I may use that as a comparison to the amount of where we were not prepared to. To comprehend the. It spoke on how long it had not been maintained and we were somewhat gaining a knowledge history of why they found themselves in the state of disrepair to the point when we got involved. And once again it gets back to the individual who was a garden delegate. But there was no assistance or physical ability to manage that scale of that garden by one sole individual. So with the organization, with some new young blood coming to the table I think the outcome was a little bit more promising.

Erin Bell [00:08:56] And where does that young blood come from within the community?

Andrew Chakalis [00:09:03] The history of the Greek garden really represents where that initiative came from. It's based. Our community is based from our church community. When the garden was originally dedicated in 1940. At that time there was the Church of the Annunciation on West 14th street. That was, we call that our mother church. When the garden was being idea and realized and so forth. At that time that was our community. It was church-centered to speak of. Now we have three additional churches. So we are basically a community of four churches in various geographic. If you look at the migration and the growth of those locations, our other three churches it really speaks for the migration from the downtown core. But really that to your question we now have a membership and an audience to draw from to be partaking in the activities with the garden.

Erin Bell [00:10:19] And so tell me more about that kind of out migration from the downtown core.

Andrew Chakalis [00:10:24] Where the first movement went east. And there is the St. Constantine and Helen Church. It's on Mayfield and close to Taylor near Severance Center. That was the. That's a cathedral. That was the first church to locate itself at that time in the fifties, late fifties into the suburb. But now it's called the inner ring community. But that was the first church. And then following we had St. Demetrius that is in Rocky River river and then the other St. Paul's Church that's further south off of 77. So it's a pattern and it was just a natural evolution to accommodate excess and so forth for members within the Greek community. And today there's continued talk to perhaps have a church built in Chesterland. There's discussions of to build a church in Medina though that is discussion and topics but it still is an impact. It gives a demographic of the reality of the geographic reality of the Greek community. But still, in fact, the nuns and [inaudible] church is still a very vital and dynamic church community.

Erin Bell [00:11:52] And maybe so going back then. Let’s talk a little bit more specifically about where Greeks tended to settle in the city. And those natives.

Andrew Chakalis [00:12:05] Sure. If you go to it is called Progressive Field. I believe it was Jacob's Field prior to that, if he would stand on third base, that was in fact part of the Greek early neighborhood, Bolivar, so forth. That became a pocket of a Greek community there. The immigration arrived in Cleveland, and there were those who greeted people and so forth. But there's a, in Cleveland proper, that was a dynamic area. There was east side, also west side, south within greater Cleveland, as far as pockets of Greek communities. So it wasn't necessarily a Greek village, but there were shops, there were restaurants, the coffee shops. So there was that sense of a European influence, a Greek influence into that area, shoe shops. And it maintained that reality. It withered away into the sixties. By the end of the sixties, that was pretty much gone. But I reference the landmark today, our baseball stadium, is a sense of the proximity of that early Greek immigrant community.

Erin Bell [00:13:37] And how has your background as an artist and sculptor, you know, how does that influence the way that you look at the gardens? Maybe compared to someone else without that background?

Andrew Chakalis [00:13:50] I brought to the table a sensibility, I will admit. When I started this project with others in our community, I didn't know if roots go into the ground or you plant them above the ground. I had no clue on a landscape orientation reality. So I had a learning curve to take on that. The aspect of the architecture of the garden I felt very comfortable with. I also felt I wanted to bring to the table a sense of preservation, of research. I mentioned earlier about approaching it as if it was a fine work of art, whether painting, sculpture, print, drawing. And I took some of that, gain knowledge and applied it to the garden footprint. So when we called upon expertise, I wanted to make sure we were calling on expertise that was knowledgeable and sensible to this endeavor. An example, the discussion to preserve the water feature or remove it, that's quite severe. The discussion says, well, Andy, get rid of it. It's a maintenance nightmare. I said, that's not what we're. Then fill it in with concrete. You don't have to worry about the water. So there are extremes. But in essence, what we had to do was not only convince our community members of why that feature is in the garden and its significance being we also had to be careful that we were not reinventing or distorting or disrespecting the intent of the original design from the landscape architect's standpoint, and also from the inherent philosophy that is the very subtle underneath the formulation of evolving that garden. So I wanted to bring to the table with some just sensibility, practicality of engineering for the materials, the sandstones, the infrastructure, the planting, etcetera. All of those aspects, really. We called upon professionals to help us assess where we could not. And it would be very easy for us to be misguided in the sense of approaching that without some good sensibility. I go back to just following good practices towards, let's say, a preservation of a landmark, or whether it be a painting, sculpture and so forth. So that's what I kind of look at. Back at that time, it was important when we interviewed the various individuals that could be part of our team, it was crucial to listen for their sensitivity to this landmark. No one else had a track record of who to call upon of expertise. So we were really starting out fresh. But we did consult the various individuals, whether it be in the institutions, professionals in different fields, whether it be landscape, etcetera, etcetera, masonry, all of those specialties. We wanted to make sure that we were compiling enough documentation to proceed properly. For example, some said remove the sandstone and put in concrete that we found was not acceptable for cost aspects, yes, but we were distorting once again the original intent of the garden. So in a community setting, you get all these various viewpoints and so forth, and some have very good merit. Some are voiced, perhaps from a supercilious standpoint, but perhaps in a very serious sense of, oh, this is the way I would do it. When we talked about landscape architects, some people, well, we have someone in our community that has a florist. They could provide the elements for the garden, but we found out that wasn't really the truth. There was the diligence of them to provide information, but they were not equipped. So someone thought that bringing a flat of petunias to the garden would be replanting. So once again, it was sifting and sorting through all that. But I think the means of us getting to where we are today was based on the reality of us trying to get the professional talent overview to this proposal and likewise putting together a budget into some reality, because the numbers were certainly going to frighten people away in the sense, why are you spending the dollars here when we also need dollars to be spent elsewhere? So that must be, you know, and I think every community has to go through that with a sense of priorities, funding goals. So I don't find ourselves any different than any other communities that are active with the gardens, but it becomes an element.

Erin Bell [00:19:09] And so your major concern has really been on preserving that initial design then?

Andrew Chakalis [00:19:14] Yes, we wanted to take a very hard line that what we were going to do, if we were going to do certain measures, that those measures would be reversible at a later time. If, in fact, we didn't have enough documentation on a particular detail or element of the garden. So we wanted to make sure that if we were going to take measures, these were interim measures, but our real goal was to really preserve that as a garden of that time. We did make variations to plant life selection plantings at the time of the planting back in the late thirties was not necessarily relevant or even possible today as far as availability, etcetera. So there were some subtle issues. Getting down to ground cover, getting down to issues. Our garden is not to be encumbered with a lot of perennial flowers and so forth. Its original intent was to be green, lacking. We broke that plane by putting in some spring blooms and so forth other than that. And people were once again responding to that. Their sense of garden is this glorious, perennial, colorful garden. And once again, that's an orientation of education to explaining our purposes, doing this, not to alter the aspect of its original intent, so forth. And I'm sure that in the future that's going to be an ongoing debate, but hoping that those who are involved could go back to the original documents and be mindful and respectful of that.

Erin Bell [00:21:11] So, I mean, that initial design then, you know, obviously is meant to reflect ancient Greek culture.

Andrew Chakalis [00:21:24] There is some symbolism in the garden structure, in its design. The Greek garden of all the gardens is unique. There's a section of that is a sunken garden, and within that footprint of the. We broke the garden into four quadrants, basically for our own edification, for fundraising and also for managing the garden. When we were talking the language amongst ourselves, we knew exactly where we were going. The landscape architect, Jim McKnight, who assisted and really put together the replanting plan, we took that in mind. What is inherent with the structure and also the plantings and so forth that are in keeping too. Getting back to the central court, it is the sunken. It's what they call the sunken garden. So you descend or walk down into that central court as we term it. Now, the central court forms the shape of the Greek cross, and that is very symbolic in the sense of once again to the church and so forth, byzantine style. But in the water feature, we don't call it a fountain, as perhaps you would see in the Italian garden or other fountain features or water features. The symbolism there comes off the Greek cross. Normally, if you see a Greek cross that is being worn by a priest and so forth, there is a. A jewel that is central to the cross and that symbolizes water. And the substance of life is water. Thus, from the feature in the garden, the urns that are placed in the garden, symbolically, those urns would be taken. You dip and fill the urns with water, and you would go around and you'd water all of the plantings in the central court and so forth. Once again, there's a symbolism biblical, but also from an aesthetic stance. Also in courtyards in Greece, there would be a water feature that was once again historically used for the same purpose. The water, the substance of life, is a central key within the Greek cross. Also in the garden, it still serves a purpose. Everyone wants to go and fetch water to water, the various plantings and so forth. So there is a linkage to all of the elements in the garden. The two doric columns. Those columns really represent the doric columns that are used in the Acropolis. So that's the gateway into our garden off of East Boulevard. So once again, they're picking off of historical elements, as when they were developing the themes for the garden. So the doric columns, the Parthenon wall is a very interesting element in our garden. And if you've been to Greece, or of those who go to Greece, when you go and visit the Acropolis, you ascend to it. And the concept here is they utilize that knoll off of Martin Luther King Boulevard to incorporate the staircases going up to the Acropolis or the Acropolis wall. And on the central court side, there is a recessed niche that is still without its permanent, completed work of art. But on the adjacent right and left hand panels, there are 33 names that are carved in the face of those on the stone. And the most recent, time wise, was El Greco. So they have inscribed carved into the wall all of those individuals who have contributed to Greek culture or history, whether it be through philosophy, mathematics, the arts, etcetera. And the central figure on the images that we have on this, there's Athena. She is the feature in Athens, Greece. And also the artist interpreted to have that individual as a central figure, the female figure, the goddess, you might say. And flanking left and right are these individuals that either all in relief form, that are suggestive to their individual's presence, to the aspect of what Greek culture has contributed to civilization, and so forth. But on the opposite side of the Parthenon wall is a bench. And recently, only recently, we found out that it's called the poet's bench. And flanking the bench are two urns that we've replaced. And on the originals, they were destroyed or vandalized many years ago. So we went a lot of pain to try to re-incorporate those two urns into the garden landscape and those urns. We did not have the drawings at that time, but there are two theater faces that speak for oratory. So, once again, all of these elements in the garden are very specific, too, very subtle. If you would go to the garden, it would be unlikely that you'd pick these notations up. But in fact, they are part of the. The bridge, you might say, historically, to Greek culture.

Erin Bell [00:27:36] And I guess this is kind of maybe a strange question, but Greek culture and art obviously has a special significance, I would think, to a sculptor, just being aware of that history that's still relevant. And also, as a person of Greek descent, I'm wondering what came first. That the awareness that you were part of this pantheon, I guess, of Greek history, or as an artist, did that bring up your interest in Greek culture?

Andrew Chakalis [00:28:16] I've always had my direction for my education and so forth, was based on the respect for classics and so forth. That history, it's a combination of both, I would think. But the garden in particular, believe it or not, presented all these issues and circumstances that I think are just inherent in our culture. And I think the garden, believe it or not, is a living example of that aspect for some to grasp easier, others not to. But yet again, I think the individuals who fathered the development of the Greek garden thought very clearly from an abstract reality, but also from a historic sense to formulate the key elements for the garden. And it's very interesting. We're neighbors to the Italian garden, and I find that quite comforting because there's this natural progression from Greek to the Italian, so forth. And I did study several years in Italy, and so their garden is also very much connected, too, but from other aspects of their building techniques, aspects there. So there's a reality there with the Italian, but also. And I think it's very unique to have this type of architecture and landscape available to everyone. As far as a historic perspective, I think it's quite unique.

Erin Bell [00:30:00] And, I mean, how important was your Greek heritage growing up? I guess, are you second generation or strange question but how Greek was your family?

Andrew Chakalis [00:30:18] I think that we've had many discussions with individuals of my upbringing as far as Greek descent. I was very fortunate that we were introduced to a Greek culture and orientation. As far as customs, traditions. But also, growing up in the fifties, there was also that nudge that you wanted to remove yourself from that ethnographic reality. That the language is not spoken in school and so forth. And I look back at that, and it was a very natural push and tug. We were encouraged to learn the language. I see the benefits of that today. At that time, I could tell you that it was a matter of debate. But still there was. We were introduced into, let's say, language schools. So there was, from our part, an introduction, too. And the community was still very well knit, close together as far as faith, family orientation, et cetera, et cetera. But I was introduced to that. I felt I was a beneficiary of that. And I would say that perhaps when it really came to my realization, my full realization is when I went abroad to study. And I realized how important it was to have that language skill. Another point of departure, reality, whether it be Greek heritage, et cetera, et cetera. I found that very rewarding. To think back, that I was blessed with that reality. To see oneself in the broader global context. And that's becoming more and more of a discussion as. As a reality today. But I myself, I was, as I said, a beneficiary from that family, Greek ethnic orientation. Into the broad context of our popular culture, you might say, okay.

Erin Bell [00:32:42] And then after World War II, there's serious conflict in Greece. Was there ever any effort to, I don't know, express any kind of support within the garden that you're aware of?

Andrew Chakalis [00:33:00] Actually getting back to the topic of the relief sculpture that is still so. I still view our garden as incomplete 60 some years after its dedication. That feature element. If you stand at the entry of our garden between the two columns. And if you look into the garden, the sunken area, you see the Parthenon wall, and there is a niche, and your attention goes to it, but it's a void. So I'm hoping, under our watch, we might be able to realize that element of information that would enhance the garden. To your point, the story on the Parthenon, on the relief sculpture is very interesting. And this is through a great deal of labor, research, documentation, not only here, Cleveland State, Western Reservoir Historical Society in Athens, etcetera. Brief story that we now know that there was an artist, a sculptor by the name of Andrew Tagaris. He was in Cleveland at that particular time. He was involved in some capacity with the planning and ideas and so forth. We know that he had his signatures on the final drawings for the urns that I spoke about earlier. There's some reference to him also with the columns on the garden site. That is not a proven fact, but there are some references. To what degree, we don't know. He presented a proposal for the relief sculpture for the wall. And this was perhaps a gentleman's agreement with the committee and so forth. But evidently someone on the committee went to Athens. And there was a commitment that came forth by another Greek sculptor, a noted Greek sculptor in Athens that would do the commission. And the commission would be paid for by the Greek government. Very interesting. We've had individuals go to Athens. We have now documentations of the artist's other work. Somewhere in Cleveland, we were hoping that there is to be found the sketch that was sent to Cleveland by this famous Greek sculptor. During our entire journey with this garden. There was only one surviving individual. That was part of the garden committee in the 1930s, 38 to 40, and so forth. Never was there a word spoken orally to that particular element. It's a puzzle to us, but we're putting the pieces together. We do have a visual reality of what the sculptor here in Cleveland idea. That has been published on various reference information. Within the Cultural Garden Federation. But no one really knew the connection. But the story of this relief speaks volumes for what the underpinning of the Cultural Garden Federation is. Long story short, we're hoping to put together a plan. With all of this historic documentation. And we would like to be able to put together a plan to go forward. And the issues are very serious. To do the right thing. We believe that the work that would have been sent from Greece. Or even the work that was done here in Cleveland at that time. If you think of the friezes on the Parthenon stone, so forth. Nothing in writing. But we believe those would have been interpreted or realized by the sculptor's chisel in either a sandstone or perhaps a white marble. But today we're dealing with another reality. If we would commission someone, we want to have that realized in bronze as part of the relief, so forth. So we're once again walking a tightrope to the integrity of the history. Who do we give credit to for the idea of this. What we consider a very, very important element within the garden? And it's been void of not having that realized. There is a tremendous expense and cost to accept the responsibility of realizing it. But we as a group feel that we should. But once again, we're not quite there, but we're thinking through. We have done a great deal of research, and it's been rudimentary along the way. During our dedication day in 1996, we had individuals who were at the dedication of the garden back in 1940. No one mentioned any discussion or reference to an eventual relief sculpture coming from Greece as a gift. Now, one must keep in mind, we have two thoughts on the sculpture that was being ideated in Athens. We now have the dates for the sculptor. We feel that perhaps he died before he could take on the commission for Cleveland. That's a possibility. But we also know that in Europe at that time, there was. The war movement was taking place, and we believe that there were other priorities that superseded the aspect of trying to realize a commission for. For the Cultural Garden in Cleveland. But, yes, there was a connection to Greece, to the Cultural Garden here in Cleveland, in the sense of physical contact with delegates and so forth, but also the reciprocation of the Greek government. We're also going as far as saying that perhaps there would be some rekindling of that generosity or thought at that with our venture. And we're perhaps approaching the Onassis foundation as a possibility to see how they would support the initiative and so forth. So there's a thousand bits of information that we've gathered, but there are still many that are not. But just. I think it's important that we do have focus on it. We're hoping to resolve an outcome that would be respectful of the past and also significant for the present and let alone for the future. But I can't give you an exact, I wish I had that to you today, but I do not have a conclusion on that initiative for the garden.

Erin Bell [00:40:01] Okay. And given your concern for really thinking hard about what the initial intentions were in the Greek garden, how do you see the greater kind of Cultural Gardens evolving? What do you think about any changes that have been planned or made?

Andrew Chakalis [00:40:24] When we took on our initiative, our discussion, not only did we want to see our garden, our community, step forward as a leader in this gesture, and we understood that we could accept failure with that decision. But we also wanted to see new gardens, additional gardens, become part of that landscape. We mentioned African American, we mentioned others. And as we pursued this, we felt an obligation to assist and communicate and encourage. We felt that the current garden number and identities wasn't. Was a particular immigrant reality at that point. Immigration has continued. We felt the Cultural Gardens did not continue that momentum for the newer immigrant communities into Cleveland. And the one example that I think so I became a delegate or an individual on the design and preservation committee for the Cultural Garden Federation. And so I felt it was important to have someone from our community with that earlier mission statement to encourage new gardens. And I think we could speak directly to the India Cultural Garden. Just a side note on that. We would normally be volunteering on weekends and periodically have these individuals from the Indian community come up and tell us that they have a garden site and they would like to do it. We'd like to get a flag and a flagpole, and that'll be our garden. I said, well, that's not a garden. But it was just through those initial discussions that to see and applaud what their community has done. And I think that particular garden is a nice benchmark to have there for others to follow. But they also had the benefit of the history of the existing Cultural Gardens to think about. As far as materials, walkways, pathways, etcetera, the care that they put about having this integration of Indian culture to American culture. Others have departed from that. And that is a little of a concern to us because we do not believe that they should be, let's say they should reflect a cultural element that reflects that history. We do not feel that it should be a popular culture from America that should be highlighted. All of the gardens have a historic sense to them in bringing us collectively together as a community. There is one in particular. Being a sculptor, I could understand that there could be a site specific sculpture, but I also feel that there should be a site specific garden plan that augments the wonderful addition of additional sculptures and so forth to the landscape. But I'm very, very pleased to see those who have stepped forward and we've seen that added reality into the corridor. So we're very pleased to see that. And we understand exactly how difficult it is to iron out all the elements to resolve a garden. So I basically am revisiting what perhaps our community did early on to encourage these to partake in design process, planning process access, fundraising, et cetera, et cetera.

Erin Bell [00:44:20] And those gardens that are taking a more, I guess, abstract or modern approach to the sculpture. And I've heard other people object to that change in some of the recent gardens. How much of that is a problem with the stuff just kind of clashing, or is it?

Andrew Chakalis [00:44:45] No. To me, I admire every additional sculpture that this city could present to the public. I am an advocate for public sculpture, public art, and the gardens have a wonderful opportunity to follow that tradition and even continue it. I find that the discussions really have to be resolved within the Cultural Garden Federation, that they have to be very clear to those who come aboard who want to foster the development of a garden, they have to be informed on the past history. Not to say that there shouldn't be a departure from that, but there has to be some grounding for that element. I think what I'm hearing is that there's personal taste to have a figurative piece or an abstract piece. I welcome both. But there has to be a context for that sculpture, whether it's realistic or abstract or lights or whatever. There should be a philosophical connection to that history, culture, and so forth. And it is very challenging for some people to accept an abstract form other than perhaps a straightforward standing full figure of a noted individual or figure. Likewise, all the elements not to have political figures in the Cultural Gardens. These are all aspects. I think it's on the shoulders of the Cultural Garden Federation to provide a clear and decisive platform. I'll give you an example. When they were. Competition was for the Vietnam War memorial. There were a host of guidelines, sight lines, and so forth, but there was a very clear parameter on how that commission or that site was to be approached. The outcome was very unique and very welcomed, and it reaches all the goals. But in fact, it was a departure from a very classical sense of a memorial. Likewise should take place here in Cleveland with the Cultural Gardens. I advocate the idea, the thinking, the parameters. Those must be defined, and it's up to the governing members of that organization to make sure that they're not creating an unknown quantity that could become a departure. There should be a very logical approach to, let's say, whether it be reaching back to an ethnic elements that are part of the garden design. The Latvian community has three additional sculptures, very organic forms, but it also ties into their landscape from that country. Also the plantings that they've picked, as far as birch trees, go back to a cultural reality. And there are inscriptions on those stones that the sculptor intentionally embellished as part of a connection. So I think it's not so much the debate of whether someone's preference of realism or abstraction. I think it's really the formative responsibility to the governing body of the organization to make sure that there is a clear understanding of the history to the gardens, what is there, how is it to be formulated? And then you welcome the entire community to put input into this example. With the India garden, the Gandhi sculpture was suggested after the preparatory plans were evolving with the idea. There was a strong voice from the community that Gandhi is a figure that could be incorporated into the garden. Thus the reality, abstract or realism? I think the substance of the content has to be debated in there first to have a successful outcome.

Erin Bell [00:49:09] And I think in part that kind of leads into the next question because you were talking about setting up those parameters. So I guess do you think the Cultural Gardens are, or do you think that the garden is, does this make sense? I mean, do you see it as the Greek garden is next to the Italian garden, is next to the Czech garden and so on, or do you see the Cultural Gardens themselves as the broader place?

Andrew Chakalis [00:49:47] Oh, I would say that I think the arrangement of the existing gardens, I just think it's a wonderful walkthrough for any visitor moving from one garden to the other, how they're laid out and placed and so forth. I think there was perhaps the circumstances at the time that various gardens wound up where they did and the selection process of site and so forth. But I just encourage further additions to the corridor to give a dynamic reality of who we are as a city. It's early immigration and there are. To me it's more obvious of the voids that are there. And I just want to encourage those communities to perhaps step up to the plate and begin to foster perhaps a reality as part of that corridor. I've always wondered, gee, Japanese garden, we're still anxiously awaiting the African American garden. We worked a lot with various groups and so forth, keeping our fingers crossed that there will be a reality in that. And to note on that some of the proposals that we've seen over the course of time become too ambitious, unrealistic, various levels and just to equate to do the Greek Cultural Garden today. We did a cost analysis on that and it would be several million dollars to do today what was done early on with the full scope of that initiative. So it is a reality of the, the economic practicality, but I think that's also part of the process for those in the Cultural Garden Federation to resolve. But no, I would just encourage more to become part of that corridor. It would be extremely helpful. I see it extremely valuable from an educational standpoint, the park in itself to its adaptive use. For see the addition of the bike path going through the corridor, I felt that was a positive. That's introduced people going through, they stop, they can get off a bicycle and venture into a garden. We've heard directly from individuals that now experience the park because of those very subtle changes. Narrowing the roadway down from four lanes to two lanes, slowing the traffic down creates more of a park setting. I remember that and it was basically, it was an off ramp to the highway and it was full speed from the lakefront into University Circle, it seemed to be. It was almost a raceway. So these are combined changes that I think are beneficial. I also see that the gardens are the anchor both to the east side and to the west side of the neighborhoods. We once spoke with Mayor White, and we said, why can't there be a master plan that is based off of the corridor? And the housing stock is in some areas is wonderful, but east and west, those are. So we feel that we're part of the neighborhood. We're not separate from the neighborhood or from the city. The issue remains of how do you get people to stop and get out of a car and walk into the gardens and so forth. There's been discussions along the way of parking niches and so forth, even to have a facility that would, similar to the Rockefeller greenhouse, that could be a focal point for the Cultural Garden Federation, but those are unknown. But I think the. I'm just very pleased that from our initiative that we've seen a remarkable re-contribution and rethinking from the various ethnic communities. And I think we all have a little bit more confidence about what we're doing. We're seeing results. And we, coming into this only wanted to neighbors helping neighbors. So our philosophy was not only to give respect to those who founded or developed this garden, we wanted to take the baton, run with it, and hopefully we'll pass that on to another generation.

Erin Bell [00:54:42] Also, another kind of curious question that I just thought of. To what extent does. Does an ethnic group need to have kind of significant presence in Cleveland to have a garden, or is it more a celebration of broader culture and it can just be a single individual?

Andrew Chakalis [00:55:05] Well, I think the scale and the sizes of the various garden communities varies drastically. The British is an example. We don't have a French garden because there wasn't really a French immigration to the states as other countries such as Greece, Ireland, Italy and so forth. So historically, this will reframe itself, become very clear in time, but we're still infants in the sense of having that history documented. We could bring it up to current today, but that'll be refocused, and perhaps they'll go to the editorial and reevaluate that aspect. But the scale of the community, it may be a factor, but on the other hand, some are saying that we should have a garden from every nationality. And if that's practical or not, I don't know, but I've heard that and I don't object to that. But the aspect is not to lower the standards, to make sure that there is purpose and I don't want to have this turn into, let's say, the Disney World of gardens, like the Epcot Center and so forth. Not to belittle that it's another experience, but the point being is that I think in the context to the fabric of the community and in the. We're hoping that perhaps the hispanic community will step to the plate. I mean, this is crucial. And I don't know if we should solicit or encourage or should we do some assistance in funding to do the planning, the ideas and so forth. I don't know for sure. But if we wanted to become a little bit more proactive with saying, in ten years, we want to realize this community, that community, that community, but we shouldn't also forget to renovate and replant and keep up the existing gardens. That was an early on question. They were saying, Andy, we do this, will it be maintained? And that's still the same question that we're facing today. But we're not alone. All the others that are stepping forward and doing that. So I think the partnership, we wanted to come to the table without an agenda. This is the landmark for the city of Cleveland. We wanted to put good faith and our resources forward and hope that we could stimulate just some straightforward, honest approach to maintaining and growing the garden. Cultural Garden reality.

Erin Bell [00:58:03] You'd mentioned the possibility of some kind of hispanic garden, and I would imagine that one of the benefits, but also a challenge in terms of space, would be, do you treat it as a hispanic garden, or do you say, have a Puerto Rican garden.

Andrew Chakalis [00:58:24] Well, that's been in a discussion, because that umbrella incorporates so many various reference points in how one would do that collectively under the umbrella of. And the African American garden faces that same aspect of looking at their diaspora and so forth and putting that reality. We. I mean, we Greek, Italian, so forth, it becomes. It's straightforward in a sense, but you do have those aspects that don't fall that comfortably under that equation. So once again, it's the creative thought, the creative debate that should take place within those communities to bring that together. But I feel that we'd be better if we did have a reality that would at least foster that and so forth. But that gets into the basic philosophy, the design aspects, the approach and so forth. It can be done. They can be done. It can be done with a sculptural, it could be done just with a landscape. It could be done with a combination. There's text information. Those are wonderful aspects to have these communities wrestle with and deal with I think the exploratory aspects of reaching a conclusion for design for a garden, I think there should be competition for these in the sense of fostering ideas, different viewpoints, and sifting through this, because it shouldn't be just perhaps on the soul of one individual. It should be. This is to be a community reality and all that. I could go back as to, let's say, how much different would we end up with a Greek garden if we were fostering it today in 2009? It would be very, very interesting to see that we've actually had some of our students and some of the schools and everything come up with garden designs so they could become educated on the aspect of what would you do to make your own garden, your Cultural Garden. Then they come and visit the garden, so forth. So as an educational aspect, I would apply that type of open ended area. But you need the leadership to foster that. You need the leadership to put that platform in front of people to sponsor it. It's very easy sometimes to have a project like this hijacked and perhaps, you know, pulled in another direction that would fall short of, I think, the best reward for the community to experience. These are long term. These are, you know, the infrastructure and so forth. When we were doing. They planned these gardens to last a long time. It just wasn't short term as far as. But it still takes the maintenance to keep them up.

Erin Bell [01:01:21] And you had kind of touched on this with the Greek garden in particular. But have there ever been serious differences in opinion over the direction from on the Federation level, where someone says, I want to put in a go-kart track or something? That's radically different than.

Andrew Chakalis [01:01:45] I would say that. Over the course of my tenure, I have heard some very unusual ideas and aspects, but we haven't gotten the go-kart. Okay. But I think when ideas are fostered or presented, I think we all need information and reason and purpose. And I think the go-kart idea would be dispelled quickly in the sense of that it doesn't connect to. It's appropriate, but maybe not necessarily here. It could be placed elsewhere. I'll give you an example. The sculpture center was looking for a site to have sculpture garden. And I remember there was a host of people on a bus, and there were individuals from the Holden Trust, landscape architects. And we all ventured to look around the city of where we could place sculpture for the community. And we drove down MLK Boulevard, and there were the ideas. We could place contemporary sculpture along the boulevard. And I said, that's good, but it's also a question mark in the ethic aspect of now. We could do temporary installations from sculptures from those appropriate countries as perhaps a project, but to have them permanent as part of the design of the garden, I think that's misstepping a little bit. But when we got to the lakefront on the other side of the highway, that was more desirable because of its setting, site and so forth, it would be more conducive for a sculpture park, walkways, etcetera. But there is a connection to the historic sculptures of the Cultural Gardens. So I see this as a linkage there. But it's very easy to, you know, misdirect a particular idea that could damage the integrity, perhaps, of the philosophy behind the gardens. And mind you, I welcome a contemporary piece of sculpture. That's not an argument on my part, but I still think it has to have a based synthesis with the particular garden, per se, or ethnic community and so forth.

Erin Bell [01:04:31] Would you say within the Federation there's a delegation or a group of individuals, maybe, that has a larger voice than the others? And if so, where does that difference in influence come from?

Andrew Chakalis [01:04:49] We're talking about personalities. It's a volunteer group. Any volunteer group, you get a group of people at the table and there could be a very good synergy. At times it could be disruptive. I've experienced both with the Cultural Garden Federation. I look back at the leadership of the organization. When I came aboard, it was Richard Konisiewicz, who was the president, George Parras, president. Each of those individuals have had a difficult time managing the collective personality group. One must step back and say, well, why is this? I say, well, everybody's coming to this from a different point of departure. There must be absolute clarity from the organization of why we're here, why we're doing this. It shouldn't be a personality, shouldn't be this agenda or that agenda. The goals are high, keep the goals high, keep the outcomes of a large standard. That, to me, is a lasting organization. If it becomes argumentative, if it becomes lack of focus, I think it will dissipate and the outcomes will be very, very small. And perhaps with regret, it gets down to leadership of the organization. There's been an attempt to do and pay attention to these issues, but when I came aboard, as a matter of fact, we went to. We were requested to attend a couple of the Cultural Garden Federation meetings before our community was going to make a decision on whether we proceed or not. We had several members of our community attend the meetings, and the response coming back from these individuals was not that favorable. They felt that if you put all of your decision on the Cultural Garden Federation, don't expect success. That was pretty hard to take. So I attended a meeting and I realized that if we're coming to the table, we want to be very professional, straightforward, and contribute. And we were hoping at the same time that we could bring our fairness, too. But it's very awkward for me to say every organization could improve and step up to the plate. There has been maturity. It should be continued. But the organization, when we came into it, we felt that the organization itself needed fresh blood, a new face, goals, a purpose, education. And it's a small volunteer group. So that's asking a lot. But there are still a core group of individuals that care very much but sometimes do not have the assistance or the information to help them. So we look at this as a neighborhood. We want to help our neighbors, we want to be part of it and so forth. And just from the spirit of being there is important. So I am not a good critic, too, but we came back to our drawing table and said, we are going to perform this and this. And at that time, we presented our plan to the Cultural Garden Federation. We had to present our plan and ideas to the Holden Trust. We had to present our plans and ideas to the Botanical Garden. And the director at that time, we also had to take and present our plan to the mayor of the City of Cleveland, who at that time was Michael White. So I felt we were conveying and discussing our intentions with no, there was no baggage to this. This is it. Here we are. How do we get anointed to go ahead? So we felt that we wanted to be a good neighbor to everybody, but we also realized that, gee, there's many components to this, and perhaps rightfully so. So we felt that there was that good umbrella for this to happen. So all of these, they're all stakeholders into reality. I would like to see more involvement with the University Circle, certainly I would like to see more commitment from the City of Cleveland as far as to, but understanding the reality. So we are continuing to do and have our presence there to hopefully that's accumulative to our own community, to the Cultural Garden Federation, to the neighborhood. That's the extent in which we feel that we can fit within the community group at present. But we're optimistic that we can just move ahead. We have a philosophy, our philosophy. We want to see progress every year with our garden, other gardens and so forth. Our benchmarks are aimed in the wintertime and we strive to accomplish by the end of the next season. Our calendar now is a growing season. We didn't have that before, but, you know, the project introduces that reality for us. And it has been a tremendous learning curve for our community to undertake this type of commitment. We didn't think it was going to be this much to do it and so forth, but in fact, we were willing to be flexible and learn and move forward. But it's. The success of the Cultural Gardens is going to be based not only from the ethnic communities, but the administration of the city, administration of University Circle, et cetera, et cetera. So we want to share in that journey.

Erin Bell [01:11:33] Do you have any questions at this time? Where are we at time wise? About 70 minutes.

Andrew Chakalis [01:11:40] Wow. Geez. It'd be one big yawn.

Erin Bell [01:11:46] No, this is actually great. And there's a lot of information that you've given us I didn't know.

Andrew Chakalis [01:11:50] I'd like to mention, just from my own notes that I made, to be prepared as an educational aspect, we have the Gates Mills horticultural school. They come in weekly. Different grade levels, school levels. They're from their horticultural group and so forth. We see this as an educational component. So they're part of our community. We've worked with the Holden Trust as far as granting and support and so forth. I wanted to make sure I mentioned Richard Konisiewicz, as far as past president, and George Parras, as far as their showing their leadership during our orientation. I think, and, it's fundraising to us. We put an allocation of several thousand dollars for the maintenance and upkeep of our garden. But we're physically there with our volunteers weekly to bring that garden to presentation format. When we started our initiative, we didn't think someone would get divorced in that garden. But now we see weddings taking place, ceremonies in that garden that says volumes on how the use of the gardens and so forth can be incorporated to reuse of these gardens. We felt that they were neglected, and it was shameful to see them fall into that disrepair, but slowly to connect the community back into the reality of those gardens, let alone for the historic, but also for the just pure enjoyment of experiencing these gardens. So we're optimistic. So we use these comparisons of divorce to wedding because they are so extreme. But it could be a sad occasion. But we could see also a celebration of use of the gardens.

Erin Bell [01:14:09] Okay, well, anything else? Any.

Andrew Chakalis [01:14:13] No. I want to thank you. I would say I want to thank your institution and your area for putting time forth to capture a sense of our involvement and others with the Cultural Gardens. And I hope that the information can be disseminated. And I feel that there is a deficiency of having public knowledge to the gardens, not to anyone's discredit. But when we started our initiative, the generation that experienced the dedication to the garden, they were senior citizens when they came back, but we felt that there was a generational gap in knowing that there was a garden with Greek culture, history to it, to the generation that followed. So what we're trying to do is to bridge that link, not to have that gap of loss as far as information and so forth. So I applaud the initiatives that you've been put forth on the further awareness and dissemination of information. It was amazing to us how many people did not know that there were Cultural Gardens of this and this and this. And when we were doing our programming and campaigning, when we were talking amongst our various groups and so forth, it became apparent that, ah, there was a great number of individuals that didn't have a clue that there was in fact a Greek Cultural Garden and other gardens and so forth. So we were not only presenting the history of our garden, but there was a reintroduced introduction to this collaborative at one time through WPA and so forth. That's a story that's been told, but we experienced that in our own community. And when we have visitors come in from other communities now, take them to the Greek Cultural Garden from the west coast, east coast and so forth, and they are in awe of this landmark. And we kind of yawn because we're local. We could take advantage of it. But sometimes it takes outsiders to come in and really put, you know, they're blown away by the aspect. When we bring individuals in from other cities for various projects and so forth, when we give them a tour of the city of Cleveland, the Cultural Gardens are part of that experience for them and to give them an understanding of history, because by and large, I don't care where they're from. Their community does not have this asset that the city of Cleveland does have, period.

Erin Bell [01:16:57] Well, thank you so much for coming in.

Andrew Chakalis [01:16:59] Thank you.

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