Earlier this week, NBA superstar, LeBron James, opened his I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, an institution set to boost achievement for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and give them an experience unlike any other. While the I Promise School features many one-of-a-kind amenities, none may be more noteworthy and unique than the mural that lines the main staircase. Cleveland based artist, George Vlosich, was called upon to give the school a unique mural that would help cement the school’s message and inspire each student that walks by it. We had the chance to chat with George and hear how this all came about, his love for creating art and what exactly it is that makes Cleveland so special.
coiski: So, take us through the timeline of getting called upon to paint the murals for the I Promise School. How did this come about?
GV Design: LeBron and his team have been very familiar with my work, and we’ve been talking about some opportunities to collaborate for quite some time. I am known for bringing Etch-A-Sketch artwork to life, and we thought it would be a really good fit for the I Promise School. When they initially brought me in to meet, they showed us the school and asked where in the school did they think my artwork could be featured. At the time, the school still needed a lot of work, and it was nowhere near what it looks like now. I had noticed this wall going down the staircase, and I thought there has to be something here. It was just too perfect, and it seemed like it lent itself to art. Not to mention, it would be a busy spot for kids coming up and down the staircase and would get major traffic. For the artwork itself, they had mentioned a few icons that LeBron is often inspired by, and from there, my inspiration took off. I thought that doing something a little bit more on the sports side of things would be cool for this project, so you see Muhammad Ali with a butterfly close by, Jackie Robinson, a young LeBron James, and some others. I did throw Martin Luther King in there because I wanted to create something that had a message behind it and could be inspirational, not just with quotes but also, visually.
coiski: Did LeBron and his camp give you a theme or direction besides people he’s inspired by? Or did they leave the creative side up to you?
GV Design: They pretty much gave me free reign and just said, ‘Hey, we trust you to come up with something, and we look forward to seeing what you can do.’ After putting a couple together on Etch-A-Sketch, I showed them one that we really liked, collectively, in our shop. They were like, ‘Wow, we love it!’ There were a few things we had to add that they wanted from the initial one I showed them, but overall, they loved it.
coiski: Was it more nerve-wracking or exciting to do the I Promise mural? I mean, this is for LeBron James and a project that obviously means a lot to him.
GV Design: It’s always exciting. That’s what I live for: to create and make art, whether it’s on a t-shirt, an Etch-A-Sketch or a mural painting. Getting to collaborate with my dad and brother and picking out different pictures is always a fun process. When you’re doing it, you’re always like, ‘Oh God, I hope this turns out the way I see it in my head!’ It’s always that thing where each piece goes through that awkward stage where you’re like, ‘I don’t know if it’s going to work and then you keep pushing through and it always turns out great.’
coiski: Aside from painting and creating the mural, what was your takeaway from being inside of the finished product that is the I Promise School?
GV Designs: It was just really cool to see and know that this was all for a good purpose. After the mural was finished and the school was pretty much complete, I got a chance to tour I Promise with my family and see all of the ins and outs of it. It just made me think how awesome it was to be a part of something so legendary. It has the potential to really transform lives and develop contributors – rather than statistics – to society. This was such a big event, so it was so cool to be a part of. When you think about it, he is the greatest basketball player to have ever played and to be a part of something that he is a part of is really cool for me. It’s outside of basketball and has the opportunity to really influence people and make an impact.