Meet Mary Kay Thomas

Mary Kay Thomas has had a lifelong artistic practice, influenced by the women in her family who have been engaged in various artistic disciplines for multiple generations. While she has experience in jewelry and metalworking, printmaking, and drawing, Mary primarily focuses on photography-based oil/acrylic paintings as a means to capture the essence of memories.

Her inspiration stems from the experiences, people, and moments that have contributed to shaping her identity, which she seeks to immortalize in her artwork. Each piece is a gift to future generations and a tribute to her family’s artistic heritage. Mary’s family serves as her muse, and she employs a vibrant and expressive palette to celebrate the rich cultural fabric of Cleveland, deeply rooted in her lineage and connected to the broader history of Africa.

Having survived a ruptured brain aneurysm, Mary holds a deep conviction that while life can be fragile, healing comes through expression and paying homage to what is held dear. Her artistic practice extends beyond the personal realm and finds its place in the community as well. As an art educator, Mary’s work is informed by her interactions with individuals of all ages, exposing her to diverse viewpoints and enriching her creative process.

Mary actively engages with Cleveland’s art communities, such as Zygote Press and CAN Journal, which further strengthen her ties to the cities of Cleveland and East Cleveland. Additionally, she has initiated her own public art project, The U and I of Euclid Ave, a Gateway to East Cleveland, and has collaborated with service-based organizations like Food Strong. Through these endeavors, Mary aims to foster a stronger connection to her community and utilize art as a medium for inspiration, encouragement, empowerment, and healing.

Creative Impact Fund Project: U & I of Euclid Avenue

U and I of Euclid Avenue is an interactive arts education program for Cleveland area youth planned and installed by Mary Kay Thomas. The project is designed to work in partnership with other organizations, specifically existing youth programs to augment engagement with art education. The U and I of Euclid Avenue is a community mural and public art series envisioned by Mary Kay Thomas.

This project will help revitalize and renew energy along Euclid Avenue in East Cleveland. Upon full program completion by 2025, over fifteen murals and public art installations depicting colorful scenery, African American heritage, and historical themes relating to East Cleveland’s past will permanently change the landscape of Euclid Avenue. For this specific grant opportunity, up to 15 Shaw High School students will engage with the mural project.

The end result will be weatherized and installed in one of the three vacant lots across from Shaw High School along Euclid Avenue in East Cleveland. This original mural and art installation will be designed toward promoting hometown pride and East Cleveland history. This community-engaged art project is intentionally designed so that the incremental painting and developing of the work can happen almost anywhere.

Once the piece is completed, it will be weatherized and professionally installed at its permanent location. As this project continues to grow and add finished pieces, Mary Kay Thomas shares the new installations with the greater community via social media and efforts at earned media through press releases and other means. Of course, the residents of East Cleveland will be aware of these new art installations as Euclid Avenue is the busiest transportation corridor in the community. Many of the buildings along Euclid Avenue and in the surrounding neighborhoods are vacant and in a state of significant disrepair. It is widely known that East Cleveland is the lowest income community in the State of Ohio. A heightened emphasis will be on murals placed along the Euclid Avenue corridor that will reinvigorate an area once known as “The Grand Promenade of Cleveland”.