Cleveland is an amateur artist who lives in Lebanon with his wife, Nancy. His daughter and son-in-law’s garden was the inspiration for the piece Cleveland submitted.
Their grandchildren planted sunflower seeds that their grandson’s girlfriend had brought them. With this the “Year of the Sunflower” at the fair, Cleveland decided to take a picture of the garden, and the piece he submitted was the result. The original is on display in the fine arts area at the fair.
Cleveland is a retired human resources manager, and he and his wife moved to Wilson County 24 years ago. They have two children – their son, Tim, and wife, Jan, and children and their daughter, Gwen, and husband, Jim, and children – who also live in Wilson County. The Clevelands have been married 53 years.
Cleveland said he can’t remember a time before drawing. At 9 years old, he was drawing Disney characters off of bread wrappers that featured a different character on each loaf. At 13, he entered a Veteran’s Day art contest in his hometown of Princeton, Ind., where he placed second.
His only art instruction was his four years of high school art classes. In high school, he had two passions, football and drawing. He went on after high school to play football at the Citadel military academy in Charleston, S.C. There was no time for art at that time, but four years later during his military service, he was painting again. At this time, he met Nancy while serving at Fort Campbell. She remembered thinking what an interesting guy he was as a football player, soldier and artist.
During the years, he has been involved in art guilds in Nashville and Columbia and exhibited art in the Parthenon, Centennial Park, Natchez Trace, Audubon Park in Kentucky, among many others. He painted several pre-Civil War homes and historical churches while living in Columbia.
Since moving to Lebanon, he’s appreciated the Wilson County Fair’s interest in art and the opportunity it gives for artists to display their art and compete. He said it is the best-organized art show he has seen. He has won several blue ribbons through the years, but he said the honor of winning the commemorative print contest was a wonderful surprise to him. He continues to fill his home and the homes of his children with art. And, since he said his home looks like an art gallery, he is anxious for some of his eight grandchildren to have homes of their own and places for more of his art.
The Wilson County Fair has a commemorative print each year that features a different Wilson County artist. The original is on display during the fair, and the artist comes in the first night of the fair to sign and number the first 100 prints.
Once they are gone, they are gone forever. All proceeds from the sale of the prints go to art scholarships for Wilson County youth who may need help taking art classes and/or who are art majors in college.
Committee chairman Clyde Rountree said some 2017 signed prints are still available, and all prints from 2009-2016, signed and unsigned, are still available. All of the prints are on display in the main hall of the Expo Center during the fair are available to buy at the fine arts table in the Expo Center, at the General Store in Fiddlers Grove and at the Fair Board office. Unsigned prints are $15, and signed prints are $25.