‘Motorcyclists of the Seventies’ debuts at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum

This is a press release issued by the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum

The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum has a new addition to its permanent motorcycle exhibit: 13 life-sized paintings titled Motorcyclists of the Seventies. The artwork depicts the many ways that motorcyclists use their rides, from racing, pleasure riding and social clubs to fleeing a war-torn country.

The 5’ x 7’ paintings were completed between 1973 and 1981 by the late Shirley Aley Campbell, a 1947 graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art and 1986 Cleveland Arts Prize recipient. Local businessman Joseph Erdelac commissioned Campbell to do the paintings after seeing one of her paintings in the May Show at the Cleveland Museum of Art in the early 1970s.

In a 2017 interview with Freshwater Cleveland, Campbell recalled of Erdelac, “He loved art. That was his passion. He loved automobiles… He had never been on a motorcycle. He said it’s a thing of the future. He thought for certain we would all be driving motorcycles someday.

“He said to me you have got to get everything perfect. The wheels have to be perfect, because they’ll be examined. So I had to go look at all these spokes, sketch them, make sure that they were right. He had this group of engineers examine them, and I stood in the background thinking I hope to god I got it right … I spent many evenings going into tire shops, sketching them.”

The paintings were “rescued” by 78th Street Studios owner Daniel Bush in about 2012, when the works were scheduled to be sold at auction.

“I’d admired and collected Shirley’s work for some time. My wife and I had become close with Shirley and knew this was an important collection,” said Bush. “When they went to auction, I was afraid that they might be split up and sold individually, so I bought them for the 78th Street Studios’ permanent collection.”

While the paintings have been displayed at 78th Street Studios, they’ve been in storage for many years. “I’m excited to have the paintings in the public eye to enjoy again,” said Bush. “And to have them at the Crawford Museum adjacent to their permanent motorcycle exhibit is amazing. I think Shirley would have loved it.”

Dennis Barrie, Director of Experience Design for the Western Reserve Historical Society, is equally excited to have Campbell’s paintings on display. “I knew Joe Erdelac, and he was passionate about

cars and art. It’s fortunate that Joe commissioned Shirley to do the paintings because she brought such a unique style to the project.”

“These paintings were commissioned 50 years ago, and the Crawford Museum can trace its roots to 80 years ago, when Fred Crawford opened one of America’s first automotive museums,” said Bradley Brownell, Director of the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum. “We’re adding more motorcycles to the Crawford to help tell the story of transportation throughout the last century. Shirley Campbell’s paintings help tell that story, and they’re an outstanding addition to our 80th anniversary exhibits and activities.”

Motorcyclists of the Seventies will be on display throughout 2023 in the Crawford’s 26,000-square-foot lower gallery, which received aesthetic and infrastructure upgrades in 2022, thanks to generous funding from the State of Ohio. The lower gallery is now home to approximately 70 cars and motorcycles, as well as the historic “Street of Shops,” a recreation of an 1890s main street that was built in 1944. The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum is located at the Cleveland History Center at 10825 East Boulevard, Cleveland, OH 44106. For more information on the paintings and the Crawford 80th anniversary, visit http://thecrawfordmuseum.org, or follow the Crawford on Instagram at @CrawfordMuseum

Header photo caption: The Flying Angel, Oil on Canvas, Shirley Campbell, 1974. Debbie Lawler, aka “The Flying Angel,” was the most prolific female motorcycle jumper of the 1970s. On February 3, 1974, in front of a national TV audience, Lawler bettered Evel Knievel’s indoor record with a 101-foot leap over 16 Chevy pickup trucks. Image courtesy of the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum


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