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Summer Art Mural project goes in new directions

By La Prensa Staff

A Bowling Green State University summer art class charted a new course this month, as 20 students and their art instructors painted four murals across Northwest Ohio. The group has traditionally painted colorful murals on the sides of buildings in the Broadway Corridor.

But this year, a 180-foot mural now decorates the interior walls of an outdoor playground at Lucas County Children Services in downtown Toledo, a wall at the East Toledo Family Center, as well as a Frida Kahlo portrait on the side of a sub shop in the Old South End and a wraparound mural at a soon-to-open brewpub in Bowling Green.

The BGSU art class is the same group responsible for many of the colorful art murals displayed along Broadway in Toledo’s Old South End neighborhood over the past decade or so. Each summer, the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center staff scout possible locations in consultation with the BGSU Art Department. The class is taught each year by art lecturer Gordon Ricketts.

For example, SQACC art director Lorenzo Flores linked up the BGSU art class with children services, which was seeking to brighten an outdoor playground hidden from the rest of downtown Toledo by long concrete walls. The agency is looking to turn a rather drab area of concrete, bars, and gates into a more colorful, family-friendly place for kids to interact with their birth parents during supervised visits as part of the reunification process.

Few members of the public will get to see the colorful mural, because it’s painted on the outdoor playground’s inner walls. But it’s meant to brighten the days of foster children and kids staying with relatives. 12 percent of those kids currently in LCCS care or custody are Latino children.

“When you first come back here, this looks institutional, prison-like. With all the stress these kids are under, we just wanted to brighten it up,” explained Ricketts. “The theme we chose is   non-controversial, there’s no politics in it. What we’re hoping is that it will enhance the area, and offer the theme of hope. That’s probably the biggest one.”

Well-known Toledo muralist Yusuf Lateef led the LCCS project. Over a two-week period, the BGSU students were split between the four sites, working in teams as each mural progressed through its own phase. In the case of the LCCS mural, agency leaders held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to publicly thank the students who designed and painted the series of scenes, which include kites flying, a waterside dock, a giant butterfly, a slide and swing, trees, all tied together by someone blowing bubbles which float the entire length of the mural.

“It’s really neat how it all comes together, because it’s not exactly what you think it’s going to be but it turns out even better—because there’s so much creativity being bounced back and forth and ideas,” said Bekah Shininger, a BGSU junior from Tipp City, a Dayton suburb.

The art mural represents the first phase of what is anticipated to be a comprehensive playground renovation project over the next year, using community in-kind contributions, grants, and other donations to replace the 25-year-old play equipment that has outlived its useful life. The goal is to install an all-inclusive, accessible playground with a bonded rubber surface.

The symbolism of some of the art murals sends a powerful message. As Latinos now drive down the Broadway Corridor, they’ll see portraits of two of the most powerful figures in their history: labor activist César Chávez on one side of the street, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo on the other side, adorning a wall at the Original Sub Shop.

One of the BGSU art students who participated in that art mural is a former dance student with Ballet Folklorico Imagenes Mexicanas and had an opportunity to give back to his community.

Some of the other murals serve a community purpose. According to Ricketts, the wall that was painted at the East Toledo Family Center was being “tagged” with graffiti on a consistent basis. The hope is the art mural would put a permanent stop to the vandalism, as well as brighten the grounds for all of the clients and families who receive services there.

SQACC received a fifth mural on its back wall, which gives the Old South End two new murals, despite the removal of the original art mural painted there by BGSU students in 2011. An I-75 bridge reconstruction project necessitated the demolition of a concrete pier underneath a span crossing Broadway Ave. A second mural will be lost when an ODOT contractor rebuilds the other side of the bridge.

E.S. Wagner, the Toledo-based I-75 contractor, contributed $24,000 to SQACC for mural projects over the next three years. Those funds were used to pay for the Frida Kahlo mural. According to Flores, the donated funds also will be used for new murals over the next two summers and to replace the ones removed by I-75 reconstruction.

Those underpass murals included work by well-known San Diego muralist Mario Torero, which depicted common Latino neighborhood themes, along with portraits of Chávez, Ms. Kahlo, and local activists Aurora González and Sofia Quintero, among other themes. Many credit those popular murals with fueling the remainder of the art murals along the Broadway Corridor over the next decade or so.



Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/06/19 13:54:50 -0700.




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