The Arts Commission's Creative Placemaking Program was created in response to Toledo's Strategic Plan for Arts and Culture in 2015. The goal of the program is to assist in equitable leadership development while using arts, culture, and creative process as tools to revitalize Toledo's greater downtown-area neighborhoods. We do this by working with - not for - community residents. By giving local artists the opportunity to grow into dynamic leaders, we're able to offer responsive community- and youth-based programming, support current neighborhood initiatives, and assist in transforming spaces to address blight and public safety. 

The Creative Placemaking Team's work is currently focused in seven core neighborhoods surrounding downtown Toledo, including Vistula, Lagrange Street/ONE Village, Old West End, Junction, Historic Old South End, East Toledo, and Uptown. Collaborative work in each neighborhood is continuous and ongoing. Below is a snap shot of some of our current projects. 

Krysta Sa engages North Toledo youth in Storytelling Exercises

Sharing the Art of Storytelling

Youth in North Toledo have been participating in a multi-week program at the Ohio Theatre and Events Center that is focused on the Art of Storytelling. Under the guidance of local artists Krysta Sa and Yusuf Lateef, the Storytelling program engages youth through a variety of media to breakdown the traditions, importance, and evolving nature of storytelling. This exercise in creative expression is designed to inspire youth to think about the people and places around them and to capture those narratives in new ways. The program will culminate with a public event in early summer 2018. 

Ode to the Zip Code

For the third year, The Arts Commission partnered with the Fair Housing Center, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, and Toledo City Paper to present the annual Ode to the Zip Code competition on 419 Day (April 19). This fun creative writing exercise offers residents from around the greater Toledo area an opportunity for thoughtful reflection about their homes and spaces. As the saying goes, your zip code is not just an address it's an identity and there are so many social determinants tied to where people from. This year's competition - inspired by the O, Miami Poetry Festival - saw 250 poems submitted by 155 poets. This was the first year Ode to the Zip Code featured a Youth category. Three winners were selected in each category and received cash prizes. 

Students at TPS' Martin Luther King, Jr Academy pose with a mural commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King.

Honoring Dr. King

In April, Creative Placemaking team member David Ross worked with students from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy for Boys to create a mural commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Titled "We are here because of You", this mural was the product of a partnership between the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, Toledo Public Schools, and The Arts Commission and will be on view at the Mott Branch through July 2018. 

Students in Vistula studied with Toledo Bikes! to create fun and functional sculpture for the neighborhood

Functional Sculptures and Bike Racks destined for Vistula

In February and March, our Creative Placemaking team partnered with Toledo Bikes! and Salem Lutheran Church to invite youth from the Vistula neighborhood to join a two-day workshop to design and build sculptural bike racks for installation throughout their neighborhood. Young people ranging in ages from 8-19 participated under the direction of local artists Eric Thomas and Erin Garber-Pearson, who helped turn the youth's ideas into pieces of art by welding and cutting salvaged bike parts on the spot. The bike racks will be installed in the neighborhood in the spring and will help bring awareness to the James Colbert Memorial Pocket Park near Salem Lutheran. The community-planned park pays tribute to neighborhood volunteer and activist, James Colbert, who passed away in 2017. 

Young people learn the art of drawing faces Creative Drop in Day

Creative Drop In Day at Local Libraries

Teens and tweens were invited to participate in the first-ever Creative Drop In Day. Held on Presidents Day in February while students had the Monday off from school, the day invited youth to their local neighborhood branch library to take part in interactive arts experiences, meet and work with local artists, and learn about and apply for The Arts Commission's Young Artist at Work (YAAW) program with assistance from Arts Commission staff. Additionally, performance artists Tracey the Rare Breed, Rocky Duh, and T traveled to each branch and performed songs and dances that addressed bullying and encouraged creative expression in favor of violence and bad choices. This experience was offered at Kent, LaGrange, Locke, Main and Mott branch libraries. This was a pilot project designed to inspire more collaboration between Creative Placemaking, YAAW and Youth Services, and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library to address issues around youth arts engagement and education highlighted in the Strategic Plan for Arts and Culture. 

East Toledo residents meet to discuss neighborhood identity

East Side Pride

In November, The Arts Commission began the Creative East Toledo project in partnership with the East Toledo Family Center, One Voice for East Toledo, and the Toledo Design Center. The project is led by community conversations involving artists, residents, and stakeholders to inform how arts and culture can impact revitalization of the neighborhood’s Main Street Business District and help reconnect the neighborhood to the riverfront and planned development initiatives coming in the near future. This project closes out a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant. Work will continue in East Toledo throughout 2018. 

Mud City Dance Off took place at Ohio Theatre November 19

Murals, Dance & Peace

As winter rapidly sets in The Arts Commission’s Creative Placemaking Team is wrapping up this season’s community engagement initiatives and is already beginning to plan for spring. Several community mural projects were completed recently, including creative board ups in OWENI by artists Natalie Lanese and Merce Culp, as were two neighborhood murals, one in the Old West End and one in Vistula, painted by CP Teammate, David Ross. The later murals were aimed at addressing an increase of violence in Toledo’s central city neighborhoods. Both involved area youth in their creation, along with conversations about choosing art and expression to solve community and interpersonal issues. 

These mural efforts were coupled with hosting the Mud City Dance Off at the Ohio Theatre on November 19th. Hosted in conjunction with the City of Toledo Youth Commission, the event focused heavily on the City’s interactive Youth Engagement map and, of course, a community-wide dance contest. Local group Royalty Dance Team took home the grand prize. 

Students at TPS' Old West End Academy addressed gun violence in our community

Students Stand Against Gun Violence at TPS

In early November, on the heels of anti-bullying month, Toledo Public Schools' Old West End Academy hosted the City of Toledo's Youth Commission, in partnership with The Arts Commission's Creative Placemaking Team to stand against gun violence in our community. The day included guest speakers affected by gun violence and local artists assisting in coordinating a heart-shaped photo op with Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson and other community leaders. 

Students and neighbors enjoy art & other activities at the Vistula Fall Festival at Chase Elementary School

Halloween Happenings in North Toledo

Halloween is a hot time for the Creative Placemaking Team, who helped host back-to-back events in North Toledo in late October. The Vistula Fall Festival at Toledo Public Schools’ Chase STEM Academy on October 21 was a fun and exciting success. Lead by Owens Corning, The Arts Commission’s team brought neighborhood art, artists, and music to make the event fun and lively, while engaging youth in creative expression about their community. The same was true at the Zablocki Center in the Lagrange Polish Village, where The Arts Commission partnered with residents to host a safe Trick-or-Treat Party featuring music, live dance, and much more on Halloween Night. This was the second year that The Arts Commission was involved in both events. 

Neighborhood kids and artists paint the backdrop for the Walnut Carryout Mural

North Toledo and TPS Projects blend Expression and Service

Earlier in October, Creative Placemaking Project Manager Dave Ross organized a mural painting event to address a blighted lot next to the Walnut Carryout Store adjacent to the Greenbelt Place Apartments in North Toledo's Vistula neighborhood.  Partnered with Buckeye Health and Renewed Minds, the event focused on community expression and mental health. Youth and families were invited out for food, art and music, and the opportunity to learn about resources and services available in the community. With kids from the community painting the backdrop, the new mural will be finished my Mr. Ross and other neighborhood artists and installed on the outside wall of the store. 

Art & Health Mural is complete at the Walnut Carryout. It reads, "It's OK to cry when your tears are made of gold."

Junction Park

In 2016, residents in Toledo's Junction neighborhood identified a blighted piece of public land as a site in need of enhancement. Junction Park is situated in the heart of the neighborhood at the intersection of Junction St. and Nebraska Ave., an area that has seen recent investment in the form of murals, urban greening and rain gardens, and urban agriculture. 

Through a partnership with the Junction Coalition, the City of Toledo, University of Toledo, Frederick Douglass Community Center, and The Arts Commission, and with funding from Toledo LISC, Kresge, and Ohio Arts Council, neighborhood youth, residents, and artists are currently at work to redesign, reimagine, and re-landscape the vacant lot for public use. In 2017, the property was officially designated a City of Toledo public park. Space design and contracts will take place throughout the fall and winter with significant enhancements planned for 2018. 

Junction Neighborhood residents discuss future planning for Junction Park

Art Tatum House Mural Project

Throughout 2017, The Arts Commission and neighborhood partners at Jones Leadership Academy (Toledo Public Schools), YMCA, Junction Coalition, Frederick Douglass Community Center, and The Tabernacle, as well as lead artist Maura Amato, with assistants Victoria Stegner, Dave Ross, and Frank Wright to celebrate the legacy of jazz legend Art Tatum and the installation of the Tatum House Mural Project. Youth at Jones Leadership Academy worked with the arts to inform the design and complete the murals. 

A community celebration was held on August 24th to celebrate the partnership and to help draw attention to needed development of the historic home. The event featured a press conference, local barbecue from Ann's BBQ, interactive art projects, and live music from the Tyler Fowler Trio, marking the first time live jazz has been performed at the historic site. In addition, a portrait of Art Tatum was painted live on site during the celebration. To help build a visual and aesthetic connection between the home and the nearby Art Tatum Resource Center at the Kent Branch Library (a few miles away on Collingwood Blvd), the portrait was framed and gifted to the Library. 

The project is part of an ongoing collaboration with Jones Leadership Academy and the YMCA's Student Leaders after school program, in which several blighted homes in the neighborhood have benefited from creative board ups painted by the youth.  

The Art Tatum House Project compliments the 2016 Jon Hendricks Mural Project at the Frederick Douglass Community Center in celebrating the historic African-American neighborhood's significant jazz heritage in Toledo. 

Art Tatum House murals were designed and completed by area youth and local artists

Old West End Neighborhood Initiatives (OWENI)

Through investment from the Toledo Community Foundation and support from the LISC Americorps program, The Arts Commission has partnered with the OWENI community residents organization for the past three years to address issues of blight and community engagement in the disinvested northern tip of Toledo's historic Old West End Neighborhood. 

Through resident-driven lawn mowing, house painting, urban agriculture, and art programs, the OWENI work strives to engage residents in revitalizing the neighborhood while increasing support to connect them to jobs and opportunities for home ownership. 

OWENI's work is multi-faceted and ongoing, but continues to build on the significance of a reclaimed vacant lot at the corner of Detroit and Central, now know as the OWENI Garden, and innovative mural projects and community events that address vacant and blighted properties throughout the neighborhood, including murals by Art Corner Toledo and resident artist Yusuf Lateef, and the How to Board Up a House series by resident artist Natalie Lanese.

Artist Natalie Lanese and resident Jack Glass install How to Board Up a House II

Jon Hendricks Mural + Performance

The Creative Placemaking Team celebrated Toledo native and international jazz music legend, Jon Hendricks at the Doug on November 6th with a mural unveiling and live jazz performance. Known for inventing the 'vocalese' singing style during the bebop era, and dubbed the "Poet Laureate of Jazz," Hendricks has gone on to be a heralded name and voice the world over. The new mural by artists Dominick Lloyd, Victoria Stegner, Jason Vahle, and David Ross commemorates Hendricks' influence in Toledo as well the Junction neighborhood's legacy in jazz and the home of African American culture in Toledo. The evening celebration included performances by the University of Toledo Vocalstra, poetry readings by Huntor Prey and LJ Hamilton, and additional contributions by community members. 

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