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Published: 8/13/2004

Detention center mural decorates and inspires

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The mural, created with input from youngsters in the Lucas County Youth Treatment Center, reveals the troubled past that the youths have endured - and the hopeful future they crave.

The unveiling at 2:30 p.m. in the center's lobby will culminate a whirlwind of work that has caught the attention of everyone walking through the center.

Dan Pompa, the juvenile court administrator, said yesterday the mural has drawn people like a magnet, inviting interpretation and discussion.

"I think art can move people, and this is such a striking mural," Mr. Pompa said. "It just draws you near it. Most of the things that happen to young people in this building are bad, so it's wonderful to see their talents displayed positively in this way."

The mural displays youths at several stages of life. One shows a young woman with her head hanging down, a gun and dollar bills at her feet.

At the other end of the mural a young woman is collecting bricks to repair a broken bridge.

"There's so much symbolism here," Mr. Pompa said. "These are 15, 16-year-old kids who came up with this. It's really impressive."

Mr. Pompa and Lucas County Juvenile Judge James Ray approached the Art Commission of Greater Toledo about creating a mural on the wall.

Lorna Gonsalves, founder of the Human Values for Transformative Action organization, which sponsors the Community He(Art) Beats program, facilitated meetings between the young artists and youth from the treatment center.

After both groups opened up to each other with an icebreaker, Ms. Gonsalves said the treatment center youngsters talked about their lives, fears, and futures. "The young artists then explored ways to capture the ideas and feelings expressed by the YTC students," she said. "The YTC students offered their own ideas as they viewed the drafts presented by the young artists.

"The young artists took pains to use symbols that were accurate and, for the most part, included the symbols used by the YTC students. They traced a common story, one that started with despair and hopelessness and culminating in a return to their families and the acquisition of a sense of hope and renewal."

Andres Orlowski, an instructor with the Young Artists At Work program, said he was impressed with how much time the artists spent researching the ideas and painting.

He said an 8-by-28-foot mural can take as long as a year to complete.

The young artists completed this project in a month, taking one week to research ideas and three weeks to paint.

"There was a lot of enthusiasm about the project," Mr. Orlowski said. "The students all worked on different sections. They were able to express these ideas to the community."

Nicole K. Brandstrup, an art therapist and activity specialist with the youth treatment center, said the five YTC youths who worked with the artists gained a measure of self-confidence and respect by participating in the program.

"For the first time, they were asked for their input instead of [being told] to be quiet and go away," Ms. Brandstrup said. "There was also a sense of accomplishment and self-worth."

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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