What used to be a plain, beige wall above a fireplace at the Birmingham branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library in East Toledo has been transformed into a brightly colored painting symbolizing the Hungarian immigrant experience in Toledo.
The painting, titled "Freedom Hope Opportunity," was unveiled to the public at a ceremony last week at the library in the historic Hungarian community.
The oil painting, bursting with symbolism and some of Hungary's history, took local artist Robert Garcia about six months to paint.
"I feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity," said Mr. Garcia, a retired Toledo Public Schools high school art teacher. "In researching the Hungarian history, I learned so much and gained a respect for their culture."
He said the painting reads right to left - instead of the traditional left to right - and is centered around a Hungarian immigrant family. It begins with a lion facing arrows in the bottom, right-hand corner that is a symbol of oppression or conflict the Hungarians faced before immigrating to the United States.
The brooding writer next to the lion is contemplating what course to take next while the eagles soaring upwards in the painting represent the concept of pursuing freedom, Mr. Garcia said.
Left of the family are a horse and an automobile representing the passage of time located next to several East Toledo landmarks, like St. Stephen's Church, and opportunities for a livelihood in Toledo. A transparent figure representing the spirit of celebration ends the story at the top left corner of the painting.
"When you view Robert Garcia's painting closely, you can trace the transition of an oppressed but proud people," said Margaret Danziger, deputy director of the Lucas County library system, in a prepared speech at the painting's unveiling.
"These are not pitiful, lost souls. These are people of character, determined to search for freedom, hope, and opportunity. This painting tells a positive, inspirational story to everyone, regardless of our different histories."
The painting is a gift from Toledo residents Richard and Barbara Perry, who paid for the artist's time and other expenses.
Mr. Perry said he's been friends with many Hungarians and has come to respect and admire their courage; so, he wanted to find some way to represent their spirit.
"I saw this space over this fireplace and said, 'This looks like a good place to represent that,'●" Mr. Perry said, adding that he then worked with the library staff in order to make it happen.
But he was adamant on not disclosing how much money he and his wife spent commissioning the painting.
"We will never tell," Mr. Perry said. "There's not enough money to put into a memorial that will truly represent the contributions of the people to this community. In some sense, it's priceless."
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