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EAST, SOUTH TOLEDO

Students help paint murals to represent areas

Class looks to showcase identity of community

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    Brittney Baldwin, a sophomore art education major at Bowling Green State University, paints her section of a mural at East Broadway and Vinal Street in East Toledo.

    THE BLADE/KURT STEISS
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    Artist David Cuatlacuatl paints a figure representing the Immaculate Conception on a mural being painted on a wall of the Immaculate Conception Church outreach center in South Toledo. The mural, designed by Mr. Cuatlacuatl, also features likenesses of Vicente Guerrero and Miguel Hidalgo, key figures in the Mexican War of Independence. It is being painted by BGSU students under Mr. Cuatlacuatl’s direction.

    THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
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    The Anthony Wayne Bridge is depicted on the mural at East Broadway and Vinal Street.

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When Jacob Maniak, a senior at Bowling Green State University, was deciding on the 4,000-level course he’d take to fulfill his graduation requirements, he found himself attracted to senior lecturer Gordon Ricketts’ special topics class in mural painting.

The two-week workshop, already in its eighth year, has 15 BGSU students paint murals in two Toledo neighborhoods.

“I really like the idea of it,” Mr. Maniak said. “I’m from Toledo and I like giving back to my community too. So it was a double-plus.”

Even though the college students have taken a leading role painting the mural on East Broadway Street in East Toledo, they designed it on the basis of local input from community and family center leaders.

High school students and neighborhood children can also come by and contributed.

“We understand how much they love this place, and we love that we get to help out,” said Jack Rollin, a BGSU senior.

The painting reflects the identity of Toledo’s East Side. The redone Anthony Wayne Bridge arcs across the mural, landing in a nickel that commemorates the last two digits of the East Side’s ZIP code, “05,” Mr. Ricketts said. Butterflies emerge from their cocoons, a metaphor for East Toledo’s state of perpetual transition.

Beside the main mural is a smaller one depicting a “playful cartoon” of a dog, three mice, and a cat for passing school children, he added.

The class’s community engagement isn’t limited to the east side. Down in the predominantly Latino area of the Old South End, BGSU students also assist Toledo-based artist David Cuatlacuatl with a painting he designed. Like the one in East Toledo, Mr. Cuatlacuatl’s mural captures the cultural identity of the surrounding community, but also integrates an international perspective reflective of his Mexican upbringing.

“The idea of the mural was to incorporate different aspects of this part of Toledo, the Old South End, and also talk about general history in Mexico,” said Mr. Cuatlacuatl.

One of the central figures of the mural, Miguel Hidalgo, embodies this synthesis: He is historically significant as the leader of the Mexican War of Independence, while his Catholic priesthood links him to the neighborhood’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Pineapples and bananas rain from above, a tribute to the Immaculate Conception Church Outreach Center, which aside from hosting Mr. Cuatlacuatl’s mural also functions as a food bank.

Mr. Cuatlacuatl says the words of support frequently offered by local passersby have been “awesome.” Mr. Maniak shared the sentiment.

“One of the first day that we were painting, just about every car that came by was honking and people were slowing down telling us that we were doing a great job,” Mr. Maniak said. “It was really cool to feel like we were really doing something for the community.”

Contact Ahmed Elbenni at: aelbenni@theblade.com or 419-724-6194.

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