Big things are in the works at The Opportunity Center at the Arthur Lesow Community Center.
After receiving a $ 50,000 grant from the La-Z-Boy Foundation, The Opportunity Center has been able to fund many unique artistic projects.
Stephanie Kasprzak, executive director of the Monroe County Opportunity Center, said they conducted a COVID community needs assessment and found social isolation to be a concern. Since finding out about this, MCOP has made it a goal to use the grant to fund the introduction of the arts to youth and the community.
“We have an advisory board here at the community center and it’s a group of community members and neighbors. We were trying to find creative ways to introduce the arts, ”Kasprzak said. “We are really trying to create this artistic synergy around the center.
Part of the funding was used to create a mural in the gymnasium that was painted by Detroit artist Mike Han. On August 25, the mural was unveiled and the courtyard and gymnasium were re-dedicated to Darin Chappell and Darin Hoskins in memory of their commitment to youth and the Center.
The grant is also used to renovate the community garden. Local artist Amy Arnold creates a mosaic sunflower as the centerpiece of the garden. Arnold designed this piece using thousands of pieces of brightly colored tile to create intricate patterns.
“It took a good month to figure out how to do it the right way with the right materials because this product has to be frost resistant and survive our subzero temperatures,” said Arnold. “You can’t just go to Lowes and pick up those kind of tiles… some are from Portugal, China, Japan, Mexico, they are from all over the world and all my colors are from different regions. “
Arnold, who grew up on E. Second St., now teaches art classes to K-6 children at Madison School of the Arts in downtown Toledo. Arnold has a lot of experience in creating mosaics, but said it was his biggest project to date.
“I really feel honored that they asked me to do this, to be a part of this, in this community that I grew up in,” said Arnold. “Long after I’m gone, it will still be there. I feel like it’s just a little gift that I can leave here for everyone to enjoy. God, that feels good too.
Arnold started this project in June and expects another month of work before it’s finished. To start the process, Arnold cut a fiberglass mesh into the shapes she needed for the project. After coating each piece of mesh with a skim coating, she applied the pieces of tile in intricate patterns. She then transferred each piece of fiberglass trellis to the garden site, where over 1,000 pounds of mortar was applied. Now all that’s left to do is the tedious task of removing the dried mortar from the top of the tile pieces.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a real labor of love. It’s the only thing that makes me feel 100%, it’s just my passion, ”said Arnold. “I learned a lot from it. You make mistakes and you know what to improve on.
Next spring, Arnold’s mosaic artwork will be surrounded by planters that will make up The Sharing Garden at The Center. Kasprzak and Arnold hope to use this space to host events such as yoga classes, shows and movie nights. They plan to use the produce from the garden and the trees planted as a way to organize canning classes for community members.
“The name suits it well: The Sharing Garden,” said Arnold. “It’s an environment suitable for all ages, young or old, it doesn’t matter. This place is just the gift that keeps on giving.