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Gladden Community House

Franklinton is changing. You can’t stand on Town Street east of 315 and throw a rock without hitting a microbrewery, art gallery, or a food truck. However, there is a side of Franklinton, west of 315, that many people don’t see. No hip, new eateries grace the corners. Instead, poverty and crime run rampant and [...]
Aaron Wetli

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Franklinton is changing. You can’t stand on Town Street east of 315 and throw a rock without hitting a microbrewery, art gallery, or a food truck. However, there is a side of Franklinton, west of 315, that many people don’t see. No hip, new eateries grace the corners. Instead, poverty and crime run rampant and children go to bed hungry—all against the backdrop of rising rents that are driving multigenerational families out of their homes. This is where the Gladden Community House, a resource center that has been serving Franklinton since Teddy Roosevelt was president, steps in and makes a difference.

The Gladden Community House was opened in 1905 by Dr. Washington Gladden, and has been a steadfast and consistent resource hub for the residents of Franklinton ever since. During the Great Depression, GCH was a district office for New Deal Programs and during World War II, GCH offered day care for children of battlefield soldiers and factory mothers.

In the years since, GCH has become a beacon of light that has been serving central Ohio’s oldest community with pride.
A preschool program takes care of 60 children between the ages of 3 and 5, and a food pantry serves over 1,000 families each month. Afterschool programs provide meals, snacks and educational services. GCH also offers a senior outreach program and a team sports program that provides structure and purpose to 500 youths that help to meet the needs of both young and old.

“We are doing our best to serve and revitalize the community as opposed to gentrifying the community,” explained Joy Chivers, the CEO of Gladden House. “We use our programs as well as trying to work with area landlords to help prevent homelessness. Preventing homelessness is our number one priority.”

“We are doing our best to serve and revitalize the community as opposed to gentrifying the community,”

And that seems to be the rub—revitalization, the rebuilding of a community, as opposed to gentrification, a type of development in which property values become inflated through investing in low-cost properties. In fact, rents on the Columbus’s west side were stable for many years, but have increased as much as 50% in the past five years. The wages that people in West Franklinton— and all around the country—typically earn haven’t come close to keeping up with that rate, so long term residents have no other alternative than to leave the community that they have known their whole lives.

Kevin Ballard, GCH Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, says, “Our families are deeply rooted here. They have lived and worked in this community for generations. We want to help keep them here and as the neighborhood changes, help them find employment opportunities.”

As West Franklinton struggles to keep long-term families together, the neighborhood struggles with the same issues that other urban Appalachian communities struggle with: opioid addiction, crime, prostitution, and gun violence.

These factors make the GCH After School Program more important than ever. According to Lori Barton, who teaches at Avondale Elementary (the elementary school directly across the street from GCH) during the day and tutors at GCH in the evening, “Gladden is a place for students to go after school, get a hot meal and help with homework as well as much needed one-on-one attention from positive adult role models who care deeply about them.”

For many students across the city, positive adult role models are the norm, but for the students at GCH, positive role models can be the exception to the rule. Joseph Belmonte, who owns and operates his own home improvement and remodeling business and who also moonlights as a local celebrity auctioneer, grew up in Franklinton and was often at, as he affectionately and colloquially calls it, “Gladdens.”
Belmonte reports, “Growing up, I would go to Gladdens to play basketball and baseball and during the summer took advantage of the boxed lunch program. For myself and my family Gladdens was a way to keep up with community issues and to get to know your neighbors. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Gladdens.”

So, what can you do to help GCH keep representing and serving Franklinton? For starters, according to Chivers, you can donate your “time, talents, or treasures.” GCH is always looking for volunteers to help with serving food and cleaning up after meals. Funds are needed to purchase materials for tutoring and sports programs. Your experience not only has a positive impact on the Franklinton community, but
gets you “out of your bubble” as well. And who couldn’t use that once in a while?

“Come here to meet the people and see more than just the bad parts. We have a great community and great people,” said Chivers.

To donate your time, talents, or treasure, visit gladdenhouse.org.

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Arts & Culture

Q&A: Columbus artist Mandi Caskey wants to bring us together

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Photo by John Thorne

Context plays one of the most important roles in our understanding of art. For instance, if you saw the unveiling of Columbus artist Mandi Caskey’s latest masterpiece, you’d probably equate the message to the daily protests that have been held in Columbus over the past week.

When the mural on the abandoned highway overpass near Scioto Audubon Metro Park was started, that wasn’t the case. It was a message meant to distract us from the hardships that COVID-19 flooded our lives with.

Video by John Thorne

 

Now, to some people, the mural’s message, which stretches over 400 feet, takes on a new meaning.

(614) caught up with Caskey to find out the inspiration behind the piece and how she feels about subjectiveness in art. Check out a brief Q&A below and some incredible aerial footage from photographer/videographer John Thorne.

Obviously a project this big can't be tackled alone. Who all helped bring this idea to life?

This project was originally an idea that I wanted to do secretly aka illegally, but my business partner came up with a better idea. And that was to get other artists involved and pay them during the stay-at-home order. 

The whole time we honestly didn’t think we would be able to get approval on all the permits we needed, but thanks to Lori Baudro, over a month and a half we got permission and permits from the Department of Public Service, ODOT, and the Arts Commission. We were honestly in shock. 

When it came down to businesses, we started working with Tim Cousino, who’s an architect. He figured out all the measurements we needed. From there we had to get our hands dirty and clean the surface of the bridge, which had five 9-foot around dirt piles that we shoveled off.

Once the surface was prepped and ready to go, we had Jacob Bench come out. He’s an engineer that helped translate all of Tim’s measurements. The project would have been 10 times more difficult without him! 

Through the process, we slowly grew the team. David Greenzalis is my partner in crime so he was there from the beginning. Katie Bench, Hawke Trackler, Lisa Celesta, Ariel Peguero, Chris Blain, Patrick Cardwell, Eric Terranova, Sam Rex, and Justin Paul, who has taken the amazing footage everyone has seen. All of these people are passionate, hardworking, and just awesome to be around. I was excited when we all came together. 

From what I've read, it seems like your idea for this was green-lit very quickly and easily. Why do you think people responded to the idea in your message so strongly?

There’s a combination of reasons everything moved so quickly (in terms of government) ha-ha. Part of it was the fact people were at home; they wanted something to get excited about. This was a project people could easily get geeked out about: 400-foot long mural on the bridge that has been abandoned for 10-plus years! I think they just wanted to see if it could happen. Also, the bridge will be torn down in a year or so; this means the mural doesn’t need any upkeep. The fact it was temporary made it an easy Yes for people. Still in shock this all worked out so smoothly.

What roadblocks did you run into during the process of creating the mural?

A big roadblock that no one could help was the weather. Man, was it a beast to work with. When we first started prepping the bridge, it was raining and around 40 degrees outside. We were in coats with gloves for half of the project. Then it rains for almost two weeks straight, which pushed back any painting we wanted to do. The days when we did get to work was easily 95 and scorching! We were all burnt to a crisp! It was stressful but fun working with this crazy Ohio weather.

How do you think art helps people during times of unrest and uncertainty like we're in right now?

Art is truly the bridge between thoughtful conversations and action (pun intended). Public art specifically can be the most impactful since it’s meant to be viewed by everyone. There’s no fee to look at it, no dress code, no need for art knowledge, just acceptance and appreciation are necessary. 

Art in general helps people look outside of their own personal bubbles. We can see into someone else’s mind for a split second and become apart of the art and experience. I think we forget that art is a living representation of us, but I hope through this unsure time we start to remember why humans started painting in the first place.

I think there's something to be said about how the mural was made on the basis of the coronavirus pandemic and bringing people together and now it can take on the meaning of the social change that needs to happen in this world. What are your thoughts on that?

Originally the mural was made because I personally felt alone and knew so many other people were feeling the same way during the stay-at-home orders. Once the project actually started to become a real thing, “we are stronger together” became more about the people who were working together; so many different types of backgrounds and artists. People from different periods in my personal life, all coming together and making something epic. 

When it was all said and done, the words are made for everyone, from any background, race, gender, far and wide. It’s a message that I hope makes people know I’m with them, that no matter the craziness in the world, someone’s got your back.

 

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Arts & Culture

Columbus artists employed to paint boarded-up downtown for #ArtUnitesCbus

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The Columbus arts community has really stepped up to the plate when it comes to trying to unite and inspire during tumultuous times. One of the latest efforts from visual artists around the area includes CAPA and Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) latest partnership, #ArtUnitesCbus.

“When I do these projects, I try to remember to have fun and enjoy my loved ones. Even though it’s a bad time, there’s always room for love,” visual artist Hakim Callwood said.

The creative venture will exist to employ around 20 Columbus visuals artists. Their job will be to paint murals in place of the broken windows at the Ohio Theater and GCAC office. 

The art installations are expected to be finished by the end of the week.

“#ArtUnitesCbus is just one small way the arts community is trying to help. These murals are not the answer, simply a message that we ALL can, and must, help heal our community,” said Tom Katzenmeyer, President & CEO of the Arts Council, in a GCAC press release on Monday

Now more than ever is an extremely important time to give our community artists a platform. 

“The Columbus artists are more of a family than I think people understand,” Callwood said. “Whether we all talking every day or hanging out together; it doesn’t matter. When there’s times of need we always use our talents to support.” 

Check out the progress of their murals below.

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Community

Music industry designates Blackout Tuesday as time of pause

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To honor the memory of George Floyd and fix the injustices surrounding his death, the music industry has designated Tuesday as a time of pause to collaborate on ways to better support the black community.

Businesses and organizations within the music industry have been asked to pause regular work to reflect on how they can better serve the black community, according to a report from Variety. In general, businesses and organizations across the board have been asked to use Tuesday as a way to focus on the effort.

The message that circulated around social media quickly on Monday stated that “Blackout Tuesday” is being used as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”

The movement has been gaining momentum under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. Major labels such as Capitol Music Group and Warner Music Group announced their alignment with the “Blackout Tuesday” cause. 

Companies have also announced practices such as pausing social media activity throughout the whole day.

Spotify and ViacomCBS have already announced an 8 minute and 46-second moment of silence for Tuesday. The time reflects how long the Minnesota police officer dug his knee into the kneck of Floyd.

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