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Mural artwork brightening up 4 different spots across Northwest Ohio

Lucas County Children Services now has a more colorful and inviting area for children to reunite with their estranged parents.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Bowling Green students donating their time and talent to help children in our community through art.

Brianna Coolman is an Art Education Graduate Student at BGSU who also teaches art to Holgate Local students. She is excited to learn more about murals and share that knowledge with her students, especially when it involves such a worthy organization.

"This really speaks to me about you know, giving back to your community, well and it's part of our, could be a choice for part of our program, but this is one that would be really great to work on," Coolman said.

Lucas County Children Services (LCCS) is revamping their outdoor play space where families who are separated spend time together.

Their building stands at the corner of Adams and Erie streets in downtown Toledo in a building that once housed a bank.

The back lot was never meant for use by children, but now, this colorful artwork is the first step in revamping it as more comfortable place for kids.

"Children who have been removed from their parents for one reason or another visit here. We have about 500 people, parents and children, who come through the doors to visit in this department. We have individual rooms inside, but during the summer months when it's nice, we can have them come outside. I think it's going to bring some beauty to their lives, hopefully, and you never know what's it's going to inspire in some of the kids here," Linda Rosenbloom, Supervisor of Visitation and Transportation for Lucas County Children Services said,.

The number of family visits at the center has increased dramatically and is up 15 percent from 2016 to 2018, as the number of children in agency care and custody has spiked due to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

A more flexible outdoor space can help meet those increasing needs for vital visits between children and parents.

 "Certainly murals and public art have a way to transform neighborhoods and environments, and they're for everybody to see, but we've had great stories of influences on neighborhoods. You know, when we come in and paint murals, the graffiti stops," Gordon Ricketts, Senior Lecturer for the BGSU School of Art.

Ricketts is leading Bowling Green State University art students over the course of a two-week summer course, with help from Toledo artist Yusuf Lateef and Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center (SQACC) art director Lorenzo Flores, himself an LCCS foster/adoptive parent.

The team of artists and art students is transforming 17, 6 foot by 9 foot blank concrete panels.

This group is responsible for much of the artwork in the Old South End you've seen over the past 10 years or so.

Over the next two weeks, they are also constructing murals with the East Toledo Family Center between Oakdale Elementary and Waite High School, along with a portrait at the Sub Shop on Broadway in South Toledo, and paintings at a new brewery getting ready to open in Bowling Green.

LCCS has long-term goals with their art. 

The art murals represent the first phase of what is anticipated to be a comprehensive playground renovation project using community in-kind contributions, grants, and other donations to replace the 25-year-old play equipment that has outlived its useful life. The goal is to install an all-inclusive, accessible playground with a bonded rubber surface. LCCS’ nonprofit auxiliary, Friends of Lucas County Children Services, is leading a fundraising effort for this project. The cost of paint/art supplies is being covered by a Facebook fundraiser, which took just a week to raise the $500 needed by friends of LCCS.

Over the course of the next year, the overall plan to renovate the playground area has four distinct goals beyond the art murals:

  • A redesign of the 78' x 110' outdoor play space to make it more colorful, inviting, safer, flexible, and family-friendly.
  • A new accessible/all-inclusive playground system, a new security monitoring system, and outdoor toys/furniture are purchased. A bonded rubber surface also is installed. Individual, educational and therapeutic play components currently are part of the plan.
  • A TPS Natural Science Center class redesigns the landscaping to replace older, drab plants/bushes with a colorful array of easy-care perennials, trees, and a community garden. Volunteer work groups remove and replace existing vegetation with new plants.
  • Community partnerships/collaborations generate educational programs, special events, and needed resources for struggling families.