Monday, February 17, 2014

The Changing Face of East Toledo: LeSo Gallery and Elliot Charney's Thailand Exhibit

Elissa, Philip and I at LeSo Art Gallery in East Toledo to view Elliot Charney's
Thailand exhibit. A bold red, white and black mural on building by Matt Taylor.
"We're working with local businesses, artists, and community people to help change the face and spirit of the East side," said Adam Soboleski, a ceramic artist and co-owner with Amber LeFever of LeSo Gallery.

We were at the LeSo on Starr Avenue in East Toledo to see Elliot Charney's photography exhibit of his time in Thailand, made possible by an emerging-artist award from the Toledo Museum of Art. Elliot's photos show the people, culture, countryside, the daily life of Thailand, the sensitive perspective of a sensitive photographer.

We not only took in a lovely exhibit that captured the "soul of humanity" across the world, but came away with a lesson in community change from the bottom up.

"We are using art to preserve and restore our neighborhood," Bradley Scherzer, the assistant director and marketing person, said.

"I have to admit, I seldom cross that bridge," I confessed. "In fact, I wouldn't be here now if it weren't for this exhibit."

I felt kind of bad. Adam and Brad understood. "That's why we're out to reclaim this historic immigrant neighborhood, it's great architecture and hard-working people, to show the best side of the East side."
The LeSo Gallery is committed to doing its part to beautify East Toledo through art exhibits, educational programs, workshops for kids, and social commitment. Check out their website ( and facebook page to learn more and find out about upcoming events.

The bold mural on the 1903 building, which retains its exquisite high tinned ceiling and no doubt has lots of stories to tell, does just that. The mural pops! It was painted by Toledo muralist Matt Taylor.  This is the same artist who, along with muralist MEDE, painted "Toledo Loves Love" in the uptown neighborhood near Manos' restaurant on Adams and 13th.  Rachel Richarson of Arts Corner Toledo (ACT) and well-known musician introduced me to that project and its efforts to bring together artists and activists to revitalize downtown neighborhoods. Same thing's happening in the Warehouse District.

The East side also boasts some great community gardens, not far from the Maumee River, which I learned about through beekeeper Karen Wood and our Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. These gardens (there are more than 100 all over the city) have become gathering places to grow and share food, to involve adults and kids in nature, to develop self-sufficiency, healthy lifestyles, and community spirit.They are urban oases.

I'm beginning to see that "all things are connected,"  just like Chief Seattle once said.  Just as my brother Loren taught me.

Poking around the corners and beneath the surface of Toledo and its environs, I am discovering all kinds of cultural, economic and social activities that are enriching this special place on planet Earth.  A renaissance is taking place at the grassroots level.

Our trip to LeSo Gallery to view a photography exhibit transformed into a lesson confirmed through my Peace Corps experience in Ukraine: change takes place from the bottom up. It's universal, part of the human experience, whether we live in Thailand or Toledo, as Elliot captures so beautifully in his photos.

Mural byMr. Taylor and MESE, commissioned by Racchel RIchardson's Arts Corner Toledo,(ACT)
on Adams at 13th, in Toledo's Uptown District. ACT brings together  artists and
activists to revitalize Toledo neighborhoods.

Learn more about East Toledo history in East Side Story,
by Larry R. Michaels (amazon photo).

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