Finding The Oasis, An 18 Year Old Dream To Bring Art To Collinwood's South Side

Mentor, Professor Todd Williams and Malena

I sat down with Malena Grigoli, to discuss her art project, that she's bringing to South Collinwood. Malena, an 18 year old student, knows the value of art and having a mentor in her life. She attends Ohio Virtual Academy (But she take all of her classes at Tri-C through the College Credit Plus program)

Malena;   What you proposing to do and why?

For my project I plan to acquire a house in South Collinwood that is not being used to its full potential and renovate it into an art sanctuary for those in the community.  Each room will be designated to a specific art form (dance, painting & drawing, writing, etc.) so that anyone who comes can choose from a wide variety of methods of expression.  Children, teens, and adults will be welcomed, for no cost, to spend time expressing themselves in a productive and creative manner.  Volunteer art therapists and artists will spend time teaching and providing any aid one might desire.  The Art Oasis will provide a productive way for individuals to spend their free time and have access to the arts community in a way they otherwise might not. As someone who has had the arts play an influential role in their life, I know that art is an important part of life and provides a necessary form of distraction and expression.  

Why is the Art Oasis important to you?   Having been involved in creative communities my whole life, I recognize the arts as, in addition to an outlet for oneself, a window into the minds and perspectives of others.  The arts facilitate communication and understanding between us like no other method I've found.  Any community can benefit from a space dedicated to understanding and growth, both personal and interpersonal.     You are so young, and this project is a very grown up thing to do, is this something you've always wanted to do?   Like I said before, I've always been drawn to the arts.  Given the opportunity and resources to create positive change in the Cleveland community through the Robert L.Lewis program at Tri-C, an arts-focused project seemed like the natural choice.  

What impact are you hoping The Art Oasis will make in the community?

Often violence and crime occur as a result of boredom or the lack of an outlet for pain and emotion.  Exposure to the arts can provide a solution to these issues as well as increasing self-esteem and compassion.  However, for many individuals it can be difficult to find access to the arts for a variety of reasons including cost, location, or time.  Bringing a home for art into their community would eliminate some of these obstacles.

How important is it to you to have Professor Todd Williams as your mentor?   Professor Williams has been an invaluable part of this experience.  His knowledge, enthusiasm, and friendships within the community are the reason the project has made it this far.  I'm thrilled to be working with someone who is as excited about the potential of an art oasis as I am.     What are your plans after you graduate?    Following my high school graduation I will be attending a four-year university, although I'm undecided at the moment as to which one.  Eventually I would love to go into law.    

What kind of support are you looking from the art community, if any.   I would love to see experienced artists come to demonstrate their skills, offering knowledge and guidance through occasional workshops and even simply spending time with those interested in garnering new skills.  Of course art supply donations would always be appreciated if someone is excited about a tool or medium and would like to share.  Mostly, though, I want anyone to be able to come to The Art Oasis and create in an environment where they feel they can both inspire and be inspired.  

What type of advice did Professor Todd Williams give you to move ahead?   Professor Williams is always encouraging with his confidence and enthusiasm.  We will continue to meet and discuss how things are going, and I feel that I can reach out to him at any time with any questions or confusion I may have.  

Darece Daniels

Collinwood resident over 30 years, Director of The Eyes Have It Media Group Inc, a non profit organization whose main focus is youth and career development in media, art, and technology

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Volume 9, Issue 2, Posted 6:05 PM, 02.08.2017