Youth Visions Reflection Park to debut in July 11 ceremonyWritten by Danielle Stanton | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A mural inspired by Toledo’s young people lay on its back July 9, ready for installation as part of the newest feature at Woodrow Wilson Park.
A path — created by Toledo’s youth — is covered in mulch and winds its way past the mural and a few benches, also inspired by the city’s young people.
Called Youth Visions Reflection Park, the six murals, benches and walkway is a “youth-centered, youth-planned, youth-built and youth-maintained” feature inside the Woodrow Wilson Park in North Toledo.
“We want the community to walk through the ‘visions of its youth,’” said the project’s creator and architect, Lorna Gonsalves, a former University of Toledo professor. “As city leaders try to address issues such as racism, gang violence, blight and crime, we need to harness and channel the creative potential of one of our greatest resources — our remarkable youth. Their concerns, insights and visions can help lead the way to building strong, safe, inclusive and beautiful neighborhoods.”
On July 9, the erection of the six murals capped a project that germinated 10 years ago and has spanned dozens of conversations between Gonsalves and the city’s youth, many of them participants of the WSOS’s YouthBuild program.
At 1 p.m. July 11, an opening ceremony of the youth-inspired park will take place in Woodrow Wilson Park.
The youth who lent their sweat to the project are 18 to 24 years old. Many have witnessed some kind of injustice in their life, either from crime, gangs or violence. They want a place of peace, safety, beauty and respect, said Gonsalves — the same things adults want.
“It’s a cool project,” said Destin Williams, 18, who was one of three youths who came out July 9 to help install the murals.
“We’re helping the youth and the community,” said Haley Gonzales, 21.
“We’ve got young people doing very meaningful things, doing grassroots things,” Gonsalves said. “The youth get left out of the conversation. We have to have youth at the center of the conversation because they will lead the way.”
“If we used these kids, there would be no more blight in the city,” said John Page, a YouthBuild specialist.
One of the murals titled “Rising Above Bigotry” was inspired by the 2005 Toledo Riots. A Neo-Nazi organization gathered in North Toledo that year to protest African-American gangs and several local youths were arrested after a counter-protest. Gonsalves worked with the young people who were arrested.
“The youth were angry and frustrated and they had few opportunities to share their feelings or help to prompt change,” Gonsalves said via email. “Over a series of discussions, I introduced them to the concept of creative peaceful resistance (CPR).”
The CPR concept helps people deal with their emotions when they witness an injustice. Using CPR, the youth of the Youth Visions Park channeled their feelings and creativity into the murals, the bench, the walkway so the entire park encapsulates a youth-centered vibe.
“They [the youth] are my muses. They’re leaders but not recognized as such,” Gonsalves said. “They’re one of our most precious natural resources.”
The “Rising Above Bigotry” mural is in three panels and is painted by artist Yusuf Lateef. Other murals include “Calling for Teen Sensitive Policing,” “From Chaos Comes Clarity,” “Youth Wisdom,” “Rescue Youth” and “Children Need Families.” The murals were not painted by youth but the artists were inspired by them, Gonsalves said.
The city’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commissioner Denny Garvin said the new space gives young people, including those from nearby Woodward High School, a safe place to express themselves.
“They’re in their own neighborhood, in a cool, shady spot surrounded by works that are important to these young people. It creates an area of inspiration and safety,” Garvin said. “And it also gives a sense of ownership to young people who might not have that much – who can latch on and say ‘It’s mine.’”
“We’re very proud of it,” Garvin added. “I knew [Gonsalves] was looking for place to do this and I suggested Woodward Park. … I think it’s wonderful. I really do.”
Tags: Bestin Williams, Calling for Teen Sensitive Policing, Children Need Families, creative peaceful resistance, Denny Garvin, From Chaos Comes Clarity, Haley Gonzales, John Page, Lorna Gonsalves, murals, North Toledo, Rescue Youth, Rising Above Bigotry, University of Toledo, Woodrow Wilson Park, Woodward High School, WSOS, Youth Visions Park, Youth Visions Reflection Park, Youth Wisdom, YouthBuild, Yusuf Lateef