Video: Behind-the-Scenes of Juleeon’s Mural

Despite experiencing hunger and poverty, the smile on then 8-year-old Juleeon Carter’s beaming face radiates joy.

That pure moment captured three years ago is the focus of Juleeon’s Mural, a hopeful piece of public art in Toledo’s Old West End Community. The mural was installed in October 2013 at the corner of Collingwood Boulevard and Delaware Avenue, and it can be viewed from the front windows of Black Kite Coffee and Pies, 2499 Collingwood Blvd.

In this video and the descriptions below, meet the people and entities behind Juleeon’s Mural, an Art Corner Toledo partnership between Robin Charney and Food For Thought. With administrative support from The Arts Commission, the mural was sponsored by ProMedica in conjunction with the ProMedica: Revealing Hunger photo project currently traveling throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

Robin Charney, photographer

The story begins three years ago, when Robin Charney, outreach coordinator of the ProMedica Cancer Institute, took a photograph of a smiling Juleeon one Saturday morning at a Food For Thought picnic. As soon as she took the photo, Charney immediately felt that the image needed to be shared with the rest of the community.

Charney discussed an idea with the Carter family: Turning the photo into a mural to be seen and enjoyed by the public.

“To see a picture of a child who has faced adversity and who can still be joyful like that is a great message to the community,” Charney said.

 Sam Melden, Food For Thought

Juleeon Carter had been attending weekly picnics hosted by Food For Thought, a non-profit social service agency committed to feeding the hungry in northwest Ohio. After enjoying a complimentary sack lunch in 2010, Juleeon found Charney and begged the friendly photographer to take his photo — the subject material for the mural.

According to Sam Melden, Food For Thought’s executive director, it’s not uncommon to see expressions of pure joy at the agency’s Saturday morning picnics.

“When you see a smile like that, it makes you realize that a free lunch can represent something so much more than filling an empty stomach,” Melden said. “In the same way, a mural on a side of a building is much more than covering up brick. It’s about transferring that smile, and those same thoughts, feelings and emotions, to anyone who walks by.”

Rachel Richardson, Art Corner Toledo

After receiving consent from Carleena Carter, Juleeon’s mom, Charney approached Rachel Richardson of Art Corner Toledo (ACT) to help coordinate the mural project.  ACT helps both artists and activists share their Toledo success stories through large-scale public artworks, strategically placed in blighted or underdeveloped neighborhoods in Toledo. The organization worked tirelessly to find a suitable wall and reliable owner; communicate the dreams and goals of the artist and non-profit involved with the artwork; and figure out the mural’s production and funding.

With the mural finally up, Richardson feels optimistic about the future of the intersection.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if within the next two years, there are more stores open on this corner,” Richardson said. “It’s certainly not going to hurt that there’s one more destination here, one more reason to come to this corner.”

Stephanie Cihon, ProMedica

In the summer of 2013, ProMedica, along with several partners, organized the ProMedica: Revealing Hunger photography exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art, showcasing the work of nine individuals who were struggling with food insecurity. One of the participating artists was Carleena Carter. The exhibit has since made its way to Washington, D.C., and Columbus, where it was viewed by federal and state legislators capable of protecting food-related programs and policies. ProMedica decided to sponsor Juleeon’s Mural as a way to further demonstrate its commitment to the Toledo community.

Stephanie Cihon, corporate director of grants, community relations and advocacy at ProMedica, said that ProMedica values the working relationships it has with agencies such as Art Corner Toledo and Food For Thought.

“It’s really important for us to look at how public art can be part of a catalyst for the community as a whole,” Cihon said. “There’s a lot of energy in this part of town, and we’re happy to be a part of that catalytic group of folks that are propelling others forward.”