east cleveland’s growing urban garden scene helps quench food deserts

Thursday, September 22, 2011
Fresh Water Cleveland
The growing number of urban gardens in the city of East Cleveland prompted the second annual Urban Gardens and Farmers Market Open House. Held last Saturday, the event highlighted the blossoming of urban farms and gardens in a community that lacks even a single major grocery store, says Nicole Wright, Program Coordinator with the Ohio State University Cuyahoga County Extension office, who helped to organize the event in collaboration with local residents.

Wright says the proliferation of local gardens is helping local residents to grow and eat healthier food, save money on food expenses, reuse and beautify vacant land, improve community health outcomes and potentially earn money by selling locally grown produce at the Coit Road Farmers Market.

“We’re definitely making an impact,” says Wright, citing the presence of nine community gardens in the city. “East Cleveland has an unusually high concentration of gardens for a small city. When you look at Cuyahoga County as a whole, it actually has the second highest number of gardens.”

Three years ago, OSU Extension, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, and the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission applied for and were awarded a grant from the Center for Disease Control. The resulting program, Creating Healthy Communities, helps to address public health issues in East Cleveland and Euclid by providing better food choices and encouraging healthier lifestyles.

“We chose East Cleveland because it has low access to fresh foods and high rates of chronic, preventable diseases like heart disease, diabetes and obesity,” says Wright. “We want to help people to become more self-reliant.”

East Cleveland was also selected because of its Coit Road Farmers Market, a local institution that is not frequented often enough by local residents, says Wright. One of the goals of Creating Healthy Communities is to turn that trend around.

In recent years, the farmers market has been encouraging local residents to grow and sell their produce at the market. This fruitful partnership is helping to reengage local residents with this fresh food venue. “This is about promoting the market that’s right there in the community,” says Wright.

Source: Nicole Wright
Writer: Lee Chilcote


university of akron opens satellite branch in heart of downtown lakewood

Thursday, September 22, 2011
Fresh Water Cleveland
With its youth-friendly atmosphere, vibrant arts and culture scene, and main drags lined with restaurants, bars and funky shops, Lakewood has long felt like a college town without possessing a single university.

That’s about to change. This week, Lakewood city officials are celebrating the opening of a new University of Akron satellite branch in the heart of that city. It will occupy an 11,000-square-foot space in the newly renovated Bailey Building at Warren and Detroit. Although it will open with only a handful of students, it eventually will offer classes to a few hundred pupils at a time.

“This is going to bring more people into downtown Lakewood, which will add to the urban vibrancy that’s already here,” says Ian Andrews, Executive Director of Lakewood Alive, a nonprofit economic development organization that will help to the market the branch. “More people on the sidewalk checking out the great amenities Lakewood has to offer will further drive up demand for goods and services.”

The University of Akron has said that it plans to concentrate a few specific programs within the space, including health care and education degrees. The branch will also likely offer continuing education and distance learning programs.

This Thursday, the University of Akron and Lakewood city officials are celebrating the opening of the new branch with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5 pm and a public open house from 5-8 pm. Planned activities include guided tours, performances by groups from Lakewood High School and a distance learning technology demonstration. Members of the public are invited to attend.

Source: Ian Andrews
Writer: Lee Chilcote


artist recycles vinyl siding from home renovation into provocative sculpture

Thursday, September 22, 2011
Fresh Water Cleveland
Ben Faller and Jesse Honsky’s aim was to restore their home on E. 128th Street between Larchmere and Shaker boulevards to its original character based upon photographs they’d uncovered. Vinyl siding, noxious and non-recyclable, was an unfortunate side effect. Painstakingly removing the siding from their home, they knew, regrettably, that the chemical-laden strips likely would end up in a landfill.

Was there another option?

That’s when one of their neighbors came up with the idea of turning it into a work of art. Katharyne Starinsky, founder and co-chair of the Neighborhoods of Shaker Square Home Tour, contacted a local artist and got the ball rolling.

“We wanted to find a way to celebrate what they were doing while also promoting green living,” says Starinsky.

She contacted Tremont artist Ian Petroni, who was immediately intrigued by the proposal. “I told her that I loved the opportunity but that I hated vinyl siding, and she said, ‘That’s exactly the point,'” recalls Petroni.

The artist’s provocative sculpture, entitled ‘Invasive Species,’ refashions the strips of yellow siding into a bountiful and oddly beautiful vinyl jungle that shoots up from Faller’s and Honsky’s front lawn like a rapacious, fast-growing plant.

“I decided to call it ‘invasive species’ because it doesn’t fit into the historic environment and because it chokes out other species,” explains Petroni. “I wanted to get people to start thinking about the drawbacks of vinyl siding.”

Petroni was not only concerned with the impact of vinyl siding on the character of historic neighborhoods, but also with its toxic effect on the environment. “The production of vinyl is dangerous to people and ecosystems,” he says.

Since its installation, the sculpture has been a conversation starter as well as a popular draw during the home tour. “It’s like a Christmas lighting display, the way the cars slow down as they drive along 128th,” says Starinsky with a laugh.

Neighbors on the street have begun to approach the homeowners about buying portions of the sculpture to install in their yards. Starinsky says she hopes to eventually sell the sculpture as a fundraiser for the home tour.

Within the next 7 to 10 days, Petroni plans to move the sculpture to the side yard of Felice, a popular restaurant in the neighborhood. There, spectators will be able to gawk at it throughout fall. (Hopefully it won’t cause accidents.)

Source: Ian Petroni, Katharyne Starinsky
Writer: Lee Chilcote


fashion boutique moves into long-vacant shaker square storefront

Thursday, September 22, 2011
Fresh Water Cleveland

Fashions by Fowler, a popular women’s clothing boutique run by sisters Renay and Tracy Fowler, has relocated to a Shaker Square storefront that has been sitting empty for years. Previously home to Metropolitan Galleries and Ann Taylor Loft, the 5,200-square-foot space is considerably larger than the boutique’s old home on Mayfield Road.

“It’s been very exciting,” says Renay Fowler of the new space. “Shaker Square is so diverse in terms of nationalities and cultures, which I love. We’re also positioned right between a bank and a Subway store, so we get a lot more walk-in traffic.”

Fowler says that she has had little trouble filling her larger digs with both merchandise and customers. “We have a very diverse inventory, and we specialize in unique, one-of-a-kind items,” she says. Some of the items the store carries include costume jewelry, furs and cowhide boots inlaid with rhinestones.

“If you’re looking for something fun, glitzy and one-of-a-kind, that’s what we do,” says Fowler. “People assume our inventory is more expensive than it actually is — you can get an entire outfit in our store for under one hundred dollars.”

Fashions by Fowler features work by local clothing designers as well as smaller companies that are based in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Atlanta. In addition to its unique clothing inventory, the store employs an in-house milliner and a staff person that repairs costume jewelry.

“That’s very hard to find these days,” says Fowler. “People can bring a drawing in and get a hat or costume jewelry made for them.”

Source: Renay Fowler
Writer: Lee Chilcote

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