Book preview: “Weinland Park Story Book” tells the story of a neighborhood

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From the June 26, 2014 edition

Many people came together to tell the story of Weinland Park. The Wexner Center for the Arts collaborated with teens, neighborhood residents and its civic association along with artists for the “Weinland Park Story Book.”

The book is a collection of stories told by neighborhood residents — both longtime and recent — to teen interns working with the Wex. Local artists, and Marvel and DC cartoonist Sandy Plunkett, turned the teens’ reporting into comic narratives. Even author Wil Haygood (“The Butler”) submitted words.

Weinland Park was chosen after residents approached the Wex about the project, but project managers Jean Pitman and Julian Dassai quickly realized it was the perfect neighborhood.

“This neighborhood exists across the country,” Dassai said. “The story of neighborhoods that were once working class neighborhoods then … had problems with drugs, gang violence and crime, and then gentrified. We’ve had areas in Columbus that have completed that cycle, but we don’t have stories from all the people in those neighborhoods over the years.”

Dassai and Pitman chose artists with varied skills and backgrounds — comic and fine artists to amateurs and children — because the stories of Weinland Park residents were similarly diverse. Some were lighthearted and funny, others grim and heartbreaking. But they were all real.

“My curatorial interest was to have this wide range of styles … because that is reflective of this neighborhood,” Pitman said. “There are a lot of different ways to see this and describe this neighborhood.”

Weinland Park resident Martin Weston, who contributed a story and was the hero of his daughter’s tale, is proud of how “everyone has put their shoulder to the wheel” in bringing the neighborhood along. He feels Weinland Park’s racial diversity makes it unique, and its community connection makes it special.

“What we’re doing in remaking Weinland Park is a model for how to rehabilitate failing communities all over the country,” Weston said.

Each Weinland Park residence will receive a copy of the storybook, as will those involved in its creation.

“This project is an opportunity for residents to learn more about their neighbors,” Weston said. “There are some stories in here that make you go, ‘Wow!’”

Photos courtesy of the Wexner Center for the Arts