Remember when the telephone booth, standing tall on a random sidewalk, was the only form of telecommunication when you were in a remote location?
Charles Tibai picks up the phone at one of the installations in artist Aman Mojadidi’s ‘Once Upon a Place’ in the Toledo Lucas County Public Library.
A tool that has become obsolete over the years has become a platform for immigrant voices through Once Upon A Place, a public art exhibition that was installed this week in Toledo. Aman Mojadidi, the Afghan-American artist who created the mixed media, interactive exhibition, is here through Sunday giving talks about his culturally significant work.
“These are some of the last phone booths that were taken out of Manhattan,” said River House Gallery owner Paula Baldoni, who brought the exhibit here through the non-profit Contemporary Art Toledo, which she co-founded with Brian Carpenter, gallery director with the University of Toledo’s School for Visual and Performing Arts.
Mojadidi, who is living in Paris, completed the traveling exhibition as part of a residency program with the Times Square Arts public art program, Baldoni said.
The phones inside the booths ring every few minutes, inviting passers-by to come inside, pick up the phone, and hear the stories of immigrants who came to the United States from around the world. Seventy immigrants in the New York area participated in the project.
The booths have been installed in three locations in Toledo: In the atrium of the Toledo-Lucas Public Library, on the sidewalk on Summit Street above Promenade Park, and the third in the University of Toledo’s William S. Carson Library. The show opens this weekend in conjunction with the Momentum music and art festival in downtown Toledo.
The show was installed in New York’s Times Square in late June. When Baldoni read about it, she called the artist to see if he would bring it to Toledo.
“Toledo has a huge, deep history of being welcoming to immigrants. It just seemed like a facet we needed to add to this festival downtown,” Baldoni said. “They are going on tour, but we are the first [to have the show after Times Square].”
The show cost $10,000 to bring to Toledo and was sponsored by a host of organizations, including UT, the library, and the Toledo Arts Commission.
Mojadidi will give talks later this week:
■ Coffee Talk with Artist Aman Mojadidi, 11:30 a.m. Friday, Carson Library, UT main campus.
■ Public lecture by Aman Mojadidi, 2 p.m. Sunday, McMaster Center, Toledo-Lucas Public Library.
The installation will remain at Summit and UT through Oct. 22. It leaves the main library Oct. 18. For more information, go to amanmojadidi.com or River House Arts Facebook page.
A matter of heart
A second culturally significant event is happening in Toledo, and it comes in the form of an invitation to choose love over hate.
Art Corner Toledo is hosting a community photo shoot event in front of Toledo’s Love Wall, a mural that has become a destination for amplifying love among all races, religions, and genders. From 5 to 6 p.m. Sept. 21, during the Toledo Arts Commission’s Thursday night Art Loop, individuals or groups of Toledoans who feel they have been marginalized or unfairly targeted are invited to get their photos taken in front of the TOLEDO LOVES LOVE wall, 1209 Adams St.
A video shoot will follow the photo shoots at 6 p.m.
The photos and video footage will be used this winter in newspaper and television advertising that celebrate diversity, said Rachel Richardson, director of Art Corner Toledo, who has been reaching out to grassroots organizations to invite those they serve to come to the wall that night.
“I want to promote the message that, here in Toledo, we are not about [hate],” said Richardson, who added that she hopes to put the campaign in front of individuals or organizations who “need to be reminded of that. We are about love and a welcoming place where people can feel warm and safe.”
Dennis Sawan of Right Half Media and artist Matt Taylor, who originally created the mural with artist MEDE in 2012, are participating in the campaign with ACT. Administrative costs totaling about $3,000 will be paid for from funds ACT received from the Lucas County commissioners, and the rest from in-kind donations and fund-raising, Richardson said.
“The goal of the campaign is to reinforce and remind that Toledo is inclusive and welcoming, and that we do not subscribe to the climate coming down from the federal administration and the rising up of a dangerous element that is making people feel threatened,” Richardson said of white supremacy.
Richardson said the photos will go up on a website and a book might be created in the future. Organizations interested in participating in the video should contact Richardson at 419-810-5804 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send news of art items at least two weeks in advance to email@example.com or call 419-724-6075.
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