The Ballot Box Project

Northeast Shores Development Corporation

Funding Received: 2015
Cleveland, OH
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
August 11, 2016

The Ballot Box Project is a gift to local artists, funding projects that engage youth, healthy eating, vacancy problems and community history. ArtPlace America and Northeast Shores Development Corporation teamed to offer this unique mechanism for creative self-employment opportunities, which also serve forgotten segments of our community.

As the director of The Collinwood Painted Rain Barrel Project, Linda Zolten Wood hired local artists to create beautiful water conservation barrels as works of visual art, not unsightly hunks of polyvinyl. After the barrels toured Cleveland’s science and nature centers for the last two years, she donated one of the barrels to Memorial Nottingham Library, painted by artist Michael Greenwald. Michael’s design is based on bold graphics and was compatible with the color palette of Memorial Nottingham’s bright architectural elements of greens and blues. 

As a result of so many beautiful rain barrels full of free water, Zolten Wood discovered the joy of gardening, experimenting with engaging intergenerational families, encouraging the elders to pass on knowledge to the younger ones to foster a pride in nurture and harvest; willing to try freshly grown foods, where processed ones hold us captive. She became a frequent and loyal farmer’s market and community supported agriculture customer.

She hired local carpenter Peter Quinn to build a tall 4’x8’ raised bed garden to be wheelchair accessible and purchased vegetable and herb plants from Cavotta’s Garden Center on East 185th street. Quinn built a similar garden box for her in 2015, located at the Rose Senior Center on Lakeshore Blvd., along with a custom painted rain barrel by Zolten Wood, funded by Collinwood Health & Arts Grant through NSDC.

The deer were eating the tops of the tomato plants, so she decided to rig a bamboo fence lined with upcycled CD’s dangling from strings to act as a shining scarecrow: the twirling mirrored surfaces, which also block their heads from access to the vegetable plants, seem to be unnerving to the hungry animals. The Garden box is to the left of the front door of the Memorial Nottingham Library and is open to anyone who wants to water, tend and pick vegetables now throughout the fall until the first frost. Check in with Children’s librarian, Libby Hampton in person, or call (216) 623-7039.

Children from 1st through 5th grades attended workshops at Mem/Nott, Salvation Army Summer Camp and Collinwood Branch Library designing ‘Veggie Superheroes and Villains’, having fun with positive associations with their favorite fresh produce. The kids were served healthy snacks and received vegetable seeds, tote bags from Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (which they got to decorate) and gift certificates to shop for produce from Coit Road Farmer’s Market.

Zolten Wood has been painting in the early morning hours before the sun bears down and scorches the site. The kids’ hilarious and varied characters are serving as inspiration to decorate the garden box, positioned directly outside of the children’s section windows of the library, echoing the accent colors of the rain barrel and of Mem/Nott’s architecture. During the winter months, children will be able to see the painting from their comfy seats while they read and play.

Her progress is being recorded on a new facebook page, “Operation Vegetables” on a daily basis, and will continue as the giant board game begins to be assembled, designed and painted within the library.

The giant game will be painted on a 12’x12’ primed canvas and the children with become the game pieces. The game’s target completion date will be in October, with a grand opening event that will be announced in the early Fall. Families and groups will be able to reserve the game for group play within the circular meeting room at Memorial Nottingham Library, at any time, for years to come.

2 smaller versions that will be produced for the Salvation Army and the Collinwood Branch Library’s use in late fall, dates to be announced.