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Avon Isle Display Design Contest

NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 2-12-03, By Mike Ferrari

``Art students lend talents for Avon, State's Bicentennial celebration

AVON -- ... Cleveland Institute of Art students recently competed in a design contest for a display to represent a local historic building in the upcoming Ohio Bicentennial celebration.

The contest focused on the Avon historical site known as Avon Isle on Detroit Road, built by F.J. Roth in 1926.

Many residents in the city would like to see the building restored to its former glory when it was Avon Dance Pavilion. Local historian Taylor "Jack" Smith sought out help for the design of the project and asked Avon Clerk of Council Ellen Young for any advice she could offer.

"Jack, who is the president of the Avon Historical Society, approached me last spring and asked if I could come up with an idea for a display," Young said. "I decided to see if I could find someone more qualified than I am and my husband put me in touch with John Digny and Anthony Santarelli, two of his business associates and designers from American Greetings. They sent me to Mike Gollini, a teacher at the Cleveland Institute of Art." ...

Shortly after the initial contacts were made, Gollini instituted the design contest into his curriculum for his advanced fourth and fifth-year students.

The students worked for months learning about the history of the building and competed for the rights to have their design constructed by the Lorain County Metro Parks and displayed as part of the Ohio Bicentennial celebration.

The building could arguably be at the center of development plans as the current administration is trying to solidify grants for its refurbishing in the anticipation the location could serve as a potential site for Avon Seniors Inc., ...

When the contest first started, the students were vying for a first or second place prize of $250 or $100 respectively.

The students toured the Avon Isle and listened to a brief presentation and learned that many older residents have several fond memories attached to the building as activities such as city dances, big band concerts, boxing matches and clam bakes were all part of its past.

In late November, [2002] the students brought their work to Avon City Hall, where it is still on display, and all that participated in the contest were awarded a cash prize. The students presented their designs to the city with the understanding that once complete, they became the property of the Avon Historical Society.

Smith, Dr. Delbert Fischer and Matt Kocsis [of the Lorain County Metroparks] judged the group entries and awarded first place to Katie Beaudet and Teri DiMichele for their clever recreation of events that once took place at Avon Isle.

As previously stated, the only other cash award was supposed to be for second place. Upon seeing all of the excellent presentations, Smith decided to award all participants with at least a $100 cash prize for their efforts ...

The pair's winning design and project will be displayed at the French Creek Nature Center in Sheffield Village this spring, where visitors will be able to see a full-sized replica of the art students' efforts among other Bicentennial projects.''

Katie Beaudet, a student at the Cleveland Institute of Art, peeks out from behind her project panels at Avon City Hall. MORNING JOURNAL PHOTO/PAUL WALSH

FEATURE ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 12-1-02, By ETHEL MOYERS, Morning Journal Correspondent

``Story of Lorain County and its settlers

BIRMINGHAM -- As historian of the Lorain County Metro Parks, Matt Kocsis enjoys telling a great story. In the next few months, he will be building a display at the French Creek Nature Center in Sheffield Village to tell the story of Lorain County and its settlers.

The display is part of Lorain County's celebration of the Ohio Bicentennial in 2003.

''Until it opens, it will be the most important thing I work on every day,'' Kocsis said.

Kocsis has been working with Bill Bird, director of the Lorain County Historical Society, to plan for the display which will run from April to June.

They have been talking with many of the historical societies in the county, gathering information and artifacts, and recruiting volunteers.

Kocsis, 31, is using the wealth of experience he has gained with the parks as a background for his vision for the display.

After graduating from Keystone High School, Kocsis went on to Ohio Northern in Ada and got a degree in history.

An internship at the Metro Parks after graduation, slated for 12 weeks, turned into three years as Kocsis responded favorably to the historical aspects of his work and gradually got his feet wet in the field of nature.

''I'm not a naturalist by training,'' Kocsis said. ''It came from working with other naturalists.''

Now, he admits to being able to handle snakes and, with a reverence for living things, releases bugs instead of stomping on them.

After his initial three-year internship, Kocsis left the parks for a few years to do other things but found the appealing marriage of history and nature calling him back to the Metro Parks in the spring of 2001.

''This is more than a job. It's an opportunity to share what I love, which is history,'' Kocsis said.

The park district has 17 county parks covering 7,000 acres, and Kocsis said he has been to them all.

Where his work is focused, however, is on the three parks which have historical homes.

There's the Bacon House in Mill Hollow park in Brownhelm Township; the Schoepfle House at Schoepfle Garden in Birmingham, and the Burrell Homestead at the French Creek Reservation in Sheffield Village.

Kocsis explained that the names of the people and their belongings take on virtual reality as the stories of the Bacons, Schoepfles and Burrells are told to visitors walking through each house.

''It's all about community and who they were,'' Kocsis said ...

The month of August was eventful for Kocsis as he married his wife, Sandy, who loves to garden and is envious he gets to go to work each day in a garden.

The couple resides in Elyria, and his wife has become a loyal volunteer at the parks, he said.

Also in August, Kocsis was named senior naturalist at Schoepfle Garden and notes that a trip to Birmingham for a visit becomes as much a historical walk as it does a nature walk ...

Kocsis was enthusiastic about the new tours at the Burrell House and discovering it had once been a branch of Oberlin College when Jabez Burrell had been a trustee.

Kocsis learned the house had been for one year, in 1836, the Sheffield Manual Labor Institute where college classes were taught in the parlor, and the students would farm the land as an integral part of their education.

''Women and African-Americans were part of the Institute, and this was pretty progressive for 1836,'' he said. [The Ohio Legislature refused to grant a charter to the Institute unless the Institute agreed to deny entrance to African-Americans. So the Institute was disbanded.]

He told how five generations of the Burrells had occupied the house until January 2001, when the last descendent died. It was her wish it become a museum.

As Kocsis plans for the Bicentennial display at French Creek, near the Burrell House, he is hoping residents of Lorain County, and particularly children, will find a new appreciation for the people who settled the county.

Kocsis will strive to tell the story of the settlers who came from New England to Lorain County about 1807 in search of a better life.

His display will depict early education of the one-room school, early industry such as sandstone quarries and the Garford cars built in Elyria. It will also show early entertainment such as dance halls, and the early farming of corn crops.

''Everyone will be able to come away knowing a little bit more about where they live,'' he said.''

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