Linda Zolten Wood has long found wonder through art. Growing up, her mother served as a key point of inspiration: Linda recalls her mother painting a rock in their front yard and organizing impromptu art classes with neighborhood kids. The creative energy permeated throughout her childhood.
“There was art everywhere,” she shares.
That exposure to creativity happened in idyllic settings in Cleveland Heights, where Linda fondly remembers old houses, a beautiful natural setting and great diversity.
As she grew older and started a family of her own, however, she grew more concerned about the affordability of her childhood suburb. Visiting a relative living just a few miles to the north, Linda discovered what would soon become her new home. That visit opened her eyes to what the North Shore Collinwood area had to offer.
Linda recalls that “we were blown away by the adorable, amazing, old architecture, big trees and the lake being right here.”
That visit led to Linda and her family moving to North Shore Collinwood. For the past 15 years, the neighborhood has served as a setting where she has developed as a talented visual artist and as a champion for the power of community arts efforts. From her earliest days as a resident, Linda was committed to giving back to the community. She and her family were engaged in the formation of Arts Collinwood, and she served as one of the neighborhood arts organization’s first board members. Opposite her art practice and frequent commissioned work, Linda also lends her talents as a teacher to organizations like Lake Erie Artists, the Cleveland Institute of Art and Lakeland Community College.
With help from an Artists in Residence grant, Linda has also initiated the Collinwood Painted Rain Barrel Project. The wildly popular initiative has enabled Linda to marry her passion for visual art with her passion for sustainability practices. Through the project, she has commissioned numerous local artists to create original designs on rain barrels. By increasing the visual impact of these stormwater devices, the project increases visibility of water remediation strategies, as well as the neighborhood’s greatest natural asset: Lake Erie.
It’s just one example of Linda’s passion for advancing North Shore Collinwood, a neighborhood valued for its diversity, tranquility and creativity … And its strong community ties.
“We’ve got lots of neighborhood associations,” says Linda, “and our Councilman [Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek] is like the best ever. I just don’t want him to ever leave.”
She is also a strong advocate for artists purchasing property in the neighborhood, a strategy she believes can help to address the foreclosure crisis and underinvestment by absentee landlords. Moreover, she believes it’s a great place for people to take advantage of a high quality of life and great affordability, particularly for younger families and international immigrants. It’s a community, she feels, that is just getting better and better.
“It’s a little rougher sometimes, but it’s on the most part wonderful. The more investment, the more we have to brag about … This is the best kept secret, I think.”
Thanks to the hard work and creativity of champions like Linda, however, her neighborhood is not likely to be a secret for long.