Marisa Rendina - Miami University School of Fine Arts
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Marisa Rendina - Miami University School of Fine Arts

Marisa RendinaI knew I was going to be in the Residency Program in the fall eventhough my parents argued with me for an entire year before theyallowed me to do it. They thought I was crazy and told me that Icouldn’t change the community. I told them I didn’t want to changethe community; I wanted to be a part of it. I always knew that Iwanted to work in Over-the-Rhine.The Residency Program was hands-down the bestsemester I have had thus far. I learned so much more outside of theclassroom than I did in any class I took in Oxford. I became sociallyactive in so many issues. I was literally at a community meetingevery night of the week. Living and working in Over-the-Rhineallowed me to gain so much more than just coming down once ortwice a week. I know it is really hard to make a connection with aplace when you aren’t living there and you are a full time student.The people in this community are what make the community comealive. Over-the-Rhine gets such a bad reputation and people thinkthat by walking down the street you are going to get shot or robbed.This idea is completely false. Chances are if you are doingsomething illegal, you are going to face a consequence. I have neverfelt threatened or unsafe in the five months I was here. I was alwayscautious and never walked alone at night, but those pre-cautions aregeneral city etiquette.The night before the scheduled open-house the six studiostudents and John were up for the entire night. We became loopyfrom all the polyurethane permeating through the air, we wereexhausted from carrying drywall, and hammering baseboards, butwe kept going because it was important. After a brief night’s rest weshowed up the next day and the house was beautiful. All of our hardwork had paid off. Stephanie walked into her new home and cried.She was so happy and kept thanking us. I realized that this projectwas not just a building; it was someone’s home. Here shewould live with her family, make memories, and stay a part of herbeloved community. I have never felt more accomplished in my lifethan when I was standing in the kitchen of that home. This was thefirst time in my academic career where I did something moresubstantial than writing a good research paper or getting an A onan exam.After a month away from Over-the-Rhine; I moved backto a place completely opposite to the inner city. Oxford has thisway of suffocating me and I don’t know why. I was worried that Iwould have a hard time adjusting to life back in the confines of redbrick and plaid pants. It was hard for me to get back into the cycleof school. I found that I cared less and less about the classes I tookthis semester because I was so exposed to so many other issues forthe past five months. I felt that people are a lot more close-mindedin Oxford than they are in Over-the-Rhine. When I first moved toOver-the-Rhine I was concerned that people would not be as invitingto Miami students moving into their community than they were. Infact, they were very open to what we were doing. They were curiousabout our projects and were always friendly towards us.Don’t listen to people when they say you are going to getshot here and you are crazy for wanting to move here. Those peoplehave never done this program. Keep your mind as open asyou can and your heart as open as your mind. Lift upyour eyelids and see what is happening all around you. Use yourvoice to speak up when others may not be heard. Let passion motivateyou and remember to let yourself feel.

Tom Dutton, Jeff Stec and Marisa discuss details of thedesign/build project on 13th Street. Marisa is mixingstructolite for a landing in the building.Photo Courtesy of Ken StewertMarisa’s painting, originally done for Sister Alice’s classon Service Learning, is now in Choices Cafe, a non-profitcoffee house that provides a welcoming atmosphere foranyone in the neighborhood.Students gather with Tom Dutton at a cookout at PeasleeNeighborhood Center a semester before their participationin the Residency Program. Peaslee offers a wide variety ofcommunity programs, including a pre-school that focuseson literacy and learning through hands-on experience ina garden.

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