Providing Community in Toledo’s Junction Area: Summer camps at the Art Tatum Zone

It’s all in the Zone – after school, weekend and summer programs, support services in the schools, programs for new parents, community events, and of course, art and music. The Art Tatum Zone supports families in the Junction community of Toledo as they build academic excellence, housing stability and economic self-sufficiency.

The Zone, established in 2018, encompasses an area of one to two miles around the childhood home of legendary jazz pianist Art Tatum on City Park Rd.

“We grew up in this community. We’re spreading the legacy of who he was and what he accomplished,” explained Christine Sweeney, executive director. And their approach is to improve the human condition one person at a time, one family at a time, one block at a time.

Building community

The Zone offers a full range of classes and programs year-round, primarily along the schedule of Toledo Public Schools. Programs are held primarily at Tabernacle Church, 531 Pinewood, where Sweeney’s husband Dr. Calvin Sweeney is pastor (as well as president of the Zone). Other programs take place at the McClinton Nunn Community Room, 425 Nebraska Ave., and at the Toledo Museum of Art. Through the Zone’s affiliation with the Ohio Department of Education, programs and camps are offered at no cost to students and families. This summer’s programs include:

  • ATZ Sports and Arts Camp – full day summer camp for students in grades 1 – 6, from Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 4pm daily – June 12 through July 28 – this program focuses on mindfulness and imaginative activities, performing arts, STEM activities (including building drones this summer, according to Sweeney), and basic sports skills (traditional sports plus ‘old-time’ sports like kickball). Space is limited, and available at Tabernacle and McClinton Nunn, plus Calvary Bible Chapel, 3740 W. Alexis Rd., and a South Toledo location that will be announced soon.
  • Other programs – Accounting Camp for middle and high school students; a program in construction, architecture and engineering offered through Junior Achievement; and STEM-letics in partnership with the University of Toledo

Learn more about these summer programs, as well as after-school programs, on the Zone’s website.

The Zone also serves residents of the neighborhood year-round. Its community service features six areas of focus (the result of conversations within the community): Education, Economic Development, Community & Family Engagement, Health & Well-Being, Leadership & Personal Development and Neighborhood Stabilization. Programs as diverse as martial arts and chess to parenting and business training are offered regularly at the Zone.

Furthering Tatum’s legacy

Born in Toledo, blind in one eye and partially sighted in the other, Art Tatum was largely self-taught in piano, learning and memorizing music. He excelled in his beginnings in Toledo and built a highly regarded skill in improvisational piano. Even though he had a short life (he died at age 47 in 1956), he became one of the greatest jazz piano players who ever lived, inspiring performers from the 1940s to present with his style and innovation. 

The Zone is currently in the process of restoring Tatum’s childhood home and plans to create a museum and community center there in the future.

“We rebuilt the exterior foundation and are replacing windows,” Sweeney said. “Next, we’ll have community conversations about what we need here and how we can build the house around it.

“I’m so pleased at how responsive families have been in supporting these programs,” said Sweeney, a 20-year educator. They continue to open new locations and build on Tatum’s legacy.

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