Columbus Artist Explains How Poindexter Village Influenced Her

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UPDATED: Monday May 27, 2013 6:30 PM

On Monday, Poindexter Village stood desolate and abandoned, awaiting the wrecking ball.

A renowned artist described how the housing development slated for demolition had a major influence on her work.

Aminah Robinson spent the first 17 years of her life in Poindexter Village. The large east side complex was one of the nation's first public housing developments when it was built by the federal government in 1940.

Robinson told 10TV News anchor Jerry Revish it was an amazing place to grow up.

"It was wonderful. And every child was cherished and loved dearly," Robinson said.

She lived at 1237 E. Market Street, Apartment F. She said it was there that her Uncle Alvin, the family storyteller, helped provide the narrative for her art that has ended up in so many places. She said she became her uncle's paintbrush.

Robinson said Uncle Alvin told her stories about the blackberry patch - the neighborhood that became Poindexter Village. She said that it got its name from the wild fruit that grew around the sub-standard housing which African Americans endured in east Columbus in the 1930's.

Poindexter Village replaced the blight with better living. For some, it meant natural gas, electricity and indoor plumbing for the first time.

Her paintings depict the days when families there made their own soap out of lard and used lilac oil to give it fragrance. She has featured street vendors like the Chicken Foot Man who sold cooked chicken feet from a cart, and others who peddled fresh fruit and vegetables.

Robinson said over time, life at Poindexter changed.

Drugs and violence became commonplace. People started moving out of the Village. The neighborhood that nurtured so many young people into success stories became an eyesore.

The owner of the property, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, wants to redevelop Poindexter Village into mixed-income housing. Preservationists want to save at least 10 of the remaining 35 buildings.

Robinson said she would love to see an art center take of part of that space so that future generations might see and remember what once was.

"You know, you can't stop progress. So I look at it hopefully. I'm always hopeful that something better will come for the future of our community," said Robinson.

CMHA plans to start demolishing Poindexter Village sometime in June.

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