BY PAUL BICKLEY
A new shelter stands in front of Shalom Community Center at 620 S. Walnut. It doesn’t have beds and doesn’t serve meals, but it’s a shelter, nonetheless. The gazebo-like structure, with a suspended heart-shaped mosaic mirror inside and shingled with detour and directional street signs, is the latest project of Bloomington community and collaborative artist Joe LaMantia.
Shalom Executive Director Forrest Gilmore says funding for the project, titled The Shelter of Each Other, came from several sources, including the Bloomington Arts Commission and the Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association. The project was collaborative, with public meetings at The Project School, Monroe County Public Library, and Shalom. The Monroe County Highway Department and a dozen Bloomington businesses donated materials and labor. Initial construction took place at Stone Belt, and Shalom and Stone Belt clients and other volunteers helped build and install the project’s multiple components, which include bird and bat houses.
The project is full of metaphors. LaMantia says a shelter offers protection from the elements, but it also gives us a sense of being cared for This shelter literally “protects a heart — the universal symbol of what makes us feel love, kindness, and compassion,” he says. The mirror itself is important. “I wanted people to see themselves in it,” he continues. The traffic signs suggest the directions life takes us. “We all have detours in life,” LaMantia says. “That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road.”
LaMantia says he wanted to include images of nurturing around the heart, so a garden surrounds the structure. Amy Roche of Bloomington Community Orchard and Mary Madore of Bloomington Habitat Stewards designed the garden to shelter and nourish bees, butterflies, birds, and bats.
A mural of people in silhouette with the sentence “Like you, I have a story worth sharing,” spans the front of the building. LaMantia says he included the phrase because he feels a lot of times we make judgments without knowing anything about a person. “From the start of the project, Forrest [Gilmore] emphasized the importance of compassion, and compassion has no judgment,” he says. “It’s just giving.”
For information about Shalom Community Center, visit shalomcommunitycenter. org or call (812) 334-5728. For more about Joe LaMantia, visit lamantiastudio.com.