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The original article can be found at Westerville News and Public Opinion - (with pictures)

Artist honored with community service award
* Uptown advocate and public art organizer Renee Kropat wins Rotary's A. Monroe Courtright Award.

Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 9:32 AM EDT

While the giant public murals are difficult to miss, much of Renee Kropat's service to the community goes under the radar.

Kropat was honored with the Rotary Club of Westerville's A. Monroe Courtright Service Award during a ceremony Thursday, May 1. She she received two standing ovations as she was introduced and accepted the award.

"When you look at all the good things people are doing in the world, it's easy to feel overwhelmed ... but all you need to do is start in your own community to make the world a better place," Kropat said.

Most of Kropat's service is aimed at the visual arts.

"If you're going to volunteer, you need to pick something you're good at," said Kropat, who described herself as "an assemblage artist."

While Kropat has a history of helping those in need, she didn't always incorporate art. For 20 years she worked full-time as an occupational therapist before returning to school to realize the dream she had at 8 years old -- becoming an artist.

Some of her accomplishments since then include running Gallery 202 Co-Op, a three-year-old cooperative located at 38 N. State St. that focuses on showcasing local artists, organizing mural paintings, and teaching children's art classes and camps.

"Unfortunately, when cuts need to be made at schools, art is often the first thing to go," Kropat said. "There's been enough studies that show if kids create art, it benefits their schoolwork and their community."

Benefitting the entire community, not just artists, is Kropat's ultimate goal.

One example would be the public mural paintings she's organized around the city -- on the East Main Street wall of Amish Originals, on the side of Westerville Automotive and near the food donations box at the WARM food pantry. Besides beautifying blank walls, residents work together to paint the murals, which Kropat said creates a sense of community each time they walk by finished art work.

The Gallery 202 Co-Op is Kropat's third Uptown location. She's known for other public displays of art as well, including the "Chair is Art" exhibit, and for her service on the Arts Council of Westerville.

"We found Renee to be a passionate advocate for the arts and arts education," said Courtright Committee Chairman Tom Schultz. "She's always available and looking forward to bettering the community."

Another area Kropat is actively involved in is promoting Uptown whether it's through several Web sites she operates or events like the upcoming Think Pink! on May 18.

The annual award Kropat received is named after A. Monroe Courtright, a charter member of the Rotary Club of Westerville who was serving as the service club's president when he died in 1977.

According to the Rotary Web site, Courtright, former publisher of The Public Opinion, was known throughout Westerville not only for his professional life but also for his desire to serve the community.

Kropat said she felt undeserving of the award until she learned during the award ceremony about Courtright's "behind the scenes" work to help others in the community.

"Sometimes it's the little steps that mean more, because often they add up to something bigger," Kropat said.

Kropat joins a distinguished list of past winners of the Courtright Community Service Award. They are:

2006 -- Diane Fosselman

2005 -- Westerville Caring & Sharing

2004 -- Rich Siegel

2003 -- C. William Swank

2002 -- Garrett Brusco

2001 -- Jim Grissinger

2000 -- Vinny Herwig

1999 -- Kathy Cocuzzi

1998 -- Jo Ann Davidson

1997 -- Charlotte Walker

1996 -- Dick Rano

1995 -- Paul Askins

1994 -- Marge Day Lewis

1993 -- Edna Zech

1992 -- Dr. Bill Freeman

1991 -- Ned Mosher

1990 -- Joe "Grandpaw" Bernowski and Dwight "Smokey" Ballinger

1989 -- Don W. Miller

1988 -- Jane W. Bradford

1987 -- Richard H. Gorsuch

1986 -- Sue Ann Norton

1985 -- Edwin "Dubbs" Roush and James "Buzz" Cockerell

1984 -- Blendon Grange and Mary Davis

1983 -- Mary Bailey

1982 -- R.T. "Sarge" Beum

1981 -- Morris Briggs

1980 -- Sanders Frye and James Tressler

1979 -- Maurice and Dorothy McVay

1978 -- Dr. Walter Stout

1977 -- Eddie Birchem

"When you look at all the good things people are doing in the world, it's easy to feel overwhelmed ... but all you need to do is start in your own community to make the world a better place."

--artist Renee Kropat








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