A night full of history, knowledge and a whole lot of fun. That is how you can describe the August Second Saturday Salon organized by Free Press Managing Editor Suzanne Patzer and her husband Bob Fitrakis, who is Executive Director. The guests in attendance were from all walks of life leading to many interesting conversations. Stories of exciting and political past, struggles of today’s world, and promises of the future took over the night. One guest I had the pleasure of speaking to is brilliant artist Malcolm J. Mr. J. has a past full of loneliness and depression which he turned into something beautiful. He admitted himself into a treatment to help with his drug and alcohol addictions. Mr. J has been drawing since his younger years, motivated by his 4th grade teacher Mr. Valentino. Since his recovery he has taken it to new levels with help from organizations such as the Fresh Air Gallery, the Cultural Art Center and the VSA arts of Ohio.

Mr. J has been honored for his talents and has been a guest speaker at the Cultural Art Center. He currently does political and comic illustrations for the Free Press. Most of his drawings are social and he can be found in the Short North selling some of his pieces. He also has a website, www.malcolmjartmix.mosaicglobe.com. He also plans to go on the talk circuit and become an inspiration for the younger community.

I also met a very warm spirited woman by the name of Pat Marida. She educated me on some of the political and community history of Columbus, Ohio. She also volunteers with the Sierra Club and works on Columbus sewer and nuclear issues. I learned from further conversation that my new friend is also a strong supporter of health care rights. Before Ms. Marida and my easy-going conversation ended I made sure to pass on my contact info so I could learn more about the time before my existence.

Uplifting and informative mingling were not the only things that went on at Saturday’s salon. We had the privilege to be entertained by a few of the guests’ poetic talent.

One woman, by the name of Susan Halpern, graced the room with poetry mostly of her life experience, but some with political meaning. Living in a neighborhood of less than perfect upkeep and inconsiderate guest are not the only challenges she has faced. She has battled cancer and though she lost her breast she did not lose her spirit. She is passionate about her views and confident in her presence. From Ms. Halpern’s poetry you fell apart of her life. A life filled with experience, battles, love, pain and lessons. As Malcolm J said earlier in the night, “Find your inner talent gift.” I suggest sharing it with the world.

Alichia Woods is a Columbus Free Press intern and part of the CICJ 2009 Young Reporter's Project.