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Galesburg crafts vision before Obama visit

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President Barack Obama's visit to Galesburg on July 24 will focus on the economy.

It's a subject he's linked to Galesburg from the days he was a state senator. While details of the event are to be announced, it's clear he formed a kinship with the community over a decade ago.

That's when Maytag closed its Galesburg plant and moved some 1,600 jobs to Mexico. Other companies like Butler Manufacturing also shut their doors for good. The region became a familiar spot as Obama became a U.S. Senator and President.

Galesburg knows what it's like to pick up the pieces. Now, the president will be able to see a new vision there through art and enterprise.

There's something going up in Galesburg on Thursday.

"The chairs are going to have eight-foot legs," said Maria Dimanshtein.

The Chicago-based visiting artist made a special delivery on Main Street.

"They're going to be very tall," she explained.

Piece-by-piece, she's finding a way for art to encourage life. By following her feelings, it's connecting the Galesburg community.

"We have this empty lot here, which I think is asking for something to be done here -- for something new to come up."

The vacant lot is like a blank canvas. It represents hope and history. Once home to the O.T. Johnson building, it went up in smoke during a deadly fire in 2006. After the flames, the building was reduced to rubble.

While the bare space symbolizes the struggles that faced Galesburg during the past decade, the city is working on a fresh start.

"It shows that people care, and that Galesburg is open for business," said longtime leader Bob Bondi.

Landmark Cafe is a Galesburg success story. That's where food brings people together. Now, Galesburg wants to unite by beautifying, branding and building.

President Obama will learn that its ultimate goal is to become a destination for new jobs and businesses that will grow its population.

"The important thing is to have the perspective to stand back and wait for the best options," said Landmark owner Phil Dickinson.

It's poetic justice for the outdoor site. Scattered brick shows what used to be. Maria's art promises what can be.

"My intention is to bring together people who don't necessarily already know each other," she concluded.

From this space, creating a new city vision for Galesburg to show President Obama next week.

Maria will offer a Midsummer Night Tea Party from July 24-28, 8-9:30 p.m., in the northwest corner of Standish Park Arboretum.

The events are free and open to the public.