What would have marked 100 years

In 1917, the Toledo Federation of Art Societies (TFAS) was established by the joining together of the Tile Club, Athenas Society, Artklan and the Toledo Museum of Art to create an annual local exhibition of Toledo artists at the Toledo Museum of Art.

In 2014, the Toledo Federation of Art Societies conspired with the Toledo Museum of Art to kill the local annual museum show, just four years shy of the 100th anniversary, by extending the region to a 150 mile radius, slashing the number of artists accepted, using museum employees to judge and curate the show, and putting in their own people, including two museum employees, an ex-employee, the husband of an employee, a close friend of the director, and two Toledo Federation of Art Societies past presidents. (Another past president, Leslie Adams, had been awarded with a museum solo show, just the year before.) The president of the Federation at the time shrugged off the suggestion of impropriety and corruption by saying with misguided sophistication, “It’s the world we live in.”

With the demise of the prestigious Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, gone was the important center of the Toledo artist community — the museum — along with valuable opportunities for the local community of artists, including 14 monetary awards that had been awarded annually:

  • Israel Abramofsky Award of the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim
  • Molly Morpeth Canaday Award 
  • University of Toledo Award 
  • Toledo Federation of Art Societies Purchase Award
  • Roulet Medal Award 
  • Arts Commission of Greater Toledo Purchase Award for the City of Toledo’s
  • Art in Public Places Program 
  • Athena Art Society Award 
  • Toledo Friends of Photography Award 
  • Toledo Area Sculpture Guild Rose M. Reder Memorial Award
  • Bob Martin Memorial Award
  • Edith Franklin Memorial Award
  • Lourdes University Art Department Award 
  • Toledo Potter’s Guild Award
  • Toledo Area Artists Solo Exhibition Award

This month, on April 28, 2018, the Toledo Federation of Art Societies and the Toledo Museum of Art present a 100th anniversary show celebrating the Toledo Federation of Art Societies itself, as if the Federation is anything to celebrate. After devouring their baby — what the Federation was formed to make — the annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition that they cared for, for 97 years, the oldest local art show in the country and a prestigious one at that – how ironic that they now celebrate themselves by showing the Federation collection of purchase awards from the historic, venerable, prestigious, but dead Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, killed by their own device.

No mention of that. Do they think we forgot??

The Federation no longer stands for artists, and they should be ashamed of what they did to the artist community that they came together to serve. Now the Federation consists mainly of institutions serving themselves, not individual artists. How ironic that the museum didn’t want the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition in their museum anymore,* but now celebrates with the hit man, a show of (mostly) dead Toledo artists.

No mention of the still-warm corpse of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, pushing it down the memory hole, as if it will ever stop stinking.

With this show, called, “Decades in the Making,” the Toledo Museum of Art makes what should have been the 100th anniversary of theToledo Area Artists Exhibition into a 100-year celebration of the lousy caretaker the Federation has been to the culture, history, and potential of the Toledo artist community.

At least the former Federation president Walter Chapman got to live to be 100 years old (he died in 2015 at the age of 102), unlike the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition.

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*Toledo Museum of Art Director Brian Kennedy told me personally on November 7, 2014 that I should “take the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition,” because he didn’t want it in the museum, he wanted the museum to have shows like the Tuileries Garden show, a show the museum had in 2014.

William H. Machen’s Stations of the Cross

William H. Machen is Toledo’s earliest known artist.  Thanks to him, we have paintings of how Toledo looked in the very beginning. He painted the Stations of the Cross for St. Francis de Sales Chapel, located downtown on Cherry Street. Many decades ago, the paintings were damaged in a fire, then damaged even further in a botched restoration attempt. They remained in storage in the church, where they might still be today. I photographed the paintings a few years ago for William Machen’s grand-nephew, James Machen, who lives in Toledo. We both hoped we could garner some support to have the paintings physically restored. Finally, James Machen decided to take up the project of digitally restoring the paintings, and printed them on canvas.

12/2/2015  James Machen to Penny Gentieu:

I am still working to get retouched canvas prints of the Machen Stations paintings placed in the St. Francis chapel. I did get Bishop Thomas’ approval of the plan about three months ago but the individual in charge was changed. He is slow to move on it, I guess.

2/7/2016  James Machen to Penny Gentieu:

Good news! I finally got the go-ahead for the project of getting canvases made of the 14 “fixed” Station images. Msgr. Kubacki, who is now in charge at St. Francis, was very pleased with the sample I showed him. He decided to go with the 18″ x 24″ size.

2/29/2016  James Machen to Penny Gentieu:

On the Stations restorations – – I’m all done. #1 and #14 took the most work. Also good news, Msgr. Kubacki gave his go ahead for the project.

10/19/2016  James Machen to Penny Gentieu:

I want to update you on the 14 restored Station images which I had been working on. Earlier this year in March, I showed a restored sample canvas, size 18″ x 24″, to the bishop’s representative, and then to Msgr. Kubacki (now in charge of St. Francis chapel). Msgr. Kubacki was pleased and told me to go ahead with the other 13. I had them printed and delivered them to St. Francis in May.

There has been a problem – – I haven’t heard a thing since the spring in spite of multiple tries to communicate with Kubacki on my part. The caretaker is eager to put them up, but hasn’t been given any instructions. The canvases were put in a storage area.

Not knowing anything at all, and not wanting this project to end in limbo, I went there this week and retrieved all 14.

I’m not sure what is going on, if it is intentional, they are too busy or ?  Maybe they even plan to close St. Francis like St. Hedwig & Good Shepherd churches ? ?

1/2/2017  James Machen to Penny Gentieu:

I delivered the canvases to St. Francis in May where Msgr. Kubacki is now in charge. I waited for several months without hearing anything. Finally I found out he felt the size was too small for the former spaces and didn’t use them.

1/22/2018 James Machen to Penny Gentieu:

Good news – – through a mission organization, I’ve finally placed the 18″ x 24″ canvas printed from my retouched images of the 14 Stations. They didn’t want them at St. Francis de Sales, I guess partly because they didn’t fit nicely in the old niches.

They are being shipped to a church in the Philippines that was damaged in the big hurricane they had.

7/24/2018 James Machen to Penny Gentieu:
Attached is a jpg of a Station 1 copy finally arrived in the church in the Philippines. It was a long effort but now satisfying. I’m told that they are going to mount the Stations in frames.

The Museum in the Seventies

Stevens-quote-2


Welcome back to Roger Mandle, the fifth Director of the Toledo Museum of Art, from 1977 to 1988. He spoke at the museum’s Little Theater on June 8. It was a wonderful talk, about working with Otto Wittmann, the 4th museum director of the museum, and then as the assistant director at the National Museum of Art in Washington, DC, and then as president of Rhode Island School of Design from 1993 to 2008, and then how he helped develop two new museums in Qatar. Now he is starting a new museum for art and technology in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

It was a great era when Mandle was at the Toledo Museum of Art, because the museum had meaningful art community involvement. The museum was built on meaningful art community involvement, in fact it was built by artists. Beginning in 1916, the museum offered grade school through high school classes, then university classes, and always adult art classes. Local artists had monthly shows at the museum. The museum hosted the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition (TAA). Who would have thought that the TAA Show would have been extinguished, just four years short of its 100th year celebration next year, what was the oldest, most venerable exhibition of its kind in the entire United States.

I benefited from the classes at the museum from age 9 to 21. I taught the first kids photography class that the museum offered, in 1979, with the darkroom right below the Peristyle stage. I exhibited in a few TAA shows, and in 2013, my daughter’s photography career received a huge boost, perhaps even a complete launch, as a result of her prize-winning entry in what was to become the final local Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. This year, four years later, my daughter is showing her photographs in Venice, Italy in a show at the European Cultural Center in the context of the 57th Venice Biennale.

My daughter spent the summer of 2006 at Rhode Island School of Design in a high school program, and that’s where she fell in love with photography. Because I knew Roger Mandle from the museum, we sent him the photos she shot that summer.  He was sincerely impressed and without our even asking, sent her photos to the admissions department with a strong recommendation. To be encouraged by such a knowledgeable and important person so early on was a great formative experience.

Kids classes as well as adult classes have nearly disappeared at the Toledo Museum of Art. The local art community is no longer tied to the museum that the artist-forefathers of Toledo had so progressively formed. It used to be our museum and everybody understood that — it belonged to the community of Toledo — but today for the first time suddenly it is no longer our museum.

Today’s museum is all about the grants. A Mellon grant brought down the TAA show, along with a big bamboozling by the museum to the Toledo artist community, as if our community artists would benefit by expanding our local art show 10-fold to 13 million people and a 300 mile diameter.  At least it looked good on the grant application. That was three years ago, and it was the last show. Judged by Halona Norton-Westbrook, a Mellon Fellow employed at the museum, the eleven local artists who were accepted into the show happened to be closely associated with the museum (including two employees, the husband of an employee, a past employee, and two past presidents of the Federation). Only two of the Toledoans were women.

Lest we forget     Toledo Museum of Art: Repair the Damage

Our current director, Brian Kennedy, tells people openly that Toledo artists are not good enough to show at the museum in any show, even our annual, 100-year old show that’s always been at the museum. So unbecoming of our museum, which had such a progressive, community oriented beginning!

Rejecting local artists is an elitist spin on Toledo’s communal inferiority complex and famously poor self-image. Museum supporters don’t care. They buy their art in New York. Thus, the ax has come down on this fine opportunity and tradition for artists in Toledo. Our deceased museum directors must be rolling in their graves.

It is a shame that the artist community that was once centered around the museum has disappeared and opportunities no longer exist at our most magnificent and inspiring cultural center, the Toledo Museum of Art, that was built by artists, educated artists, and for many years, was led by artists (including Roger Mandle.)

Roger Mandle and the museum directors who preceded him kept the local art community alive and well at the Toledo Museum of Art for more than eight decades. And while accommodating the community, they had blockbuster shows, bigger and better than we see today.

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1967 was the 50th anniversary of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, Otto Wittmann was the 4th director of the museum.
"The founders of the Toledo Museum of Art and the individuals, who, shortly thereafter, established the Federation and the "TAA Exhibition ," did so with the intention of supporting the creative endeavors of our area artists and raising those artists to new heights. That was 1917. Almost a century later, the leaders of our museum have dedicated themselves to adapting the exhibition to a new age. This does not suggest that they are abandoning the philosophy of the original founders or excluding local artists in favor of those from a distance further than our city limits. On the contrary, they are again, raising the bar for the artists in our immediate community by offering us the opportunity to compete on a much grander scale, in a more significant way. Dr. Brian Kennedy, our esteemed Director, and Dr. Amy Gilman, the Associate Director and Curator of Modern and Contemporary art believe in us. They believe that we have the talent and capacity to compete with artists on a more global level - yes, throughout a greater geographic region, but a region that, in 2014, IS the Toledo Area.In years to come, I will, of course, reflect back on this turning point in my career with immense gratitude to the Toledo Museum of Art. I encourage all artists in this community to embrace change and continue to enter and support the "TAA Exhibition." I challenge them to trust that the leaders of the museum can be monumental and great...that they can be life changing." Leslie Adams to Toledo artists, 2014

Isn’t it something that Brian Kennedy tells people that Toledo area artists aren’t good enough for the museum to continue hosting the annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, an important, century old tradition started by the museum with the Federation formed for that purpose, and here is Leslie Adams, past president of the Federation, telling Toledo area artists to trust that with the change in the show, that the museum has their best interests at heart.

Seriously? The museum gave Adams a one-person show in 2012 as a new Toledo Area Artists Exhibition award in 2011 (the first and only recipient of that award) and the museum even acquired three of her pieces in 2015.

So how don’t Toledo artists rate? Leslie Adams is a Toledo artist, yet the museum did all that for her, a lowly Toledo artist.

You just have to wonder why the museum director (who isn’t even from around here) and Leslie Adams, too, can insult the community so much as to kill our show and throw us under the bus, while trying to make the public believe that no local artist’s work can ever be good enough to show at the museum.

Shockingly immodest and inelegant. Unpresidential, totally unprogressive. Nasty. Stupid. Unartistic. Crude. Undignified! And it’s untrue.



After Hours

State employees are working overtime using taxpayer dollars to fund an exclusive art show for themselves.

Should the Ohio Arts Council be giving a show to the state employees of Ohio at the exclusion of the independent artists of Ohio?

The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery is funded by the state. Shouldn’t the responsibility of the Ohio Arts Council be to help the independent artists in Ohio, and not exclude them from a show that takes up 10 weeks in their gallery and lots of state resources showcasing the “After Hours” artwork of state employees?

Isn’t it enough that taxpayers pay the salaries of these state employees, and we give them benefits above and beyond the reach of any independent artists in Ohio, including better health insurance than is available for any individual in Ohio to buy? (thanks to state employees not looking out for us.)

A show funded by taxpayers  just for themselves, and they work here:
DepARTMENT OF Administrative Services  Ohio Environmental Protection Agency  Ohio Industrial Commission  ohio Attorney General  Ohio Department of Education  Ohio Department of Transportation State Library of Ohio  The Ohio Department of Health Ohio Office of Budget and Management  Legislative Services  Ohio Department of Taxation  Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services  Ohio Board of Nursing

Especially in light of the reduced funding for the arts, why would state resources ever be used on a state employee-only art show? And why would it be conceived in the first place, an employee show put on by the state, because it takes funding and opportunities away from Ohio’s independent artists. They could have had their show elsewhere, like at a private gallery.

It seems unethical and you would think that the rules of state funding would make it illegal.

Taxpayer grant money was never intended to be used on a state employees’ own art show.  It takes away from Ohio’s artists who do not have the advantage of getting a paycheck from the state.

If the “after hours” artists could stand in the shoes of daytime artists, they would understand.

We want answers to our questions, Erin Palmer Szavuly, president of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies

Erin Palmer Szavuly, president of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies photo by Penny Gentieu

For the 95th Annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, the Federation sent our local awards out of town. (See, blog post dated October 8, 2014.) All but the Potter’s Guild Award, which the Potter’s Guild withheld this year. These historic local awards were established for local artists and have been given to local artists for decades: the Israel Abramofsky Award of the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim, the Molly Morpeth Canaday Award, the Roulet Medal Award, the Athena Art Society Award, the Toledo Federation of Art Societies Purchase Award, the Toledo Friends of Photography Award, the Toledo Area Sculpture Guild Rose M. Reder Memorial Award, and the University of Toledo Award and Lourdes University Art Department Award, both of which were combined into a new award along with the new Bowling Green State University Art Department award. The Federation collectively and as individual groups, not just the Potter’s Guild, could have withheld awards in protest of the change in radius and in acknowledgment of the community’s widespread negative reaction to the Toledo Museum of Art’s new Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. But the Federation deliberately let our awards go out of town, thousands of dollars of awards.

Erin Palmer Szavuly, why did the Federation do that?

The Federation is a group formed in 1917, comprised of delegates from art societies and the Toledo Museum of Art, for the single purpose of putting on the annual Toledo area art show at the Toledo Museum of Art. The show is for our 17-county local community of artists. At 95 years old, it’s the oldest local art competition hosted at an art museum in the country. It’s very meaningful to our community. However, the Toledo Federation of Art Societies, a group that has held the trust of local artists for 95 years, has been corrupted and the show no longer serves the local art community.

Erin Palmer Szavuly, president of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies, delegate of, and associate professor at Lourdes University, should step down, along with her Federation cohorts, because their actions violate the mission of the organization.

Erin Palmer Szavuly, why haven’t you answered my questions? They are legitimate questions and as the president, you have a responsibility to the Toledo area artists to answer their concerns.

Not only has the Federation been complaisant while the museum has taken the show away from local artists, the Federation has been pathetic in response to the public’s negative response to the jurying results.

Is it because the Federation is working with the museum to kill the show? Does the fact that the museum put the two most recent Federation presidents in this year’s show have anything to do with it?

Erin Palmer Szavuly’s Oct. 14 Facebook post to me:

As you discuss this exhibition with artists in the community…the expectation of support for the show from “our” museum, please also discuss how the area artists can support “our” museum. The number of artists that were rejected from the show that were members of the museum is pretty disappointing. If we have expectations of support from the museum for the local art community…well the local art community can at least help show support of the museum. A reciprocal appreciation would be nice. 

The museum gave Erin Palmer Szavuly membership status information on TAA entrants. Really?

What is the breakdown of the winners’ membership status, Erin Palmer Szavuly, since you make an important issue about the membership status of rejected applicants?

Erin Palmer Szavuly, are you one of the two full-time art teachers at Lourdes University? Are there nine adjunct art teachers working at Lourdes? Are adjunct teacher wages per class approximately 20% of what you are paid to teach the same class? Are most of the TAA winners from out of town adjunct teachers? How many of the winners who are adjunct teachers are also members of the museum? Do the adjunct teacher-winners make a lot less money than the full-time professor-winners? Are all of the full time professor-winners museum members?

Is the average income of a professional artist 65% of the average mean income of all occupations total? Do you expect applicants to be members of the Toledo Museum of Art, even when they struggle to put food on the table, when they have children to feed, or not?

Considering the low wages of adjunct teachers and the average income of professional artists, is it a fair estimation that artists make about 50% of what most workers make?

Do you think it’s discriminatory for the museum to track membership status of TAA applicants? Do you think it’s fair to judge TAA show applicants by their membership status? Erin Palmer Szavuly, is it really anything that you should be looking up and bringing up? But as long as you have done this research, Ms. President of the Toledo Federation of Artists Societies, can we have the answers?

Erin Palmer Szavuly’s remarks to The Blade in the Oct. 31 article, Changes to artists’ exhibit draw criticism:

The selection for the exhibition, she said, is exciting to artists whose works will be featured, but she acknowledged that not being selected can be threatening for some…. “If the show is allowed to stagnate, it does not say very much about our community for that to occur”….

Erin Palmer Szavuly, what exactly do you mean by saying that “not being selected can be threatening for some.” Do you mean that those who are protesting the show are doing so because they were rejected? Do you not get it that the protesters are voicing their disapproval that the majority of the chosen artists are from far-away cities, not from our 17-county area, as it has been for 95 years? Are you hearing us? Why are you not supportive of the Toledo artist community that you represent? Do you seriously believe that the work of Toledo area artists in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition would “stagnate” the show? Do you really think it is a step forward to give our show away and our awards away to a far-away population 15 times greater than ours? How is that good for our local economy? Why did you sell us out, Erin Palmer Szavuly?

Is it true, Erin Palmer Szavuly, that you tell your students to create because they cannot live without creating and enter shows to fill up their resumes, but not to worry about anything in between because it’s out of their control and it’s the world they live in?

Should artists leave the business aspect up to you then, and people like you? Is it easier for you, and people like you, when artists don’t pay attention to business?

Is your handling of the TAA show this year your idea of looking out for the best interests of your students and the Toledo area artists, Erin Palmer Szavuly? Have you read the mission of the Toledo Federation of  Art Societies?

As president of the Federation, Erin Palmer Szavuly, how can you think it’s a good thing that 61% of the artists in the Toledo Area Artists show do not reside in the Toledo area? Do you think it’s fair for the museum to have judged the show itself and put in so many insiders, no local glass artists, and only two area women? To me, as a member of the Toledo community, it’s embarrassing that the museum would conduct the Toledo area art show by picking their own employees, a spouse of an employee, an ex-employee, and the two most recent past presidents of the Federation, not to mention a good friend of the museum director, while putting in very few other area artists and filling it up with out-of-town artists. How could you think that the public would not become aware that the few artists the museum chose from the community were insiders and favorites of the museum?

Ms. President, isn’t it a conflict of interest that two Federation presidents are in the show this year when so few local artists were picked? Are these the successes that you, the President of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies, feel the need to support and celebrate — that the two most recent Federation presidents were put in the show, at the expense of the Toledo area art community as a whole? Is that a conflict of interest?

Erin Palmer Szavuly, what work do you do with the museum director that is “many levels way beyond TAAE,” as you recently told an area artist? As the president of the Federation, do you think it is a conflict of interest to be working with the museum on “many levels way beyond TAAE,” when the radical changes the museum made this year to the TAAE go against the Federation’s mission to show Toledo area artists in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition? Does the extra work you get from the museum constitute receiving favors from the museum, Erin Palmer Szavuly?

We deserve answers.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if the museum spent $80,000 as they did this year – $60,000 more than usual, to freshen up the TAA show for the real Toledo area artists? Our show and our community would have been reinvigorated and Toledo area artists would have been promoted, as promised by the museum when the museum made their proposal to the Federation in 2010 to take control of the show in order to get high-caliber judges that would put the Toledo area artists on the map.

Instead the museum spent over $80,000 to promote outsiders from far-away communities this year, in the name of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. The museum took our 95-year old tradition, our legacy, and our monetary awards and made a mockery of us, while the Federation did nothing to stand up for the rights of the Toledo area artists and our historic show. The show belongs to our community, the Toledo area artist community. It’s called the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition for a reason.

Museum ruins artists’ tradition

Every community needs to support its own, or else it will lose them. The Federation has been an accomplice to the museum’s demise of our local art show. We, the local artists, think it’s dishonest of the Federation to violate its mission, while getting favors from the museum for doing so. We want our show back, at the Toledo Museum of Art, for our 17-county area, with fair and impartial judging.

Museum’s art show draws ire
Exhibit loses sense of community

Read more comments by community members here: artistsoftoledo.com/contribute.html

Statements in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition catalogs from the past three shows regarding Toledo Museum of Art’s commitment to Toledo area artists: 

Fun for Thanksgiving

As a free-range turkey, I will not impose contemporary restraints or adhere to societal constrictions, at least when it concerns my artwork. Otherwise, anything goes. — Anonymous
When I look down on the ground, looking for something to eat, I’m deep in thought about the lines the foliage makes juxtaposed against the acorn nuts and the memory of my mother. I bring all these things to my art. — Anonymous
Yes, we usually put the Turkey Area Artists Show in the basement, but this year we are bringing in the really good out of town turkeys and they will be in the really large room upstairs.
Call me Sharona Triumph-Northstream-Eaglerock-Furfeather-Turkeyfoot-Tenderheart-Honeydew-Bigfellow, or you can just call me Tickles!
Of course I look much better and have better taste!  I am an imported, out of towner turkey!
They had a special show for a special turkey and then never again!
“There are some turkeys, from across the pond, that do not respect and appreciate the long-standing traditions that our area turkeys have. They act all puffed up and almighty with their upright feathers.”

“You need not worry too much, for they too will soon fly away and land at another museum and the first thing they will do is to go out and look for some outstanding local turkeys like us!”

As a turkey artist, I face a lot of rejection. They only let two female area turkey artists in this year. I have only myself to blame for being a female. Now it’s back to the studio to work, work, work, work, work…
I am the new 2014 genetically modified all white meat turkey.
When I get frustrated, I look long and deep within myself, and believe I will find the truth. But I doubt it.
The 2015 Turkey Area Artists Show will have no area artist turkeys!

Photos © 2014 Penny Gentieu gentieu.com

Toledo Museum of Art: Repair the Damage

Adam Weinberg in 1979. Adam was a truly great, forward thinking, community oriented Toledo Museum Fellow, and is now the Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art. I photographed him in the corn field adjacent to his house. We need more like him.

Toledo Museum of Art, repair the damage you have done to the community of artists.

In 2010, perhaps when the museum was between directors, the acting director and Amy Gilman of the museum made a proposal to the Federation, that they would get great jurors with their museum connections and make Toledo artists famous. Maybe not in those exact words, but that’s what the Federation heard. Whatever the exact words were, the museum’s “intention” of commandeering the show was to help the community by making a better Toledo Area Artists show by getting more prestigious jurors, an intention reported in The Blade in 2010 and 2011.

The museum judged it themselves the first year, in 2011, saying that they were introducing the new director, Brian Kennedy, to the community. They used a Mellon Fellow and New York artist and writer Joe Fig the second year. Everything went fine, in fact because of that show, my daughter’s career was launched. (see, Toledo Area Artists Matter)

This year, instead of making the show for the community, the museum extended it to cover a population 15 times greater than the population of the Toledo area. They had their Mellon Fellow, Halona Norton-Westbrook, judge it all by herself. She put in only 11 Toledo area artists, including two museum employees, the husband of a museum employee, one former employee with former contentious museum relationship, the two most recent past presidents of the Federation, the group that had charge of the show when the museum took it over in 2011. Hence, most of the Toledo area artists chosen by the museum were insiders. 17 other artists were from other cities.

The population of Greater Detroit alone is 5 times that of the Toledo metro area. So you can see that a show that was highly competitive in our local area, has become instantly 10-15 times more competitive by adding a 150 mile radius encompassing 4 cities much larger than Toledo, plus several other cities with more advantage than Toledo, such as Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Michigan. And why is this good for our community? For countless area artists like my daughter, the odds are they will never have a chance.

Toledo Museum of Art, is it necessary to take our community show away from us to get a grant? Get Fellows at our museum like Adam Weinberg, the current Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art. He was a very charismatic, community oriented Fellow, who worked at the Toledo Museum of Art in the late 1970’s, and I had the honor of working with him when I was a teacher of photography at the museum. Put an incredible, dynamic community-respecting Fellow, like Adam Weinberg, in charge of the TAA show, with supervision, so he gains professional museum experience. Make the jurying process fair again with objective, outside jurors having no connections to the community. The Adam Weinberg-like Fellow can appoint whatever community committee he needs or wants to work with if he thinks it’s helpful. Make it professional, and make it for Toledo area artists, because that is the legacy of Edward Drummond Libbey, and that is the legacy of the Toledo Museum of Art.

Break it off completely with the Federation. Most of the artists groups dropped out of the Federation after the museum took over the show in 2011, leaving mainly universities and college groups. The Federation has no resemblance now to what it was when it was formed. It used to be composed of groups of artists, not schools, and we don’t need to debate to know that educational institutions do not serve the interests of individual artists — they serve their own institutional interests, and so these institutions do not deserve a seat at this table.

For the previous 94 years, the Toledo area artists have been good enough to be in their own namesake Toledo Area Artists art show. Look at what you are doing to our community! Respectfully, please understand that even though some people may appreciate your leadership contributions to our museum, we all know, you are not from around here, and it is likely that your time at the Toledo Museum of Art will be temporary. Don’t mess with our traditions as if they have no value. It’s like poisoning our water and then skedaddling.

The Toledo Museum of Art was voted the most beloved museum by its community recently. People today donate to the Toledo Museum of Art believing in a community memory of a community oriented museum. How can the museum literally nurture so many artists within its mission and its history, then just hang us out to dry, replaced by artists from other cities? Our area has so much potential for the growth of the art economy in this area. We don’t mean Cleveland or Detroit or Columbus, we mean Toledo! Yet the museum is communally dumbing us down by taking this great opportunity away from the majority of Toledo area artists and handing it over to anybody else in the 150 mile radius, for what, for a more impressive population “line item” on a grant application?

Toledo area artists have always been good enough for the show for the past 95 years. This year the museum throws us under the bus. For a shallow, very shallow, empty purpose. As if to say we are not as good artists as other artists living 150 miles away. Reconsider saving the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition for Toledo area artists. It’s good for us, and as you know, as the museum made it its motto, “art matters” to us.

Give us another Adam Weinberg. He would never have thrown Toledo artists under the bus.

From The Toledo Museum of Art’s mission statement:

COMMUNITY RELEVANCE: We will be an integral member of our community and will be responsive to issues of community concern and importance, particularly as they relate to the arts.

VALUES: As individuals, we pledge that our relationships with one another and with our audiences will be governed by: Integrity; Respect; Trust; Cooperation; Positive Approach; and Self-Discipline.

Brian Kennedy’s slide presentation of the museum’s mission, at the 2011 TAA Jury Dinner. Artist Craig Fisher and his daughter in foreground.

STRATIGIC OBJECTIVES — Working with artists.   Work with us. We are your offspring! The Toledo Museum of Art made us! Aren’t we good enough for The Toledo Museum of Art, Papa?

Another suggestion is to make the gallery off of the Community Gallery for Toledo artists, instead of for babies. Up until 1970, Toledo area artists used to get monthly one-person shows. Now they have a gallery for baby art. Literally. (Toledo Area Lil’ Artists Exhibition — gee thanks, TMA, adding insult to injury.) This nicely lit gallery at the back entrance to the museum. For babies? Seriously, you can do better for us, can’t you, Toledo Museum of Art?

Mary Wolfe: Artist, Art Historian, Art Collector, and Honored Patron of the Arts. (1931—2014)

Mary Wolfe and art: “This is what I imagine heaven will be like.”
 
Mary Wolfe died last Thursday. At 82, she still seemed to be in her prime. What a magnificent woman. She was extraordinarily bright, both in her intellect and aura. She will keep shining through the many gifts she and her husband, Frederic (Fritz), have bestowed upon the community.
 
She was an art history teacher at Bowling Green State University from 1968 to 1976. She always opened her house to students and artists, said her student Kathy Sobb, an accomplished New York City graphic designer. She then became the exhibitions director of the BGSU McFall Center Gallery through the mid-eighties. Relevant to this website, artistsoftoledo.com, Mary Wolfe showed the work of glass art pioneer Dominick Labino. She also put on the largest exhibition of Edmund H. Osthaus ever assembled. Osthaus (1858—1928), famous for his dog paintings and branding of the Du Pont Powder Company (see my blog post, Edmund H. Osthaus and my giant Pierre Project), was one of the founding artists of the Toledo Museum of Art.
 
The couple donated $1 million to Wilberforce University for a new administration building in 1993. (Another artistsoftoledo connection: one of the few known paintings by Frederick Douglass Allen and one that I have been trying to track down was of the 1934 president of Wilberforce.)
 
Mary Wolfe is well-known for the very generous contribution she and Fritz made that started the Wolfe Center for the Arts at BGSU. We can also thank the Wolfes for interesting architecture of the building, since they encouraged BGSU to hire the architecture firm, Snohetta, of Norway. The Wolfe Center opened in December 2011. Six months later, at the Toledo Museum of Art, the Wolfe Gallery for Contemporary Art opened, thanks to the Wolfes $2 million donation to the Museum for the renovation of the old glass gallery behind the Egyptian gallery that had not been used for 15 years. 
 
For interesting accounts of the many roles she played throughout her life, see these two tributes to Mary Wolfe that were published shortly after her death by The Blade and Bowling Green State University.
 
I love the quote that was in the earlier, Blade breaking news report, taken from a 2011 Blade interview in regard to her art patronage. Mary Wolfe said, “It’s made life so much more interesting and wonderful for us. It gives you a great feeling.” How lovely to know this, how the Wolfes felt about art collecting and their kind act of supporting the arts, since what they have given us has truly made the lives of an entire community much more wonderful and interesting and gives us a great feeling.
 
I am grateful to have known her. She and Fritz came to my daughter, Anna Friemoth’s opening at the Paula Brown Gallery last year and bought her work. It means so much, since I know they have such exquisite and discerning taste in art.
 
Two years ago, my husband and I were invited to a small studio tour of Austrian LED light artist Erwin Redl, currently living in Bowling Green, with Mary & Fritz Wolfe and two of their three daughters and a mutual friend. Erwin Redl’s studio is in a huge warehouse, divided into several rooms. Erwin creates conceptual light installations for international museums. The experience of the work in each room of his studio tour became progressively grander and more energetic.  It was pretty special to be experiencing this tour with the Wolfes and I could see that Mary Wolfe was inspired. Later, her daughter Lisa told me that her mother was absolutely taken by the installations, and especially the last room, that had streams of red lights and blue lights speeding rhythmically from wall to wall close to the ceiling. Mary remarked about the last room, “This is what I imagine heaven will be like!”
 
I was just getting ready to send Mary Wolfe a card for my upcoming show, Artists of Toledo at the Paula Brown Gallery, that opens November 13. I printed some snapshots from that night at Erwin’s, together with a note. I had them out on my table waiting to find the right sized envelope when I read the Blade report that she died. I had just been with Lisa two days before at Bowling Green State University and later I sat in the theatre in the Wolfe Art Center for a scholarly talk on animal vision. It was a celebrated event and the audience included many VIPs but Mary Wolfe wasn’t there as I thought she might have been. She had a stroke that evening and died the next day, surrounded by loved ones.
 
Our prayers go out to Mary’s family, her many friends, and to our entire community. We lost someone pretty wonderful. We will always remember her because she brought so much art to life.
 
 

Toledo Area Artists Matter


This past Wednesday, Toledo City Paper ran the following article that I wrote about why it’s important to keep the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition for Toledo area artists.

www.toledocitypaper.com/October-Issue-2-2014/Toledo-Area-Artists-Matter/ 


The Toledo Area Artists Exhibition is the oldest regional art competition affiliated with a museum in the United States. It gives the art community a great sense of pride to compete and get into the prestigious museum show, featuring and celebrating the talents of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. It’s 95 years old. This year, only 11 Toledo area artists are in it! So are 17 artists from cities far away from Toledo, such as Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Grand Rapids, MI, and even Muncie Indiana. These cities have their own thriving art communities. The show is not a true area artists show this year and has no right to the name. It’s important to keep our local traditions for the same reason that it’s important to drink clean water. If that doesn’t make sense, then here are just three examples, out of hundreds, to show why the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition is important and relevant to our own local and regional art community — Edith Franklin, Leslie Adams, and Anna Friemoth.


Where would Edith Franklin be in our hearts if it wasn’t for the Toledo Museum of Art? We may have known her, but not nearly as well. She attended the children’s classes at the Museum from about age 10, so for 80 years, the museum contributed greatly to her life, and she in turn contributed greatly to the museum. In addition to the Saturday children’s classes, she continued her education at the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design for another 40 years, from 1945-1986. She took part in the historic Glass Workshop in 1962, participating in the very beginnings of the American Studio Glass Movement, and she even walked the runway in the 50th anniversary, 2012 Glass Fashion Show, just two months before she died. 


The Toledo Museum of Art gave Edith Franklin a one-person show when she was 35. As for the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, Edith Franklin was in 26 out of 29 consecutive shows from 1953 to 1982, winning First Award, Craft Club Award, and the Federation Purchase Award.  She was a founder of the Toledo Potters Guild in 1951, board member of the Arts Commission, and earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Toledo Federation of Art Societies in 1999. She passed away in August 2012, having donated the Edith Franklin Pottery Scholarship to young potters, among other philanthropies. Brian Kennedy, Director of the Museum, gave a eulogy at her memorial service. He said she would often tell him that she was from Toledo, born and bred. Edith Franklin cared about her legacy. I helped her organize her papers that she donated to the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections. She rewarded me well with a special pottery piece.

 Leslie Adams, of Toledo, was born about 45 years after Edith Franklin, and like Edith, benefited from the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. Leslie is a successful artist who got her start as a child student at the Toledo Museum of Art, a prodigy student of Toledo’s legendary drawing teacher and artist, Diana Attie. Leslie received her BFA from The University of Toledo for classes at the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design. She was in 11 Toledo Area Artists Exhibition shows from 1993 to 2011, and won eight awards, from First, Second and Third awards to the Athena Art Society Award in honor of Virginia Stranahan, the Molly Morpeth Canaday Award, and the National League of American Penwomen NW Ohio Branch-Carolyn Goforth, In Memoriam award. In 2011 she won the highest honor given at the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition in 93 years – the Toledo Area Artists Solo Exhibition Award, a one-man show at the Toledo Museum of Art. (It was new award the museum promised to present every two years. Leslie Adams was the first and only.) There is no doubt that the TAA show, and the awards received in the TAA show, helped Adams with her successful career. (Incidentally, Leslie Adams is a former president of the Federation, the group that gave up control of the TAA to the museum.)
 
Then there’s my daughter, Anna Friemoth, a 2012 graduate of Maryland Institute College of Art in Photography, who entered the 94thToledo Area Artists Exhibition last year and won a prize. Her piece was sold at the TAA preview show. It also appeared in the Blade. Peter and Paula Brown called her the day it was in the Blade and invited her to have a one-person show in their gallery, the Paula Brown Gallery, in downtown Toledo.  The Browns bought the photo at the preview show. Anna’s one-person show at the Paula Brown Gallery was a commercial success and Anna was able to launch her career.  It was an amazing opportunity for Anna to be in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. She gained much great career advantage because of the success she obtained as a result of being in the TAA show. 39 Toledo area women were in that TAA show, which was just last year; this year’s show has only TWO Toledo area women.
 
The opportunity my daughter had is what all artists in our community need and deserve. We have a very large art community – in addition to dozens of clubs and ateliers, there are at least 10 colleges and universities in our 17-county region of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan that teach art. What are artists to do when they graduate? Toledo Museum of Art has cut them out of this 95-year old prestigious museum show, a show that was meant for them and takes place in their own community. The show is called Toledo Area Artists Exhibition for a reason.  It’s because the show is for Toledo area artists, to help them show their work. That’s why it was started, in 1917, and that’s what it has done for 95 years. The Toledo Museum of Art helps artists to be better artists by giving prominent local artists solo-shows and by hosting the 95-year-old annual juried area artists show. In return, Toledo area artists contribute to the continuum that is Toledo’s distinctive local cultural history, that is us and can only be us. In return, yet again, that makes our region better for everybody living here.
 
This is where we live, these are our cultural, our genetic and our geographic connections, and they are as important to us as that big great lake, Lake Erie, from which we have to drink our water every day.

The New Twisted TAA Show

New in the past several days, The Toledo Museum of Art has completely rewritten its 95th Toledo Area Artists Exhibition webpage. Why did the museum feel the need to rewrite a webpage that it posted for the show in July after the winners were chosen?

Maybe the museum doesn’t want people to have the facts about the show, that out of 28 accepted artists, only 11 are from the Toledo area comprising the 17 counties in Northwest Ohio and two counties in Southeast Michigan, and that of the shamefully low number of area artists chosen, only two are women. Last year 64 Toledo area artists were in the show and 39 were women. Of this year’s lucky 11 Toledo area artists;  two are museum employees, a spouse of an employee, a former employee, the two most recent past presidents of the Toledo Federation of Artists, as well as a close friend of museum staff.

Mention of the history and great tradition of our 95 year old TAA show has been exorcised from the webpage as it had appeared a week or so ago, including the details that the 95th TAA “continues the Museum’s tradition of celebration and recognizing the best work by artists in this region” and that “it is one of the few remaining shows of its kind organized by an art museum nationally.”

Also removed is the statement that 28 artists were chosen from 462 entrants, with the link to a page listing the artists and their resident cities. This page is still on their server, but you have to search for it. Good luck finding it.

Some time before October 9, their statement that TMA associate director and curator of contemporary and modern art, Amy Gilman was one of the judges (along with Mellon Fellow Halona Norton-Westbrook) that picked the artists was removed from the page.  (see, my October 4 blog post in regard to Amy Gilman.) In total, since the museum first posted the page in July, the page went from having four paragraphs down to one.

All of this informative history has been shoved down the memory hole. The museum’s new TAA webpage has transformed (twisted) our wonderful TAA show into a new Frankenstein. The new TAA show is described with mysteriously fluffy verbiage such as, “tension between the urban vs. suburban” and “class struggle in Middle America and war.”

Also, The Toledo Museum of Art disclosed for the first time in their public announcements that the “money awards” judge, Christopher Knight, has worked at the museum. Draw your own conclusions.