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Artists of Toledo

Looting and the Toledo Museum of Art

Toledo Museum’s new culture of belonging does not mean they can keep looted belongings of another culture.
Photo and description from the book published in 1900, Antique Works of Art from Benin Collected By Lieutenant- General Pitt Rivers, D.C.L., F.R.S., F.S.A. Inspector of Ancient Monuments in Great Britain, &c. page 34. “Figs. 100 and 101. – Bronze cast of human head. Marked negro features, rudely formed. Three tribal marks over each eye. Peculiar pointed reticulated head-dress of coral or agate. Curious lines of incised circles above and below the eyes. Coral choker, badge of rank. Bands of coral or agate hanging down on both sides and at the back. Ears badly formed. The projecting base ornamented with a guilloche pattern of two bands with pellets.” See, Yale Library webpage here..

For a museum that vies to be a forward-thinking museum desiring to set an example for all other museums to follow, why hasn’t the Toledo Museum of Art returned the stolen Benin Bronze to Nigeria yet? It was stolen in 1897, so they’ve had plenty of time! If they want to set the example then they’ve missed the boat, since Benin Bronzes are already being returned by U.S. museums, including the Smithsonian, The Met and Boston.

It was stolen by British colonial troops who invaded Benin City in 1897. It was then sold to General Pitt Rivers, a collector, who started a museum with his new collection of looted art.

For an overview on looted art, see Hyperallergic’s October 4, 2022 story, John Oliver Roasts Western Museums in Episode on Looted Art  regarding “subjects like hesitant repatriation, antiquities looting, and the shady acquisition practices of auction … citing grisly colonial histories and contemporary looting schemes.”   View the highly entertaining youtube link where you can watch the entire 30-minute episode here.

A page from the Toledo Museum of Art publication – African Tribal Art, 1973, which commemorated the museum’s recently opened gallery, the Art of Africa. While the museum had owned examples of African art for 15 years, it had only then, in 1973, acquired enough to form a gallery solely devoted to the art of the vast continent. The Benin Bronze was one of the first African objects it acquired, in 1958.
The African Image, Toledo Museum of Art’s 1959 show of African Art, put together from the collections of 37 museums and private collectors.

Toledo’s Benin Bronze came from the Pitt-Rivers Museum in 1958, right before the museum closed. This museum was General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-River’s personal museum at Farnham, Dorset, England bearing the same name as the museum started at Oxford University with his earlier bequeathed collection. 

Toledo’s Benin Bronze was featured in multiple African Art catalogs published by the Toledo museum in 1959, 1973 and 1998. But it’s not on display. Why not? Is it because it is so shameful to have this object, but Adam Levine can’t “pull the trigger” (as he so colorfully described his divestment of the museum’s three great French Impressionist paintings last spring for $54 million) to shoot this object back to Africa?

The Benin Bronze featured in the Toledo museum’s catalog, Facing Africa: The African Art Collection of the Toledo Museum of Art, published in 1998.

With Lenisa Kitchiner as the Toledo Museum of Art’s African art consulting curator, who also works full-time for the Smithsonian, an institution that is sending theirs back, it seems odd that Toledo’s Benin Bronze is in limbo — it’s not on display, but it’s not on a plane going back.

Toledo Museum of Art website catalog details, 2022. Not on display.
The museum says one thing but does another.

Just this summer, in the Blade’s 7-26-22 Toledo Museum of Art helps bring stolen antiquities back to owners, in regard to four objects looted from Italy in the museum’s collection, the museum told us that “the process of sending artwork to its home country and leaving the museum’s collection, or repatriation and deaccessioning, is integral to what the museum stands for.”

“The museum has a long history of helping in repatriation processes like these, including an Etruscan water jug caught up in an international trafficking scheme that was returned to Italian authorities in 2013 and a scientific instrument called an astrolabium, determined to have been stolen from Germany during World War II, that was returned to the German government in 2015.”

Toledo Museum of Art’s looted Italian kalpis, 1982 – 2013.
The 2013 repatriation of the Italian water jug

The Etruscan water jug, or kalpis, was sold to the museum for $90,000 in 1982 by Gianfranco and Rosie Becchina, who got it from the infamous Giacomo Medici. You can read about Becchina and Medici in the book, Chasing Aphrodite, an exposé of the antiquity looting at The Getty written by the journalists who had reported on it for the L.A. Times. In fact, this book describes the finding of Medici’s polaroids in 1995, one of which shows this very kalpis still covered in dirt from a recent illicit excavation. It wasn’t until 2012, the day that USA v. One Etruscan Black-Figured Kalpis, circa 510-500 BC, case No. 3:12-cv-1582 appeared online, that the Toledo Museum decided to do what they “stand for,” and send the looted antiquity back to Italy.*

Denying any other looted art in the museum besides the Nereid Sweetmeat Stand which was stolen from the Dresden museum during World War II, bought by the Toledo museum in 1956, and returned to Dresden in 2011, Director Brian Kennedy questioned, should there be an end-date to repatriations? It was his second, but he would oversee a lot more between 2015 and 2019. One was another 1982 acquisition of an Italian drinking vessel obtained from the same looters of this kalpis, Becchina and Medici.*

About the Subhash Kapoor-looted Asian antiquities
The Ganesh, Toledo Museum of Art 2006 – 2014.

The Ganesh was stolen from the Sivan Temple in Tamil Nadu India in late 2005 or early 2006. It was then sold to Toledo Museum in 2006, who returned it to India in 2014, two years after the Manhattan antiquities dealer, Subhash Kapoor, who sold it to them, was extradited to India to await trial for illegally taking antiquities out of the country. Kapoor had also given 48 free objects that the Toledo Museum listed in their 2007-2008 Annual Report as being recent additions to their collection. In this same publication, the museum thanked Kapoor on the donor page for his donation valued at more than $100,000.

Yellow highlights show the Subhash Kapoor gifts to the museum, which the museum added to their collection. The museum would claim later that it had never added most of these in its collection. See, here. Hmm. The blue brackets point out two of the purchases, including the pictured vessel which was also featured in the 2009 Toledo Museum Masterworks book.

This Subhash Kapoor episode is well-documented on the blog, Chasing Aphrodite, which is written by one of the authors of the book of the same name, mentioned above. Quote from the blog:

The Toledo Museum of Art told the New York Times that it had received a gift of 44 terracotta antiquities from Kapoor in 2007. The only object that appears in a search of the museum’s online collection is a terracotta vessel purchased in 2008. The museum published the object in 2009 in a book of the museum’s masterworks, but offers no ownership history other than saying it was created in Chandraketugarh, an archaeological site north-east of Kolkata. Where was it before Toledo? What are the ownership histories for the other 43 objects acquired from Kapoor?  –– Chasing Aphrodite

The museum replied to Chasing Aphrodite’s July 2013 inquiry with this:

“Our policy is to respond to requests about objects in the TMA collections made by official authorities such as museums, law enforcement agencies, foreign governments and those making legal claims to ownership,” spokeswoman Kelly Garrow** told me. “There have been no such inquiries to date in regard to the objects referred to in your email.” In other words, in Toledo’s view the public has no right to know the ownership history of objects in the museum’s collection, even when serious legal questions have been raised.

The museum came clean about their dealings with Kapoor in March 2014, attributing their decision to the information given to them by Chasing Aphrodite, even though the museum stonewalled their inquiries for two years and told them that they don’t have to answer to the public.

Subhash Kapoor gave a lot of free gifts to various museums, including The Met. The Met has several of these freebies listed as 20th Century. They are replicas – fakes. Kapoor would smuggle into the U.S. the real stuff packed in boxes of replicas, and the boxes would be marked, “replicas.” [see this Paul Barford blog link for that detail.] 


The true meaning of Belonging

And now we have a young new museum director with a major in anthropology, art history, and mathematics and social sciences, who did his graduate work at Oxford University – home of the Pitt Rivers Museum, albeit the first Pitt Rivers, which itself houses 327 Benin Bronzes according to Wikipedia. Our director, Adam Levine, seems to want to “contribute to the eradication of the illicit market for ancient artifacts.” He wants all museums in America to follow his good example. He’s leading a “Belonging” campaign where he endeavors to make the museum more welcoming by displaying a specially balanced world history in order that everyone will see themselves in the galleries. But this important Benin Bronze historical sculpture from Africa is not being shown in any gallery. Nor has it been returned to Nigeria. And not a peep about it.

The museum’s Belonging Plan states, “it is important to acknowledge the prior inhabitants of the land on which the Museum stands” and “The Toledo Museum of Art created a Land Acknowledgment both to honor the Indigenous peoples who resided on the land before the founding of the physical campus in the early 1900s and to demonstrate support for Indigenous communities of Ohio, celebrate their cultures, and recognize their forced removal from their lands in previous centuries.”

The hypocrites!

Since the sculpture was stolen by English colonialists in arguably the earliest episode of modern-day looting, in 1897, an ambush that captured an entire cultural heritage in artwork, shouldn’t the Toledo Museum of Art be returning this object as fast as they can – (they sure could sell three French Impressionist paintings at lightning speed) – considering the new branding and what the new 2022 Toledo Museum stands for, and to meet the museum’s goals for being totally authentic by 2026.

The Toledo Museum needs to do a survey of all of its works of art and research to find out if any had been purchased from looters or money launderers of stolen artwork, and they need to put online a database of the entire provenance of each work for the public to freely access. They need to do it with the same determination that they gave to the recent audit of their artworks, which showed that “the greatest imbalances exist across gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, nationality and geography, and material/medium.”

The museum should rethink that recent survey – what is the relevance of any of that, and specifically, of the nationality and geography of an object, when so much of that relies on an illicit market, when the museum should not be stealing from other cultures. The museum is, after all, into belonging, and Nigeria should own back their heritage that was stolen by the English colonialists, because it rightly belongs to them. 

And while they are at it, the Toledo Museum of Art should stop looting the local Toledo community of its cultural traditions. They should reinstate the museum’s long tradition of children’s Saturday art classes that had always been for ANY and ALL children in Toledo (2,500 children every week), instead of just a discriminatory few children (25 at the most?) at a specific grant-written outreach after-school childcare program at a library. Return to our Toledo community the century-old Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, that the museum stole from us in 2014 under a cloud of corruption, and give us that Robert and Sue Savage Community Gallery for local artists promised to us in June 2021. The Toledo Museum of Art got Robert and Sue Savage to donate a lot of money to renovate a gallery space for one-person local artist shows 17 months ago, so where is it?


*Museum Ethics and the Toledo Museum of Art, Christos Tsirogiannis, artcrimeresearch.org  Christos Tsirogiannis is a forensic archaeologist who wrote about the kalpis and brought to light the looted Hephaistos drinking vessel in 2017, which the museum did not deal with until 2019.

**Regarding Kelly Garrow, the museum’s former Director of Communications who wrote the 2013 email to Chasing Aphrodite saying that they owed no answers to the public in regard to looted art in their collection, see this interesting 2014 message to this very artistsoftoledo.com blog (scroll down to the comments), where she was inspired to write 10 paragraphs about how the museum did not “fix” the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition of 2014 to add their own employees, and more.

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Artists of Toledo

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 cornfield adjacent to his house. 

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?

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Artists of Toledo

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.
 
 
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Artists of Toledo

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.
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Artists of Toledo

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.

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Artists of Toledo

Letter to the Editor of The Blade

In the October 15, 2014 Toledo Blade is my Letter to the Editor:

The upcoming Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, Nov. 21 through Jan. 4 at the Toledo Museum of Art, will have only 11 artists from the Toledo area.  The previous exhibition had 64 local artists.

Seventeen artists outside of our 17-county regional area got into the TAA show from as far as Cleveland, Columbus, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Muncie, Ind.

I am a member of the local art community and operate a Web site that details Toledo’s art history (artistsoftoledo.com). I applied for the exhibition but wasn’t accepted.

Of the 11 Toledo area artists who were chosen, most have inside connections to the art museum, which gained control of the exhibition from the Toledo Federation of Art Societies in 2011. I question whether the jurying was ethical.

It is unacceptable that only 11 Toledo area artists were picked out of 462 total entrants. The museum should not be entitled to use the TAA name because it is a misrepresentation.

TAA is the oldest regional art competition affiliated with a museum in the country. Obviously, the museum has no respect for Toledo’s traditions or its artists. Toledoans donate to the museum, believing it is community oriented. Donors may want to rethink donating to a museum that treats the present-day community this way.

Penny Gentieu

Awards presented — wondering about this year’s Toledo Area Artists Exhibition

Some TAAE awards, and they all have a story. What is happening to them, Toledo Museum of Art? 

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

UPDATE on November 22:

I had received no answer from the Museum, the Federation, the Arts Commission, or the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim regarding these awards, even though I had asked each one directly. I am posting the day after the awards ceremony. 

The University of Toledo Award, Lourdes University Art Department Awards were combined along with BGSU, new this year, and given to a Farmington Hills, Michigan artist. I am wondering why the art schools of Toledo ganged up and sent their money out of town. I recommend all future college art students to get their education outside of Toledo, and set up shop outside of the Toledo area. Because this is how Toledo art schools will support you. THEY WON’T.

The Potters Guild Award was not given, because there was only one potter in the show, a Toledo artist and member of the Potters Guild. He unselfishly said to the Potters Guild that they should hold off on giving the award this year, and even suggested that the Potters Guild award it at the Salon des Refusés.

Toledo Area Sculpture Guild Rose M. Reder Memorial Award’s name was changed to Toledo Area Sculpture Guild and Flatlanders Gallery Award (a gallery owned by one of the Federation presidents put in this year’s show, Ken Thompson) and given to a Columbus artist.

Israel Abramofsky Award of the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim went to an Akron artist. 

Molly Morpeth Canaday Award went to a Berkley, Michigan artist.

The Roulet Medal Award, the oldest name award of the show, went to a Grand Rapids, Michigan artist.

The Athena Art Society Award went to an Ann Arbor artist.

The Toledo Federation of Art Societies Purchase Award went to an Ann Arbor artist.

Toledo Friends of Photography Award went to Cleveland.

Bob Martin Memorial Award and Edith Franklin Memorial Award were not given, they were new to the show in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

It was reported in the Blade on November 16, 2014 that the museum dropped the Toledo Area Artists Solo Exhibition Award. The Leslie Adams Show in 2012 was the only show resulting from this short-lived award.

All of the name awards that were presented, awards given by the Toledo Federation of Art Societies — a group that was formed to promote Toledo area artists, went outside the 17-county Toledo area. Awards that were designed to be given to Toledo area artists, in a show that was meant for Toledo area artists.

The organizations set up in Toledo, even the ones that get grant money for Toledo artists, DO NOT support you.

That the universities ganged up their award without supporting the TAA for TAA artists, is perhaps the worse possible offense. They train them, they take their big tuition dollars, you’d think that they would support Toledo area artists! But they let the award go out of town. What does that say about them? They don’t care about your artistic professional future because they are actually taking opportunities away from you on purpose. They simply don’t care about keeping the TAA for Toledo area artists, even when 37 Bowling Green-affiliated artists benefited from the show in the past three years — these colleges, BGSU included, have a different agenda.

Art students — find another school. It’s HOPELESS in Toledo. Don’t even try. They are not with you. Your life here now and your future here will most assuredly be bleak.

And glass artists? What is here for you, a job at the museum maybe, but you are not considered anything special for the TAA show. It’s not worth putting down roots in this area.  Sure it’s cheap and easy to live here, but you’ll more than make up for any cost of living difference in a better, more supportive city, because you’ll be more appreciated, you’ll be more motivated, you’ll be more productive, and you’ll make more money. In short, you’ll be more successful where you get the support you need. Your talent is valuable and will go a lot further elsewhere, where you are supported and respected for the pioneering artists that you are. And this advice goes for all artists living in Toledo.

All of these organizations could have withheld their awards this year in protest of the area extending outside of the 17-county Toledo area that has comprised the area of the past 50 shows. But they didn’t. They knew, and they certainly got my message, but they refused to respond to my questions, because they are disrespectful and do not care about Toledo area artists. They had a chance to make a statement but they let us know loud and clear where they stand. Toledo area artists, don’t you stand for it!

Federation — step down. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Sometimes when you look in the microscope you see the whole thing.

Photo by Steve Coffin of John Botts and his Big Peony painting. Corte Madera, California

This photo came today in my email — a photo of John Botts, my painting teacher at the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design. Wow. I owe so much to John Botts — he made me see what I really was, which is a photographer. When he saw the first photographs I took, he gave me a book — the first edition of Robert Frank’s book, The Americans.

It is probably fair to say that the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition this year is the most controversial Toledo Area Artists Exhibition there has ever been, and not for the art either, because we don’t get to see the art until November.  The show is controversial this year because of the circumstances created by the Toledo Museum of Art and the questionable decisions that the museum has made that put the show and the museum in a bad light even before it opens.

excerpts from the press release about the 95th Toledo Area Artists Exhibition on Toledo Museum of Art website

Were they really? Pleased with our region? Doesn’t seem so.

Out of all those entries that they looked at — 4,175 images, 44 videos, and two audio entries, the museum curator in-house judges could barely find any artists for the show who didn’t work at the museum, or weren’t friends of theirs, etc. or the most recent presidents of the Federation, to put in the show who live in the Toledo area.

And then the curators had to go beyond the Toledo area to fill it in with out-of-town artists from Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Grand Rapids Michigan, Muncie Indiana. Our Toledo Area Artists Exhibition.

We have so many artists in the Toledo area, yet in a show that has only 28 artists this year, cut down from a show that had 76 artists last year, a show that historically ranges anywhere from 70 to 120 artists — of 90% real Toledo area artists, the museum this year  has to go 150 miles out in all directions to pick out 17 artists who live outside of the 17 counties that comprise the Toledo area – the 15 counties of NW Ohio and the two bordering counties in SE Michigan?

Then, with our show taken over by metropolitan areas that are not our own, over half of the meager remaining 11 artists chosen actually from this area, from all the 4,175 images that they got to select from, are artists within the “Museum nucleus?”

Is that okay with you?

Do we really have to drink this water?

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Is it fair that 435 artists paid $30 each thinking that they were entering a fair competition (435 x $30 = $13,050) when they never had a chance because the museum judged it and got to put in their employees and friends, then fill it up with a pick of artists in big metropolitan areas not our Toledo area, that the museum has the audacity to call the 95th Toledo Area Artists Exhibition?

The reason why the annual TAA show started using outside jurors after eight years into their history was so that the show could be judged fairly and without conflicts of interest.

So this year, 2014, for the 95th annual show, why did museum staff members make themselves the jurors of the 95th Annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition? Was it so they could unfairly get to pick fellow museum employees and friends, for some unknown reason, or maybe it was because they got Christopher Knight to be the money judge and they wanted to make themselves look good?

How does that make you feel, big vibrant Toledo art community? Are you ready to trade in your chance at entering the TAA show every year, along with the chance of winning and getting recognition for your creativity at the great white marble pillared Toledo Museum of Art, for the condescendingly concurrent series of workshops run by the Federation to teach you how you can be more professional like those “full time” “professional” artists who are supposedly so much better than you, that are showing in your place, in your TAA show?

This show belongs to us, the Toledoans, to help “us all” be better artists, as well as, in return, for “all us” artists to contribute to and continue the artistic cultural history of Toledo that is and can only be us. And why don’t we clean up our water too.

Please keep the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art and for the Toledo area artists. It’s our legacy and it belongs to us. It’s our tradition.

The Toledo Area Artists Exhibition for Toledo area artists 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 in to the prestigious museum show, that features and celebrates the talents of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. It’s 95 years old.  Must it go so soon, so young in European terms, just a baby in comparison.

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Children of the Museum

 I am a child of the museum. There are thousands of others like me. When I was in third grade, my mother enrolled me in the Toledo Museum of Art Saturday classes, and I took them all through high school. In college, I continued at the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design for my art major through the University of Toledo. This education was huge for me. I went on to have a successful career in photography, thanks in no small part to the Toledo Museum of Art. I was in and won a prize in the Toledo Area Artists show, and my daughter after me, and that recognition goes a long way in propelling an artist forward.
 
The Toledo Area Artists Exhibition is a Toledo area artists show that has been going on at the Toledo Museum of Art for 95 years. All of a sudden this year, the museum curators decided that they themselves would be the judges. They opened it up to artists in Cleveland, Detroit, Columbus, Grand Rapids Michigan and beyond, encompassing a 150 mile radius from Toledo. They put 27 artists in the show but only 11 artists are from the 17 counties considered the Toledo area, the way it has been for 50 years. Out of the 11 Toledo area artists, the Toledo Museum curators chose two museum employees, the husband of a museum employee, and a few other insiders. This was a competition for which artists paid $30 to enter. I am shocked, appalled, insulted, angry, and very disappointed. My museum, which was recently voted most beloved by its local community, is betraying its roots, and is turning its back on the artists and residents of the city.
The museum must see that they have a profound influence on artists. They should never turn their backs on area artists. The museum should have more interaction with its local artists and nurture a reciprocal relationship that would be beneficial for all.
Categories
Artists of Toledo

Herral Long Photographed the Pulse of Toledo for Sixty Years

Herral Long, beloved long-time Blade photographer passed away on Saturday, June 14.

He photographed every United States president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, as well as day-to-day newsworthy events in Toledo for six decades. He was forever curious and experimental as a photographer and often said that taking a great picture was like catching a butterfly.

He was an award winning photographer and named Ohio News Photographers Association’s first Photographer of the Year in 1967.

He was a free spirit and founding member of Joyce Perrin’s Any Wednesday, a gathering place for poets, artists and musicians, a Toledo art scene tradition which has been going on since 1964.

He played a dulcimer and wrote songs for his wife, Marcy, who had Alzheimer’s disease, believing that one’s sense of hearing is the last to go.

He began photographing for the Blade in 1949 and retired in 2009. Herral Long arranged the timing of his retirement so that The Blade would have to keep on a recently-hired photographer, Amy Voigt, whose position was about to be eliminated. Herral felt that she was very talented and by his stepping down, it would give her an opportunity.

In a 1969 Toledo Museum of Art Catalog for a show he was in, it is reported that he was interested in mountain climbing, sailing, photography, palm reading.

He was a wonderful, charming person and friend to all.

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