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. I sold it last year on eBay for $1,000 because I’m not sentimental.

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.

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.

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.

Marguerite Michaels and her Art Collection

Marguerite Michaels is an awesome supporter of the arts. I met her a few years ago at Marcia Derse’s Christmas sale. She told me she had recently bought one of my Confabulations photos at the Hudson Gallery. It was the one of two women on the sidewalk. At Marcia’s, she bought my abandoned church photo from my Still Standing series — maybe it reminded her of the time that she almost became a nun (she went through everything but the final vows.) Later, she bought my Woolworth’s photo and an artist book I made of my mother, Audrey Gentieu’s movie star pastel portraits. She took great pleasure in building her art collection, which went gangbusters during the “great recession.” She bought a ton of local art, and I for one really appreciate her for that.

Marguerite is a strong and brilliant woman. After realizing that becoming a nun was not her calling, she moved to New York, where she worked for Time Magazine as a journalist, and eventually became the Bureau Chief in Nairobi.  Living in Africa, Marguerite became well-versed in African Art and collected it. She came back to Toledo around 10 years ago, for the same reason that brings many of us back — to help family. She immersed herself in collecting all kinds of art, and she brought contemporary African art to Toledo. In October 2013, Marguerite helped curate and sponsor an African Art exhibition at the Hudson Gallery. This photo above is Marguerite with artist Tunde Odunlade at the show.

Marguerite is bold and courageous. For all the things she has done in her life, she has utilized her fullest heart and soul.  She has now decided that, for whatever personal reasons, she did not need any of her collections in her life anymore and is selling everything. Just like that. No regrets, no emotion holding her back from her mission. Her latest chapter as a collector has abruptly come to an end. Her estate sale, which includes the entire contents of her house, is taking place every day this Easter week, culminating on Saturday. Her collection of Toledo artists is an eclectic snapshot of contemporary local art — work by Mr. Atomic, Willis Willis, Dave Wisnieski, Jan Dyer, Scott Hudson, Jay Bumbaugh, Lana Pendleton Hall, Richard Reed, Karl Mullens, Annie Crouter, Skot Horn, Paige Koosed, Bob Beach, Dominic Labino, Baker O’Brien, Ann Tubbs and yours truly.