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.

Artists of Toledo.com’s logo missing: Last seen with Anna Friemoth in her self portrait titled, aptly, Do Not Steal!

That’s my daughter, Anna Friemoth — and the painting under her arm was made by my mother Audrey Gentieu of my mother’s Aunt Audrey.

It’s not enough that Anna entered it in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art this year and it won a prize — the piece sold at the exhibition preview, and it had a red dot on it the entire time it was up! It’s also in her artist monograph, MATTE Magazine Issue 10, acquired by the Museum of Modern Art for their periodicals collection! Now it’s in her one-person show at the Paula Brown Gallery, opening June 12, that runs through July 6!

Anna, bring back your grandmother’s painting! You can have it later — I’ll put it in my will!

Anna Friemoth: Self Portraits
June 12 through July 6, 2013
Opening Reception: June 12 from 5:30 to 7:30

PAULA BROWN GALLERY
912 Monroe Street, Toledo, Ohio  43604
Tel 419.241.2822  Fax 419.241.8107
GALLERY HOURS:
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