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. 

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.

Edith Franklin never lost her childhood playfulness.

Edith Franklin, ceramicist and one of Toledo’s finest artists, passed away last night, August 31. She was 89. Edith was an inspiration to so many of us. She was small in stature but large in personality, and never one to rest. She was a woman-about-town, always attending events. Her presence will be sorely missed.

I met Edith in 2009, not long after I started my Artists of website. I photographed Edith and her artwork at her home in Ottawa Hills. Because she was aware of my historical research experience, she asked if I would be interested in helping her organize her papers. We spent weeks going through boxes and trunks, pulling out the most relevant records, which she then donated to The Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections, at The University of Toledo. I posted some items on her page on my website, here:

Edith was a potter at heart who worked in clay for nearly seven decades. Always open to new ideas, she was experimental with her work. She participated in the historic Studio Glass Workshop that took place at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1962. The pieces she made at the workshop are now in the museum’s collection and were featured in the May-August 2012 issue of ARTMATTERS.

Edith was proud to have attended every day of this year’s Glass Art Society (GAS) Conference, which celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the 1962 workshop that started the Modern American Studio Glass Movement. Edith walked the runway, modeling haute couture made out of glass, at the 2012 Glass Fashion Show.

Why I am making a website about old Toledo artists.

I saw artwork on my friends’ walls, and I was interested in knowing more about the artists, so I looked them up at the library. I’d see Abramofsky, John Noble Richards, Earl North, Ruskin Stone, Joe Ann Cousino — these were some that I noticed early-on and whose style I could always recognize.

My mother, Audrey Gentieu, passed away last year. She was a really good artist. When she was young she had a teacher who was a well-known artist, Karl Kappes, and he had other students who became well-known artists, including Earl North and Ruskin Stone. It amazed me when I first looked up Kappes — he was born in 1861 and studied in Germany and Paris. Only then did I fully understand my mother’s refined sense of color and impressionistic style.

Toledo has such a rich history of artists. It was artists themselves who created the Toledo Museum of Art. They got together a group and decided to call themselves the Toledo Museum of Art without owning a single work of art or having a location or a bank account. With such a lofty name they had to live up to it, and within just a few years they had their museum. My logo for Artists of Toledo is inspired by a story by Thomas Shrewsbury Parkhurst, an artist in the Tile Club and a journalist, about how they raised their funds. The story goes like this — the museum had but one painting, and nowhere to put it. They placed the painting on the floor, and borrowed a chair to put in front of it. Then they invited all their well-to-do friends to sit in the chair, one by one, as they espoused the virtues of building a museum for the citizens of Toledo, and how awful it would be for the future of Toledoans if there would be no art museum. So the museum raised thousands of dollars this way, which Edward Drummond Libbey matched and tripled.

Toledo is a big city yet small enough to be embraceable. The history is not too daunting that you cannot take it all in, and it’s extremely interesting to put in perspective the several generations of matured artists with their careers behind them. It’s all so connected with the community and I love finding the descendants of these artists and getting to see the treasures that they have.

The history of the museum is really interesting. Created by artists, it was further defined and developed by the visionary modernist couple, George and Nina Stevens, and in turn it has nurtured many thousands of young art students, some who grew up to have long notable careers in the arts such as Edith Franklin, Paul Perlmutter, Joe Ann Cousino, LeMaxie Glover and Robert Freimark. The museum used to reward these artists with one-man art shows in Gallery 21 and Gallery 8. Instituted by Nina Stevens, local one-person shows were a regular thing, and they were monthly from 1933 to 1970.

With the one-man shows at the art museum came press for the artists in the form of announcements and reviews in the paper, parties and coverage of such parties in the society section, personal telegrams, congratulatory notes, flowers, and sales — lots of sales. It did a great deal to spur the artistic growth of the artists, as well as of the community. Now all of that is gone. If artists don’t have inspiration and reward, it’s hard to keep it going. There is no bar to raise, there are no challenges to rise to.

It’s difficult to buy art. People need a little help; some education. I’d like Toledoans to get to know the treasures they have around them and the talent that Toledo itself has spawned — and that’s why I am making