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Artists of Toledo

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 Toledo.com 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: http://artistsoftoledo.com/franklin/.

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.

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Artists of Toledo

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 artistsoftoledo.com.