Categories
Artists of Toledo

But will they bring back our show?

A critique on the museum’s 5-year plan for growth
as reported by The Blade
The last paragraph in the above article.

In the spirit of community involvement, I’m compelled to offer some feedback on the recent article in The Blade about the museum’s future. But first a discussion about the last paragraph in the article, “The Toledo Museum of Art was founded in 1901 by Mr. Libbey and his wife, Florence Scott Libbey.”  That’s incorrect – The Toledo Museum of Art was founded by a group of artists.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to say that Libbey was not important in the establishment of the museum – he was by far the chief benefactor in establishing the Toledo Museum of Art. But to say that he and his wife founded it is like throwing the museum’s populist history down the memory hole.

There are many near-contemporaneous accounts of how the Toledo Museum of Art was founded by a group of artists.

In the book, Memoirs of Lucas County and the City of Toledo from the earliest times down to the present Vol. II, published in 1910, which includes biographical sketches of prominent Toledo men, there is no mention of Libbey founding the museum, but there is mention of Edmund Henry Osthaus being “one of the founders and incorporators” of the museum.

This is how Osthaus is described in the Toledo Museum of Art’s own collection:

The Blade, October 29, 1926. Obituary of George W. Stevens, the museum’s long-time second director, founding member of the Tile Club, the group of artists responsible for “procuring a museum of Toledo.”

The Blade, September 30, 1922: “Museum Idea Takes Form” In 1893, the painter, Thomas Parkhurst formed the Tile Club, a group consisting of artists and architects in 1893. In 1900 the club had its first exhibition at Parkhurst’s store on Superior St. Out of that event grew a movement.  After the exhibition, the group of artists and architects was so enthused and fired up with the idea of establishing a home for art in Toledo that they got together with George Stevens as the leader, and talked art museum day and night. Robinson Locke, son of David R. Locke of Petroleum V. Nasby letters fame, helped through The Blade. Finally, George Stevens, “in an inspired moment” elicited the co-operation of Edward Drummond Libbey, who gave them the use of an old building on Madison Ave. and 12th Street to use for the museum, but they needed money…

The Blade, March 27, 1923
The Blade, March 27, 1923

Edward Drummond Libbey was the biggest benefactor, and he encouraged community involvement because everyone wanted a museum that belonged to the people. Libbey matched donations, and children collected pennies to contribute to the building fund.

The Toledo Museum of Art was always OUR museum….

Nearly all cities of any size in the country have their museums and galleries, which are fast becoming a necessity….We owe it to ourselves, to the school children of Toledo, and to the future generations to see that our good work shall continue, that we lay a foundation so solid and so complete that the future citizens of Toledo will look back upon this, our pioneer work, with praise and appreciation. — Edward Drummond Libbey. First annual report of The Toledo Museum of Art.

By the Seventies, the museum was in high gear: it was a leading teaching museum, providing annually about eight Educational Fellowships, training museum professionals from all over the country, who also helped with the free children’s Saturday classes that drew around 2,000 children per week. The Toledo Museum of Art ranked in the top 10 American art museums for popularity and assets. It was the center of the community art scene, with not only Saturday classes for grade school and high school students, but for its small but superior college art program in the basement of the museum, the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design, which extended to adult classes. That really brought in the community.

The museum also had monthly shows featuring local artists from 1933 to 1970, 540 in total, for both men and women artists. Beginning in 1918 it hosted the annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, celebrating the local art community. The museum was alive with community involvement.

The Blade, February 15, 1993

In the 1990’s, the museum’s School of Design and much of the adult education ended when the Frank Gehry building was built, which was connected to the east side of the museum. The University of Toledo’s School of Visual Arts occupies the space, taking over for the museum’s School of Design. The extensive children’s Saturday class program slipped away. The Saturday class program that had served the community for many decades became a sorry shadow of what it used to be.

What have they done to OUR museum?

Director of the museum from 2010 to 2019, Dr. Brian Kennedy at the Toledo Museum of Art Halloween party, October 28, 2010

In 2014, under the new director Brian Kennedy’s watch, the venerable, 95-year old tradition of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition came to a shameful demise when the Toledo Museum of Art opened the show to entries from Detroit, Cleveland and Columbus, populations nine times the size of the Toledo region, while simultaneously limiting the show to only 27 artists. To add insult to injury, they stuffed it with Toledo Museum of Art insiders, mostly men. Additionally, the show was totally devoid of diversity, the absence of which is not the norm and has never been the norm for our TAA show.  See a full account of the 2014 show on this website, in the tag cloud in the footer of this page.

In 2011, Brian Kennedy presented his five-year strategic plan. I remember him saying that if art classes were available at one place in town, they were not necessary in two places because that’s redundant, we should save resources. Kennedy’s “basic principles” projected on the screen contradicted what he was saying there, as would his subsequent actions to what was projected on the screen.

An overhead slide projected at Brian Kennedy’s presentation of his “5-year Strategic Plan.” at the 93rd TAA jury dinner, August 2011.

In 2015, a few months after the 2014 TAA show debacle, I was at the museum attending the senior curator Larry Nichol’s gallery talk about a particular painting we were sitting on front of in the gallery, when at the end, he asked the small group of people before him, mostly age 45 and up, how to bring younger people in. I raised my hand and said, bring your children’s classes back. Bring the TAA show back. Bring the monthly local shows back.  He said, “noted.”

What did they expect would happen to attendance at the museum, when they take everything away that enlivened the art community, from classes for children and adults to lending a wall for a local art show?

Yoga on the steps of the museum if you are between 24 and 45. July 2014

The exclusive, discriminatory “Circle 2445” membership effort designed to bring in the museum’s desired younger members was short-lived. The overt ageist discrimination insulted many people.

click on letter to see more…

In other ways too, the Museum became unresponsive to the Toledo community. For example, here’s a story having to do with Toledo’s first artist, William H. Machen, who died in 1911. Over the years, his descendants have approached the museum for advice, once in 1941 and again in 2015 — see the contrast in responses between the third museum director, Blake-More Godwin and the ninth director, Brian Kennedy…

In 2019, Brian Kennedy resigned after only eight years to become the director of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. (Which might be a fine historical museum that is owned by Harvard University, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the great Toledo Museum of Art.)


Now then, back to the subject of this post, a critique of the new 5-year plan as outlined in the above screen-shotted March 9, 2021 Blade article…

the new 5-year strategic plan
  1. to continue to build on its diverse collection...   Well that’s good, because Edward Drummond Libbey’s bequest stipulates that half of the money taken from the fund in any given year must go to buying new art.
  2. working more closely with local artists through a more active outreach and engagement strategy…   Does this mean they will bring our Toledo Area Artists Exhibition back? Have they forgotten the relationship they used to have with local artists? I hope they will read my blog post, it’s outlined above!
  3. becoming an employer of choice through support and retention policies…   Hasn’t the Toledo Museum of Art ALWAYS been an employer of choice? Or are they talking about the museum guards, whom for many years were hired from our community of senior citizens, but about 10 years ago the museum started replacing senior citizens with young people, who just aren’t sticking with the job like the seniors did, because being a long-time museum guard is a dead-end job… Are they using young people for their ageist young image?
  4. creating a platform for operational excellence through the upgrade of visitor amenities, making museum access a priority, growing the museum’s financial base and becoming more efficient…   
Are we doing great?

Culture of Belonging
and Authentic Integration
of great art and everyday community

As if words, regardless of deeds, will make it so.

That’s exactly what the Toledo Museum of Art used to do. The Toledo Museum of Art didn’t have to try to be authentic — the Museum oozed with authenticity and community involvement. That’s because it was our museum – it belonged to the people of Toledo – it was Edward Drummond Libbey and the artist founders’ intention – funded in part with the pennies of the children who have since become our forefathers.

Will the Toledo Museum of Art bring back our venerable, prestigious Toledo Area Artists Exhibition? Will they bring our classes back? Will the Museum ever be the center of the working artist community again? Or will it continue to be a place for yoga on the front steps for the 24-45 crowd, and “baby and me” looking-at-art classes in the galleries for bored (but sufficiently young) parents?

The artists of Toledo can’t wait to find out.

The last authentic Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, 2013, and the 94th TAA Awards Ceremony at the Peristyle. Brian Kennedy and Amy Gilman handing out awards. The prestigious juried exhibition has launched many a young artist’s career.
Categories
Artists of Toledo

The Museum in the Seventies

Stevens-quote-2


Welcome back to Roger Mandle, the fifth Director of the Toledo Museum of Art, from 1977 to 1988. He spoke at the museum’s Little Theater on June 8. It was a wonderful talk, about working with Otto Wittmann, the 4th museum director of the museum, and then as the assistant director at the National Museum of Art in Washington, DC, and then as president of Rhode Island School of Design from 1993 to 2008, and then how he helped develop two new museums in Qatar. Now he is starting a new museum for art and technology in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

It was a great era when Mandle was at the Toledo Museum of Art, because the museum had meaningful art community involvement. The museum was built on meaningful art community involvement, in fact it was built by artists. Beginning in 1916, the museum offered grade school through high school classes, then university classes, and always adult art classes. Local artists had monthly shows at the museum. The museum hosted the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition (TAA). Who would have thought that the TAA Show would have been extinguished, just four years short of its 100th year celebration next year, what was the oldest, most venerable exhibition of its kind in the entire United States.

I benefited from the classes at the museum from age 9 to 21. I taught the first kids photography class that the museum offered, in 1979, with the darkroom right below the Peristyle stage. I exhibited in a few TAA shows, and in 2013, my daughter’s photography career received a huge boost, perhaps even a complete launch, as a result of her prize-winning entry in what was to become the final local Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. This year, four years later, my daughter is showing her photographs in Venice, Italy in a show at the European Cultural Center in the context of the 57th Venice Biennale.

My daughter spent the summer of 2006 at Rhode Island School of Design in a high school program, and that’s where she fell in love with photography. Because I knew Roger Mandle from the museum, we sent him the photos she shot that summer.  He was sincerely impressed and without our even asking, sent her photos to the admissions department with a strong recommendation. To be encouraged by such a knowledgeable and important person so early on was a great formative experience.

Kids classes as well as adult classes have nearly disappeared at the Toledo Museum of Art. The local art community is no longer tied to the museum that the artist-forefathers of Toledo had so progressively formed. It used to be our museum and everybody understood that — it belonged to the community of Toledo — but today for the first time suddenly it is no longer our museum.

Today it’s all about the grants. A Mellon grant brought down the TAA show, along with a bamboozling by the museum to the Toledo artist community, as if our community artists would benefit by expanding our local art show 10-fold to 13 million people and a 300 mile diameter.  At least it looked good on the grant application. That was three years ago, and it was the last show. Judged by Halona Norton-Westbrook, a Mellon Fellow employed at the museum, the eleven local artists who were accepted into the show happened to be closely associated with the museum (including two employees, the husband of an employee, a past employee, and two past presidents of the Federation.) Only two of the Toledoans were women.

Our current director, Brian Kennedy, tells people openly that Toledo artists are not good enough to show at the museum in any show, even our annual, 100-year old show that’s always been at the museum. So unbecoming of our museum, which had such a progressive, community oriented beginning!

Rejecting local artists is an elitist spin on Toledo’s communal inferiority complex and famously poor self-image. Museum supporters don’t care. They buy their art in New York. Thus, the ax has come down on this fine opportunity and tradition for artists in Toledo. Our deceased museum directors must be rolling in their graves.

It is a shame that the artist community that was once centered around the museum has disappeared and opportunities no longer exist at our most magnificent and inspiring cultural center, the Toledo Museum of Art, that was built by artists, educated artists, and for many years, was led by artists (including Roger Mandle.)

Roger Mandle and the museum directors who preceded him kept the local art community alive and well at the Toledo Museum of Art for more than eight decades. And while accommodating the community, they had blockbuster shows, bigger and better than we see today.

Enlarge

Screen-Shot-2017-06-05-at-3.25.34-PM
1967 was the 50th anniversary of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, Otto Wittmann was the 4th director of the museum.

Brian Kennedy tells people that Toledo area artists aren’t good enough for the museum to continue hosting the annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, an important, century old tradition started by the museum with the Federation formed for that purpose. Leslie Adams, past president of the Federation, tells Toledo area artists to trust that with the change in the show, that the museum has their best interests at heart.

The museum gave Adams a one-person show in 2012 as a new Toledo Area Artists Exhibition award in 2011 (the first and only recipient of that award) and the museum even acquired three of her pieces in 2015.

You just have to wonder when they kill our show and profess that no local artist’s work can ever be good enough to show at the museum, but they buy Leslie Adam’s work.



Categories
Artists of Toledo

Fun for Thanksgiving

As a free-range turkey, I will not impose contemporary restraints or adhere to societal constrictions, at least when it concerns my artwork. Otherwise, anything goes. — Anonymous
When I look down on the ground, looking for something to eat, I’m deep in thought about the lines the foliage makes juxtaposed against the acorn nuts and the memory of my mother. I bring all these things to my art. — Anonymous
Yes, we usually put the Turkey Area Artists Show in the basement, but this year we are bringing in the really good out of town turkeys and they will be in the really large room upstairs.
Call me Sharona Triumph-Northstream-Eaglerock-Furfeather-Turkeyfoot-Tenderheart-Honeydew-Bigfellow, or you can just call me Tickles!
Of course I look much better and have better taste!  I am an imported, out of towner turkey!
They had a special show for a special turkey and then never again!
“There are some turkeys, from across the pond, that do not respect and appreciate the long-standing traditions that our area turkeys have. They act all puffed up and almighty with their upright feathers.”

“You need not worry too much, for they too will soon fly away and land at another museum and the first thing they will do is to go out and look for some outstanding local turkeys like us!”

As a turkey artist, I face a lot of rejection. They only let two female area turkey artists in this year. I have only myself to blame for being a female. Now it’s back to the studio to work, work, work, work, work…
I am the new 2014 genetically modified all white meat turkey.
When I get frustrated, I look long and deep within myself, and believe I will find the truth. But I doubt it.
The 2015 Turkey Area Artists Show will have no area artist turkeys!

Photos © 2014 Penny Gentieu gentieu.com

Categories
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?

Categories
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.

Categories
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

Dear Toledo Museum of Art….

This is my reply to The Toledo Museum of Art’s reply to my September 3 blog post about what the museum did to our Toledo Area Artists Exhibition this year. My answer is in red.

Ms. Gentieu-

Your passionate devotion to Toledo artists is certainly evident in the exhaustive research, time and effort you have put into artistsoftoledo.com. However, that passion, when applied to this year’s Toledo Area Artists show, had led you to some conclusions that are simply false.

 It is your right not to like this year’s format. It is your right to criticize that format and the decisions Museum staff have made in the interest of creating a more compelling and high quality curated exhibition. However, I must clarify some of the information that you are providing as “fact”.

To clarify what you are saying here, you claim that the museum wanted to make a more compelling and high quality curated show of our 95-year old Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. That’s how you try to justify taking most of the Toledo area artists out of it and putting in your own employees, etc… what an insult.

This is a curated show. The curator, Halona Norton-Westbrook, was selected from an international pool of candidates to be the Museum’s third Mellon Fellow. Part of her role here is to oversee one major Museum project or exhibition. At the time she made artist selections she had been in Toledo less than one year.

Yes, she selected two museum employees for the show. She did not select several others who applied. Yes, she selected former TFAS presidents. She does not know those people personally nor was she aware of their connection with TFAS. She did select an artist or two that have had contentious relationships with the Museum in the past. Again, she did not know the background, nor was it relevant to her selections.

It was about the artists, their portfolios and her vision for the show. Period. Ms. Gilman was part of the process as a sounding board, but did not insert any artists into the final selection nor veto any. 

You state that this was a curated show. However, no theme or premise for a so-called “curated” show was given to artists in the CALL FOR ENTRIES. In fact, the only mention of a “curator” in the CALL was in this sentence: “Please consider this portfolio a way of introducing your body of work to the curator.”

Artists were told that “artists would be chosen based on their entire portfolio submitted.”  Yet you now claim that this show is somehow “curated.” Meaning what, exactly? You didn’t bother telling the general public whatever theme it was you were looking for – you didn’t inform the many or all 462 artists who paid $30 to enter, which adds up to be $13,860. 

Artists who entered were informed that Amy Gilman, the associate director of the Toledo Museum of Art, would be one of two judges jurying their work, according to the CALL FOR ENTRY, The Blade, and the museum’s own website. (See, below.) Amy Gilman was the “important” and “prestigious” judge that most artists wanted to get their work in front of. Now you say that it was Halona Norton-Westbrook, a 2013 graduate, who picked the artists. Halona Norton-Westbrook, with an undisclosed notion of a particular curatorial idea for the show, not shared with the entrants, (at least not with most of them.) Amy Gilman, you now tell us, did not participate in the selection. Amy Gilman was just a “sounding board” for Halona Norton-Westbrook, a recent graduate, who was given the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition to do because she needed to “oversee one major Museum project or exhibition” to fulfill her role as a Mellon Fellow.  What a strange project for the museum to give her. What a supreme waste of Mellon Fellowship funding, as it turns out, since Halona Norton-Westbrook has made such a mess of it.

Artists paid $30 each, x 462 = $13,860, collected under the false pretense that Amy Gilman was an actual judge as was stated in the CALL FOR ENTRY and elsewhere. Here are three places that state both Amy Gilman and Halona Norton-Westbrook were the judges. But now you disclose that Halona Norton-Westbrook was 100% responsible for picking the artists, therefore she made all the jury calls, not Amy Gilman, who you say had nothing to do with either adding or subtracting artists, that she was just a sounding board.

 

On Call For Entry.org:

 

On TMA’s website:

In The Blade:

o

You state that Halona Norton-Westbrook did not know the museum employees that she picked, nor did she know that she picked the two most recent past presidents of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies, even though all the entrants were required to submit CV’s (curriculum vitae, a detailed resume). She had been working at the museum for 10 1/2 months before picking her winners, but you claim she didn’t know Jefferson Nelson or Timothy Gaewsky or the librarian’s husband. And I suppose you want us to believe that she had no idea about the history of this venerable show nor had she any knowledge of the recent changes with the Federation’s involvement in the show. Yet you want to impress us that you picked Halona Norton-Westbrook from “an international pool of candidates,” so it’s hard to believe that this candidate could be totally ignorant about the Toledo Museum of Art’s history or the history of the 95-year old Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, especially since it was a project she was given to fulfill for her fellowship here. Isn’t Halona Norton-Westbrook (recent graduate) a highly educated woman? 

The show is about celebrating artists. The artists were selected because their work spoke to Ms. Norton-Westbrook. On another day, with another curator, some of the other great artists who applied will be selected. Your criticism of the selection process is also a criticism of the artists selected because of the inference that they were selected for who they know, rather than their exceptional work.

Indeed. The circumstances that The Toledo Museum of Art created make for an ugly show even before it opens. There are countless artists in the Toledo area who do exceptional work who were not lucky enough to be chosen. Undeniably they would have had better odds if they worked at the Museum, were married to someone who worked at the Museum, or were the two most recent past presidents of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies, the group that relinquished control of the show to the Museum in 2011. Why did the Federation relinquish that control, was it because the museum demanded it of the Federation?

If you are a Toledo area woman, you had even less of a chance to get in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition: your odds were 1 in 232 (compared to 1 in 51 for being a Toledo area man). Even then, being a close friend of the Staff seemed to help.

The geographic location of the submitting artists was not a consideration in the selection process, other than they met the 150-mile radius requirement. We felt the original 17-county model discriminated against our Michigan patrons by not including Ann Arbor and Detroit, Ann Arbor being our largest source of visitors outside of Toledo and surrounding suburbs. Just because something has been done for a long time does not make it fair. 

Discriminate? What a potent word to explain why you would add Detroit and Ann Arbor artists over Toledo area artists in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, a 95-year old community-based exhibition celebrating the work of Toledo area artists (hence, the name.) Detroit and Ann Arbor have their own museums and their own flourishing art communities. Couldn’t imagine these art communities would ever think they would be discriminating by not featuring Toledoans in their own local art shows. On the other hand, the fact that only two Toledo area women were chosen to be in this year’s Toledo Area Artists Exhibition is a good example of real discrimination.

Your insinuation that this was “fixed” is just wrong. Your other insinuation that the Museum is somehow profiting from entry fees is also wrong. The total investment in TAA by the Museum is approximately $80,000. We never have, nor will we ever, make money on the show.

You are the one who is using the word, “fixed” but now that you mention it, that hits the nail right on the head. I believe that you took money from unsuspecting artists under false pretenses. I think you should give all artists their money back and apologize.

The opportunity for local and regional artists to have their work displayed in a world class museum is one that is not widely available. Most museums have discontinued their local artist shows. The Toledo Museum of Art remains committed to local artists, through TAA, our Community Gallery shows, selling local artist works in our store, glass residency programs and much more. 

Most museums do not have the history that The Toledo Museum of Art has. The Toledo Museum of Art was started by artists. The museum has meant a great deal to the city of Toledo as well as to the entire community, because the community built the museum and the community supports it. The museum used to help the art community. Now, there is very little left at the museum for the local art community. Except for the chosen few who happen to work there — you might put them in a show (if they are men, that is, not your women employees). What the museum does have now for the local art community, especially for the women artists, is an overwhelming attitude of contempt, which is all too well being playing out in the way it is handling our very special, unique and historic community oriented tradition, which started 1918, almost as old as the museum itself, our Toledo Area Artists Exhibition.

Love it or hate it, we hope people will come to TAA and judge for themselves.

Kelly Fritz Garrow Director of Communications kgarrow@toledomuseum.org

The museum took our name, Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, and took Toledo area artists and Toledo area women out of the show, and instead, stuffed the show with insiders and out-of-towners, while still having the audacity to call it the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. All the while collecting $30 per entry as if it was business-as-usual. Why would anyone think that is a good idea?

 
Categories
Artists of Toledo

Israel Abramofsky Award of the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim

The late Allen Roudolf, art collector and Toledoan, with his Israel Abramofsky painting, smaller ones displayed in the background. Israel Abramofsky was a prominent Toledo artist who was known internationally. Israel Abramofsky died in 1975 and left his artwork and provisions for a scholarship to the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim to help young artists, as he himself had been helped when he was a young artist. It became the “Israel Abramofsky Award of the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim” at the Annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition starting with the 66th annual show in 1984.  Check out the list of winners. (from 1984 on.) What is happening with this award this year in the “New” 95th Toledo Area Artists Exhibition?

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. 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?

 o

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.