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Artists of Toledo

Remembering Edith Franklin on her 100th

Remembering Edith Franklin on the 100th anniversary
of her birth, December 2, 2022.
Can you feel it – Edith Franklin is in the air. No wonder, it’s her Centennial.

I met Edith early on when I was building this website about the historical artists of Toledo. At the age of 87, she was majorly downsizing, selling her house and her collections. She asked me to help organize her papers to give to the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections at the Carlson Library of the University of Toledo. We worked on it for almost a year. Here she is donating her papers, shown with the Canaday’s archivist and director, Barbara Floyd (incidentally, who is also the author of The Glass City):

Edith Franklin was quite active. On any given night, she’d be out. She maintained that lifestyle until the week before she died in hospice, three months short of her 90th birthday.

Brian Kennedy, the ninth director of the Toledo Museum of Art, gave a eulogy at Edith Franklin’s Memorial Service on September 2, 2012. He described her as a “delightful chirpy smiling diminutive lady with big eyeglasses and a beautiful necklace who never missed a party.”

“As Director of the museum she loved, where she had studied and taught, which she visited so often, and where in 1962 she participated in the historic first Toledo Glass Workshop, Edith cared deeply that Toledo has a great art museum. After all, Edith had been the very first female artist to receive a solo show at the museum, back in 1958.”

Edith and the Museum

Director Kennedy’s description of Edith in his eulogy was colorful, and she did care very much that Toledo had a great museum, but Edith Franklin was not the first female artist to receive a solo show at the Toledo Museum of Art – not by a long shot. Born in 1922, Edith was a third-generation artist of the once-flourishing and inclusive museum artist community. Seventy women before Edith received local artist solo shows at the museum, starting with Isabel Kuhlman in 1933. (All the local artist shows – 540 local artists from all walks of life – are a thing of the past. See a complete list of the local artist museum solo shows here along with the current museum director’s unfulfilled promise to bring them back.)

Growing up in Toledo and benefiting from the Toledo Museum of Art free children’s Saturday Classes, Edith’s love of clay developed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School during WWII in 1943-44. That’s not all that developed in Boston, as she returned to Toledo in 1945 with her new husband who had served in the Navy. By 1947, they had two children.

Edith took pottery classes at the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design for 41 years, from 1945 to 1986. These classes, at a world-renown museum, connected her to the world of pottery, where she got to know the greats. (She couldn’t do that today! Pottery classes for adults have been eliminated. The adult artist community is no longer welcome at the museum – which is quite ironic, since the museum has a new so-called community “Belonging” department with a special director.)

Edith showed her work in nearly every annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition from 1952 to 1982, and won the Purchase Award in 1982. (Not to digress again, but what a shallow new museum director Brian Kennedy was, to have known Edith so well, and to have seen how her history with the museum so perfectly exemplified the beneficial symbiotic relationship between the museum and the local art community, but then to have killed the nearly 100-year old Toledo Area Artists Exhibition just two years after Edith was gone.)

Edith’s style

Edith incorporated text into her work. Her grandson said that what he learned from her was to take risks, to not fear failing, and to speak truth to power. “Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”

Many of Edith Franklin’s works revolve around the word “Love.”

Rocket to Love – 27 3/8 inches tall

Edith Franklin was experimental and influenced by what was going on. In a 2000 interview, Edith said,

The artwork since 1948 keeps getting better, it is growing. A lot of that is due to people like Harvey Littleton, who taught at the museum, as well as Hal Lotterman, Dan Woodward, and Hal Hasselschwert. They helped break us out of the ‘red barn’ and ‘sailboat’ mold. People like Harvey talked about ideas that questioned the essence of art and what we were supposed to do with it. The fifties were marked by mentors like these.

In this photo, taken at her 1958 solo show at the Toledo Museum of Art, (on the walls are paintings by Clay Walker), Edith sits next to her double-spouted vessel. It looks like the paintings. Perhaps she was influenced by the work of Toshiko Takaezu, an abstract-expressionist ceramic artist from Hawaii who was Edith’s exact same age. Ms. Takaezu, in the 1950’s, was a teaching assistant at Cranbrook, the esteemed art academy north of Detroit with close peer connections to the artists in Toledo, including Harvey Littleton, Carroll Sims and LeMaxie Glover, all clay artists. Edith’s piece, titled Patio Pot, acquired by the Toledo Museum of Art in 2016, could have been inspired by the double-spouted vases Toshiko Takaezu was making at the time. Or perhaps it was the other way around.

Edith and some of her distinctive work, photographed in 2010:


Edith and the 1962 Toledo studio Glass Workshop
The birth of the studio glass movement

Edith’s glass pieces from the first glass workshop in March 1962, acquired by the Toledo Museum of Art in 2011:


Edith and the 577 Foundation

One of Edith’s favorite stories was how she got her first job at the age of 65. Here is the long and the short of it, as she tells it, first to Barbara Floyd, and then at her 88th birthday party and launch of her new scholarship fund:

Edith at her 88th birthday party and fundraiser event to kick off the new Edith Franklin Youth Scholarship Fund. 150 friends and art supporters were present, including Herral Long, Marty Reichenthal and Joyce Perrin shown in these two photos.  What an arty gang! R.I.P., arty gang.


Edith built her own kiln
brick by brick, rivet by rivet

She wanted to give back – and so she has.

Edith was a great potter who attributed her success to having luck. She was in the right place at the right time, and she seized the day.

Good luck to all of the Edith Franklin Scholarship recipients. I hope they find a supportive, engaging community to live in so that they can be lucky, too. It’s not so great in Toledo anymore, I’m sorry to say – because all the valuable opportunities local artists once had have been taken away. No free museum classes for public school children, no solo shows for local artists, no annual art exhibitions for the community of artists, no adult classes in a museum-centered school where monumental artistic advancements can be developed, such as the birth of the studio glass movement in 1962, which helped the Toledo Museum of Art just as much as it helped the participants and glass artists. The soul of the community has been swept out of the museum, and with it, all of the potential greatness.

Those who happen to live in federally funded housing projects within two miles of the museum are in luck, however. The museum got millions of dollars from Owens Corning and Promedica for installing on-site art-making studios, complete with on-site classes taught by art museum instructors, in ten housing projects. They tout that it serves 18,000 people. I wonder how many are artists. I’m happy for the few artists who qualify, but unfortunately for most of Toledo’s children and adults, since 94% of the population of Toledo does not live in federally funded housing projects, 94% percent of the community is out of luck. If it had not been for the museum classes and shows that were available to the entire Toledo area community throughout the twentieth century, the opportunity for Edith, who lived in Ottawa Hills, to give back with her Edith Franklin Youth Scholarship Fund in the twenty-first century would have been lost.

I guess that’s why they call it the Greatest Generation – it was before the museum cut us off. Here’s to Edith Franklin, born 100 years ago today. Keep her in your memory, there is much to learn from her.

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Looting and the Toledo Museum of Art

Toledo Museum’s new culture of belonging does not mean they can keep looted belongings of another culture.
Photo and description from the book published in 1900, Antique Works of Art from Benin Collected By Lieutenant- General Pitt Rivers, D.C.L., F.R.S., F.S.A. Inspector of Ancient Monuments in Great Britain, &c. page 34. “Figs. 100 and 101. – Bronze cast of human head. Marked negro features, rudely formed. Three tribal marks over each eye. Peculiar pointed reticulated head-dress of coral or agate. Curious lines of incised circles above and below the eyes. Coral choker, badge of rank. Bands of coral or agate hanging down on both sides and at the back. Ears badly formed. The projecting base ornamented with a guilloche pattern of two bands with pellets.” See, Yale Library webpage here..

For a museum that vies to be a forward-thinking museum desiring to set an example for all other museums to follow, why hasn’t the Toledo Museum of Art returned the stolen Benin Bronze to Nigeria yet? It was stolen in 1897, so they’ve had plenty of time! If they want to set the example then they’ve missed the boat, since Benin Bronzes are already being returned by U.S. museums, including the Smithsonian, The Met and Boston.

It was stolen by British colonial troops who invaded Benin City in 1897. It was then sold to General Pitt Rivers, a collector, who started a museum with his new collection of looted art.

For an overview on looted art, see Hyperallergic’s October 4, 2022 story, John Oliver Roasts Western Museums in Episode on Looted Art  regarding “subjects like hesitant repatriation, antiquities looting, and the shady acquisition practices of auction … citing grisly colonial histories and contemporary looting schemes.”   View the highly entertaining youtube link where you can watch the entire 30-minute episode here.

A page from the Toledo Museum of Art publication – African Tribal Art, 1973, which commemorated the museum’s recently opened gallery, the Art of Africa. While the museum had owned examples of African art for 15 years, it had only then, in 1973, acquired enough to form a gallery solely devoted to the art of the vast continent. The Benin Bronze was one of the first African objects it acquired, in 1958.
The African Image, Toledo Museum of Art’s 1959 show of African Art, put together from the collections of 37 museums and private collectors.

Toledo’s Benin Bronze came from the Pitt-Rivers Museum in 1958, right before the museum closed. This museum was General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-River’s personal museum at Farnham, Dorset, England bearing the same name as the museum started at Oxford University with his earlier bequeathed collection. 

Toledo’s Benin Bronze was featured in multiple African Art catalogs published by the Toledo museum in 1959, 1973 and 1998. But it’s not on display. Why not? Is it because it is so shameful to have this object, but Adam Levine can’t “pull the trigger” (as he so colorfully described his divestment of the museum’s three great French Impressionist paintings last spring for $54 million) to shoot this object back to Africa?

The Benin Bronze featured in the Toledo museum’s catalog, Facing Africa: The African Art Collection of the Toledo Museum of Art, published in 1998.

With Lenisa Kitchiner as the Toledo Museum of Art’s African art consulting curator, who also works full-time for the Smithsonian, an institution that is sending theirs back, it seems odd that Toledo’s Benin Bronze is in limbo — it’s not on display, but it’s not on a plane going back.

Toledo Museum of Art website catalog details, 2022. Not on display.
The museum says one thing but does another.

Just this summer, in the Blade’s 7-26-22 Toledo Museum of Art helps bring stolen antiquities back to owners, in regard to four objects looted from Italy in the museum’s collection, the museum told us that “the process of sending artwork to its home country and leaving the museum’s collection, or repatriation and deaccessioning, is integral to what the museum stands for.”

“The museum has a long history of helping in repatriation processes like these, including an Etruscan water jug caught up in an international trafficking scheme that was returned to Italian authorities in 2013 and a scientific instrument called an astrolabium, determined to have been stolen from Germany during World War II, that was returned to the German government in 2015.”

Toledo Museum of Art’s looted Italian kalpis, 1982 – 2013.
The 2013 repatriation of the Italian water jug

The Etruscan water jug, or kalpis, was sold to the museum for $90,000 in 1982 by Gianfranco and Rosie Becchina, who got it from the infamous Giacomo Medici. You can read about Becchina and Medici in the book, Chasing Aphrodite, an exposé of the antiquity looting at The Getty written by the journalists who had reported on it for the L.A. Times. In fact, this book describes the finding of Medici’s polaroids in 1995, one of which shows this very kalpis still covered in dirt from a recent illicit excavation. It wasn’t until 2012, the day that USA v. One Etruscan Black-Figured Kalpis, circa 510-500 BC, case No. 3:12-cv-1582 appeared online, that the Toledo Museum decided to do what they “stand for,” and send the looted antiquity back to Italy.*

Denying any other looted art in the museum besides the Nereid Sweetmeat Stand which was stolen from the Dresden museum during World War II, bought by the Toledo museum in 1956, and returned to Dresden in 2011, Director Brian Kennedy questioned, should there be an end-date to repatriations? It was his second, but he would oversee a lot more between 2015 and 2019. One was another 1982 acquisition of an Italian drinking vessel obtained from the same looters of this kalpis, Becchina and Medici.*

About the Subhash Kapoor-looted Asian antiquities
The Ganesh, Toledo Museum of Art 2006 – 2014.

The Ganesh was stolen from the Sivan Temple in Tamil Nadu India in late 2005 or early 2006. It was then sold to Toledo Museum in 2006, who returned it to India in 2014, two years after the Manhattan antiquities dealer, Subhash Kapoor, who sold it to them, was extradited to India to await trial for illegally taking antiquities out of the country. Kapoor had also given 48 free objects that the Toledo Museum listed in their 2007-2008 Annual Report as being recent additions to their collection. In this same publication, the museum thanked Kapoor on the donor page for his donation valued at more than $100,000.

Yellow highlights show the Subhash Kapoor gifts to the museum, which the museum added to their collection. The museum would claim later that it had never added most of these in its collection. See, here. Hmm. The blue brackets point out two of the purchases, including the pictured vessel which was also featured in the 2009 Toledo Museum Masterworks book.

This Subhash Kapoor episode is well-documented on the blog, Chasing Aphrodite, which is written by one of the authors of the book of the same name, mentioned above. Quote from the blog:

The Toledo Museum of Art told the New York Times that it had received a gift of 44 terracotta antiquities from Kapoor in 2007. The only object that appears in a search of the museum’s online collection is a terracotta vessel purchased in 2008. The museum published the object in 2009 in a book of the museum’s masterworks, but offers no ownership history other than saying it was created in Chandraketugarh, an archaeological site north-east of Kolkata. Where was it before Toledo? What are the ownership histories for the other 43 objects acquired from Kapoor?  –– Chasing Aphrodite

The museum replied to Chasing Aphrodite’s July 2013 inquiry with this:

“Our policy is to respond to requests about objects in the TMA collections made by official authorities such as museums, law enforcement agencies, foreign governments and those making legal claims to ownership,” spokeswoman Kelly Garrow** told me. “There have been no such inquiries to date in regard to the objects referred to in your email.” In other words, in Toledo’s view the public has no right to know the ownership history of objects in the museum’s collection, even when serious legal questions have been raised.

The museum came clean about their dealings with Kapoor in March 2014, attributing their decision to the information given to them by Chasing Aphrodite, even though the museum stonewalled their inquiries for two years and told them that they don’t have to answer to the public.

Subhash Kapoor gave a lot of free gifts to various museums, including The Met. The Met has several of these freebies listed as 20th Century. They are replicas – fakes. Kapoor would smuggle into the U.S. the real stuff packed in boxes of replicas, and the boxes would be marked, “replicas.” [see this Paul Barford blog link for that detail.] 


The true meaning of Belonging

And now we have a young new museum director with a major in anthropology, art history, and mathematics and social sciences, who did his graduate work at Oxford University – home of the Pitt Rivers Museum, albeit the first Pitt Rivers, which itself houses 327 Benin Bronzes according to Wikipedia. Our director, Adam Levine, seems to want to “contribute to the eradication of the illicit market for ancient artifacts.” He wants all museums in America to follow his good example. He’s leading a “Belonging” campaign where he endeavors to make the museum more welcoming by displaying a specially balanced world history in order that everyone will see themselves in the galleries. But this important Benin Bronze historical sculpture from Africa is not being shown in any gallery. Nor has it been returned to Nigeria. And not a peep about it.

The museum’s Belonging Plan states, “it is important to acknowledge the prior inhabitants of the land on which the Museum stands” and “The Toledo Museum of Art created a Land Acknowledgment both to honor the Indigenous peoples who resided on the land before the founding of the physical campus in the early 1900s and to demonstrate support for Indigenous communities of Ohio, celebrate their cultures, and recognize their forced removal from their lands in previous centuries.”

The hypocrites!

Since the sculpture was stolen by English colonialists in arguably the earliest episode of modern-day looting, in 1897, an ambush that captured an entire cultural heritage in artwork, shouldn’t the Toledo Museum of Art be returning this object as fast as they can – (they sure could sell three French Impressionist paintings at lightning speed) – considering the new branding and what the new 2022 Toledo Museum stands for, and to meet the museum’s goals for being totally authentic by 2026.

The Toledo Museum needs to do a survey of all of its works of art and research to find out if any had been purchased from looters or money launderers of stolen artwork, and they need to put online a database of the entire provenance of each work for the public to freely access. They need to do it with the same determination that they gave to the recent audit of their artworks, which showed that “the greatest imbalances exist across gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, nationality and geography, and material/medium.”

The museum should rethink that recent survey – what is the relevance of any of that, and specifically, of the nationality and geography of an object, when so much of that relies on an illicit market, when the museum should not be stealing from other cultures. The museum is, after all, into belonging, and Nigeria should own back their heritage that was stolen by the English colonialists, because it rightly belongs to them. 

And while they are at it, the Toledo Museum of Art should stop looting the local Toledo community of its cultural traditions. They should reinstate the museum’s long tradition of children’s Saturday art classes that had always been for ANY and ALL children in Toledo (2,500 children every week), instead of just a discriminatory few children (25 at the most?) at a specific grant-written outreach after-school childcare program at a library. Return to our Toledo community the century-old Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, that the museum stole from us in 2014 under a cloud of corruption, and give us that Robert and Sue Savage Community Gallery for local artists promised to us in June 2021. The Toledo Museum of Art got Robert and Sue Savage to donate a lot of money to renovate a gallery space for one-person local artist shows 17 months ago, so where is it?


*Museum Ethics and the Toledo Museum of Art, Christos Tsirogiannis, artcrimeresearch.org  Christos Tsirogiannis is a forensic archaeologist who wrote about the kalpis and brought to light the looted Hephaistos drinking vessel in 2017, which the museum did not deal with until 2019.

**Regarding Kelly Garrow, the museum’s former Director of Communications who wrote the 2013 email to Chasing Aphrodite saying that they owed no answers to the public in regard to looted art in their collection, see this interesting 2014 message to this very artistsoftoledo.com blog (scroll down to the comments), where she was inspired to write 10 paragraphs about how the museum did not “fix” the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition of 2014 to add their own employees, and more.

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Toledo’s broken promise to the Cezanne Exhibition in Chicago

Cezanne Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago
May 15 – September 5, 2022

While the Toledo Museum of Art does nothing — there has been no Art Matters quarterly member magazine since January, no Robert and Sue Savage Community Gallery as promised to us in May 2021, no blockbuster shows in the Canaday or Levis exhibition galleries that mostly have been empty, except for a couple of uninteresting shows —  the Art Institute of Chicago is having its third blockbuster exhibition since the pandemic began in 2020 — El Greco, Monet, and now the most important Cezanne retrospective in 16 years.

We saw it. It was great. It gave me a renewed understanding as to why Cezanne is called a painter’s painter, why he is considered the father of modern art, and why he is so highly regarded, even among the new generation of artists.

Wondering if the curators had asked to borrow one of our Cezannes for the show, we found the answer in the published catalog – a beautiful definitive book aptly titled Cezanne. There in the book on page 154, reproduced on a full page, was our Avenue at Chantilly, Catalog #83 listed for the Chicago show. On the acknowledgement page, among 70 other museums, the Toledo Museum of Art is thanked for making their work available for display in the exhibition.

But for the past several months since this show has been up, Avenue at Chantilly has been hanging in Gallery 35 at the Toledo Museum of Art, and not in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Cezanne Exhibition! Wondering if I had somehow missed our painting at the Chicago Cezanne show, I called the Toledo Museum of Art to check to see if it is on display in Toledo, and I was assured that it is indeed on display, in Gallery 35.

I wonder if the reason why it is not in Chicago is because the Toledo Museum of Art made an abrupt decision to deaccession our other Cezanne painting, The Glade, after the museum committed our only other Cezanne to the Chicago’s Cezanne retrospective. Weren’t we assured that deaccessioning was a thoughtful, long process? Apparently not in this case, as the book went to press in 2022 (or very late 2021, as the book was dedicated to one of the curators who died in November 2021. )

It seems that our museum felt so much guilt about their rash decision to deaccession the painting that they broke their commitment to their peer museum and pulled it from the exhibition after the book went to press.  As Director Adam Levine informed Toledoans on April 8 when he announced the shocking deaccessions of not only their only other Cezanne painting, but of their other Matisse painting and a Renoir bather, the museum’s only other Cezanne painting and Renoir painting and Matisse painting would always be on display on the walls of the Toledo Museum of Art.

What would make the Toledo Museum of Art break a promise to important colleagues and peer institutions — the other museums in the United States that they so much want to make an impression on in their 5-year plan, to be a great example of a museum that all other museums would look towards as an example of how all museums should be?

Quotes from the Toledo Museum of Art’s 5-year plan —

The Toledo Museum of Art will become the model art museum in the United States for its commitment to quality and its culture of belonging. 

By authentically connecting quality with belonging, TMA can become one of the museums in this country from which others learn.

TMA’s transformation will be heralded by the press and will set the bar for museum peers. 

How does that make Toledo trustworthy or how can they ever expect to be a good example to other museums? Will other museums be willing to loan paintings to Toledo in the future after this, if Toledo ever has the wherewithal to put together a traveling show?

World-class exhibitions that speak to 21st century issues will draw Northwest Ohioans and out-of-towners alike, with tourists shocked and delighted to be welcomed by a diverse and empowered staff so clearly loving what they do and the institution they serve. TMA’s exhibitions will depart Toledo to traverse the globe, providing the Museum and its hometown the visibility it once enjoyed.

In Christopher Knight’s May 6, 2022 COMMENTARY: AN OHIO MUSEUM IS HOLDING THE BIGGEST SALE OF ARTWORK YET. IT’S UNCONSCIONABLE, he interviewed Director Adam Levine, who told him that market realities made the difference in pulling the trigger right now on the deaccession of the paintings.  What would the market realities be, I wonder, that would make the Toledo Museum of Art renege on a commitment as important as lending Avenue at Chantilly to Chicago’s seminal exhibition on Cezanne?

Strangely, two of the paintings that were suddenly deaccessioned – the most valuable ones – were bought by the same buyer at the auction on May 17, as reported in Barron’s the evening of the auction. Could it be that there was a collector who told the museum they would buy the paintings, now or never, and the museum didn’t care about anyone – the public or their peers?

It is a gross thought that Toledo Museum of Art might be cannibalizing itself. They have tarnished their reputation among peers by reneging on a promise while lying to the public about the reason for the deaccessions. Edward Drummond Libbey did not advocate that the museum have only one example of a great artist’s paintings. The paintings were not “mediocre.” Adam Levine invoked a Libbey quote to support the sale: “Let the multitudinous array of the mediocre be relegated to the past and in its place be found the highest quality, the best examples and the recognition of only those thoughts which will stand for all time.”

That so-called mediocre painting brought $41.7 million at the auction proving its greatness. What’s more, our Toledo museum did not need the money! Chicago owns 9 Cezanne oil paintings, Detroit owns 5 Cezanne oil paintings, Cleveland owns 3 Cezanne oil paintings, now we own only 1, and that painting was supposed to have been in Chicago’s Cezanne Exhibition, but it wasn’t, after it was promised and after that promise was memorialized in a book. Our museum let down a national community from seeing it! The museum let Toledo down, because Toledoans would have felt proud to see our painting hanging in the show, but instead this makes us feel shame and embarrassment for living in Toledo. 

Just another lie when Toledo gets credit in the book for being in the show.

Perhaps Adam Levine doesn’t mind breaking promises – he certainly doesn’t mind lying to us – when our museum still gets credit in an important Cezanne book for being in the show – why not pull it out of the show — it was too late to make corrections — the opportunity of selling our other Cezanne painting — was it to a demanding secret buyer who just couldn’t wait four months until the show was over, was that the “market reality” that was just too good to pass up?  One can only speculate, but an investigation needs to be conducted to find out the truth.

Adam Levine had a fiduciary duty to preserve our valuable collection for the future, and he should never have reneged on a commitment to lending our Avenue at Chantilly to an important public show. The Art Institute of Chicago is the true example of what all museums strive for — this show is the third blockbuster they have put on since the pandemic. Our museum, under Adam Levine’s leadership has done nothing but sell off our great French Impressionist paintings, creep out most of Toledo with their burnt American flag acquisition, and make our city a laughing stock of the art world.

We should save our museum and save our city’s reputation by changing course now with new leadership at the museum.

EDITORIAL – TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART SHOULD KEEP ITS TOP TIER

The Blade, Editorial Board, April 25, 2022 

Selling off Paul Cezanne’s Clairière (The Glade); Henri Matisse’s Fleurs ou Fleurs devant un portrait; and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Nu s’essuyant simply makes no sense. These and other proven lasting works draw people to the museum from near and far.

Every museum director retains the right to pursue their own paths as Adam Levine is doing. Yet the museum is an integral part of Toledo’s art culture. The museum is not in a vacuum. While privately maintained, the museum does represent Toledo to the outside world.

Categories
Artists of Toledo

August open letter to the museum

A lot of brave Americans fought and died under the American flag…Toledo is Jeep country, after all. Have some respect.

Open Letter to the Board of Directors of The Toledo Museum of Art:

A burnt flag with a cartoon-like drawing of a black man pasted into it is a terrible insult to this country, to our community, and to me personally. But the Toledo Museum of Art has added such a work to their recent acquisitions. Interestingly, it was previously owned by the family of the curator of modern and contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum. Adam Levine had to draw upon four endowment funds to pay for it, and three of the deceased benefactors whose art funds he drew upon served our country in World War II. In fact, almost everyone in our community has ancestors, family members, or else they themselves have fought under the American flag. Some people have just moved to our country, to our city, with a desire to live under the ideals of the American flag. For the museum to buy a burnt flag to hang on the museum’s wall, telling us they are collecting art that reflects our community, is disgusting.

There are many reasons why the Toledo Museum of Art should not have bought this “painting” besides the deeply hurt feelings of the community, including that it is stated in the U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8, Respect for flag, (g): The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.” And here it is in the Ohio Revised Code Title 29 Section 292 2927.11 – Desecration (A): No person, without privilege to do so, shall purposely deface, damage, pollute, or otherwise physically mistreat any of the following: (1) The flag of the United States or of this state. Yet The Toledo Museum of Art celebrates, with their expensive purchase shaming deceased donors, the disrespect and desecration of the flag.

Here is my blog post about how deeply offensive this acquisition is, and about the deceased donors from whom the funds were pulled to purchase it, whose memory it deeply dishonors: Marvin and Lenore Kobacker, Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Barber, Mrs. George W. Stevens, and Florence Scott Libbey and her father, Maurice A. Scott — Why a burnt flag painting is wrong.

Here are other important issues I wish to address:

  1. What about the remote stewards (workers) of our museum? Since when are the people who run the Toledo museum too good to live here? Along with the spokesman about the sale of the French Impressionist paintings, John Stanley, a retired temporary consultant without an art degree who came from New York who I am pretty sure does not live in Toledo, I’m referring to the Communications Manager who lives in Lansing, the Brand Director who lives in Boulder, the consulting curator of African Art, Lanisa Kitchiner, who works full time for the Library of Congress in Washington DC (who doesn’t have an art history degree), and the consulting curator of Ancient Art, Carlos Picón, who is the director of the Colnaghi art gallery in New York and an ancient art dealer. I wrote a blog post about it, about our authentic story, and about the museum’s treatment of the local artist community. The Remote Control of Our Museum Culture.
  1. What about the $54 million from the Cézanne and Matisse deaccessions that had been purchased with the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment Fund? Shouldn’t that have gone back to the Edward Drummond Libbey fund to be used on new acquisitions? Where did that money go? Is it in a new endowment as stated by Adam Levine in his April 8 announcement of the deaccessioning of the three French Impressionist paintings? If so, what is the name of the fund? And if so, why is it not back in the Libbey fund, and what financial institution handles that fund?
  1. Will the museum and/or board members be making an investigation into the sale of the Cézanne and Matisse paintings that sold at auction collectively for $59 million to the SAME buyer, as reported in Barron’s Magazine (but not in The Blade for some reason)? What are the odds? Since this puts a cloud of corruption hanging over the museum in regard to the possibility that the sale was prearranged with the buyer, the museum and board should investigate and make public the buyer to clear the museum’s reputation, if that would be the case, since our museum should be beyond reproach. What valuable paintings will be the next to hit the auction block? These outrageous deaccessions of valuable historic paintings that were literally taken off the museum walls and sent to the auction house, an action rationalized by the museum director’s lies to the public, and the huge amount of money made by the sale – that for us not to know who bought the paintings, or whether or not the sale was prearranged, is unacceptable. Is our collection being used as a catalog for future collectors? It’s a good way to hide backroom deals. It’s a good way for our museum to be robbed of its great artworks.
  1. Why has the radius of the museum’s community outreach and interest shrunk to only 2 miles, when the area that the museum serves is vastly larger? In 2014, the museum claimed that their reach was a 150-mile radius, when they increased the area of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition to reach out to the major cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and Columbus. Before that, our community was defined by the 95-year old annual show as being 17 counties in Northwest Ohio and two counties in Southeast Michigan. The two-mile outreach defined now is not even 1/6th of the city of Toledo, not to mention the other many counties surrounding Toledo. Why isn’t the community equally represented on the Belonging Committee? In the museum’s latest manifesto about plans for community “belonging” there is nothing at all about the new local artists gallery that was heralded in The Blade in June 2021, for which Robert and Sue Savage donated $200,000 to renovate a gallery space that would have their name on it. A photo was taken with the mayor, director, and Robert and Sue Savage to memorialize the commitment.  The Robert and Sue Savage Gallery for Local Artists.  Are artists not a fundamental part of the art museum? Why aren’t local artists invited to “Belong?”   Museum Shows for Local Artists. 

In summary, there should be a special oversight looking over our museum right now. Our museum does not belong to outsiders, nor to just a fraction of the community, it belongs to ALL of us, the entire Toledo community. The people who run the museum ought to live here! That people who run the museum are “too good” to live here robs our city of culture, progress and money. Our museum is not a vehicle for outsiders to mold into something for their own personal benefits and gains. They are ripping us off! Conflicts of interest should be disclosed on every level, from the purchase to the sale of artworks, to the business relationships of the board members with the museum; from communications involving the museum and the press, to the curation of our community stories. There must be full disclosure for every move the museum makes. The people who run the museum have a fiduciary responsibility to our Toledo institution, and lying to the public is a breach of their fiduciary duty.

Thank you for your time. I hope you are having a good summer.

Sincerely,

Penny Gentieu

Categories
Artists of Toledo

The remote control of our museum culture

Culture and Community by Government Remote Control

I am interested in The Toledo Museum of Art’s use of the 57 million dollar profit from the three recently deaccessioned French Impressionist/early modern paintings which they sold to raise money for the purchase of “diverse art.”

The Toledo Museum of Art recently hired a Consulting Curator, Lenisa Kitchiner, for the museum’s African collection. Although the museum doesn’t mention it in their news release, she is the Chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., with an educational background in literature, African studies and politics, not art history.

She will “steward a growing collection of African art at an innovative institution in the heart of the Midwest,” while “creating a collecting strategy that represents the entire community,” and “sharing untold stories and fostering widespread community belonging.” From the June 28, 2022 Toledo Museum of Art press release:

Kitchiner eagerly anticipates joining TMA at such a pivotal time as the Museum endeavors to advance a collecting strategy that represents the entire community. “The opportunity to steward a growing collection of African art at an innovative institution in the heart of the Midwest is extraordinary,” Kitchiner stated. “The Toledo Museum of Art’s commitment to sharing untold stories and fostering widespread community belonging—coupled with its impressive curatorial staff and its unmistakable impact—make it the right place through which to share my passion for the visual arts of Africa.”

I googled Lenisa Kitchiner, the new steward of African art for The Toledo Museum of Art, and discovered that she is the Chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. (It’s a mystery as to why the museum’s press release did not mention that.) Will she be working remotely?

I was struck by her description of her favorite children’s book, which inadvertently connected me to a heretofore untold story that has deep roots in Toledo culture. I share in the spirit of contributing to an ambitious museum’s endearing transition to endeavoring the enduring, relentless sea change of advancing engagement and authentic widespread community belonging, in order to foster pivotal, vibrant, Midwest, ready-to-be-told, it’s-about-time, yes-we-did, storytelling.

The untold Midwest story of Jan Wahl and Maurice Sendak

In the September/October 2021 Library of Congress Magazine article, Lenisa Kitchiner was interviewed for being the new Chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress. She describes her favorite book as a child, Where the Wild Things Are:

I am a lifelong learner, a lover of literature and a consummate traveler. I like to blame it on Maurice Sendak’s children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are,” which indelibly influenced my imagination when I first read it at age 5. The book tells the remarkable story of a little boy who dreams of traveling to a faraway place, encountering monstrous creatures and winning their favor by performing a special magic trick that forces the creatures to suspend fear of the unknown long enough to see the boy as friend instead of foe. I did not have the words to articulate it as a child, but it was that sense of creating new connections, of overcoming fear, of embracing the unknown and of having meaningful impact that I fell in love with when I first read the book. These aspirations continue to influence my engagement in the field.

I was immediately reminded of my old friend Jan Wahl and Artist of Toledo who died in 2019 at the age of 87. A flood of new understanding of Jan Wahl’s life came over me! Looking back at his life, I can now see that, in a nutshell, Jan Wahl was that boy in the book! He traveled to far-away places, he encountered monsters, and he won them over with his creativity. I never really thought of him before as the little boy in Where the Wild Things Are.

As a child living in the Westmoreland neighborhood of Central Toledo, Jan would write to famous people and collect silent films and art prints. In college, his teacher was Vladimir Nabokov. On a Fulbright Scholarship in Denmark, he worked with the Danish director, Carl Dreyer on the making of Ordet (The Word). He then worked for the writer of African tales, Isak Dinesen, whom he didn’t like at all. “She fired me over two misspelled words, after four months of work!”

Jan Wahl was a renowned children’s book author, having published about 130 books. He wrote from the perspective of “a child trying to grasp the unfathomable adult world.” He also wrote memoirs of his silent film experience, including Dear Stinkpot: Letters from Louise BrooksThrough a Lens Darkly, and Carl Theodor Dreyer and Ordet: My Summer with the Danish Filmmaker. He collected fantastic early 16mm art films.

Jan Wahl had some wild stories – such as one about Maurice Sendak taking his idea for a book and making it into Where the Wild Things Are. Maurice Sendak was a mentor and collaborator when Jan Wahl started out. Jan had similar stories involving puppet makers, film directors, gallery owners, etc.  Jan Wahl was not confrontational; he would simply write another book, 130 in total.

Making self-deprecating jokes about these experiences was how Jan Wahl would vent. It had to have hurt, for his friend and mentor to take his story and make it his own, while leading him on, eventually throwing him a bone. I wonder if Jan had a sense that the story prophesied his life. Ironically the book became Maurice Sendak’s main legacy.

When Maurice Sendak died in 2012, Jan auctioned off his letters from 1962-1964. Maurice Sendak illustrated Jan Wahl’s first book, Pleasant Field Mouse, published in 1964, after Where the Wild Things Are was published in 1963. A mouse and a monster-tamer, at least young Jan Wahl ended up with a book. Thus, he began his life as a children’s book author, successful although not rich, considering his prolific output. “I began at the top. It didn’t stay that way. But I did have a lovely, lovely beginning with a very fine artist,” was his quote in his Blade obit, taken from a 2006 Blade interview.

Jan Wahl and the Toledo Museum of Art

During the summer of 2013, not long after Jan Wahl’s special book came out, Carl Theodor Dreyer and Ordet: My Summer with the Danish Filmmaker, The Toledo Museum of Art put on a Dreyer film series. The first one was The Passion of Joan of Arc, and my husband and I went to it. We were surprised that Jan was not a part of it. So I wrote to the museum’s Public and Glass Programs Coordinator to tell her about Jan Wahl and his book, what a great film historian he was, and how he puts on film programs, and I gave her his phone number. She replied that she knew all about Jan Wahl, he did programs with the museum in the past, and that “he was actually part of the inspiration for the series. Unfortunately special guests are not always free of charge.”

It was hard to believe that the museum couldn’t scrape together a modest honorarium for Jan Wahl, a great local author and film historian, one who actually worked with Carl Dreyer on Ordet, in order to bring him into the event that his own newly-published book had inspired. Jan Wahl would have been happy to do it for merely a ride to the museum. How bad it was for them to take his work as the inspiration for the Dreyer film series, but not include him in the program. It was nice to see that the Dreyer films in the series thereafter, including the next film shown, Ordet, were introduced by Jan Wahl.

Wahl + Museum in 2019

Thereafter, the museum did more things with Jan. The final collaboration was for the launch of his new children’s book, Hedy and Her Amazing Invention, scheduled for March 2, 2019. Unfortunately, Jan Wahl died on January 29, five weeks before the event. In his obituary on February 1, the Blade quoted the museum manager of Programs and Audience Engagement saying that the program would continue, but would become a celebration of his writing, and especially his new book. “We want to celebrate what he has given to the world.”

Two weeks later, the museum had not changed their website to pay respect to the author of the book who was the principal element of the upcoming book-signing and book-reading event, who was unfortunately dead! I felt compelled to write another letter, this time to the director, Dr. Brian Kennedy in an email which I cc’d to the CEO of the Museum Board and the Director of Education and Engagement. I received an immediate reply, not from any of them, but from the Director of Communications, thanking me for bringing it to her attention that the information was out of date. The website was promptly updated to add a mention that the event would celebrate the author’s life and his new book, along with an art demonstration, and a parade.

No doubt this last episode with the museum gave Jan Wahl great material for a new story to tell up in heaven.

Treatment of local artists
and the shift to the culture of un-belonging
Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, the 96-year old tradition

We are the hometown artists, and we’d like some respect. The museum’s new manager of communications touts the line: “We want the community to see themselves on the walls of the museum.” Artists of Toledo would like to see ourselves on the walls of the museum, too. We’d like to feel that sense of belonging again, that was taken away from us eight years ago under a cloud of corruption.

In 2014, it meant nothing to the Toledo Museum of Art to kill the 96-year old tradition of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition by use of “curating” it themselves instead of impartial judging of the entries. They stuffed the show with insiders such as museum workers, Federation presidents and past presidents, and friends, with only two women from Toledo, while excluding people of color.

I curated a show in protest with like-minded local artists called Artists of Toledo at the Paula Brown Gallery.

The Toledo Area Artists Exhibition had been jointly presented by the Federation of Toledo Art Societies and the Toledo Museum of Art until 2011, when the museum told the Federation that they would take it over so they could do even more for Toledo artists. But in 2014, they took Toledo artists out of the show and put in their own employees, friends and previous Federation presidents, with only two local women artists, in a show of 27 artists (which had usually been 80 or more local artists, usually over half being women.) Even though local artists entered the competition as they had for 96 years, this show did not have impartial judges, as had all the shows after 1921 (when the museum caused an uproar by jurying it themselves and giving the prize to a 14-year old), instead it was “curated” by the museum’s own staff. The museum quietly stopped the Toledo Area Artists annual show, and it was okay with the Federation of Toledo Art Societies since they got a big payoff. But they should have fixed it. See, my blog post, Toledo Museum of Art: Repair the Damage.

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In 2014 they increased the show’s area of eligibility to cover a 150 mile radius that included Detroit, Columbus, Cleveland and Ann Arbor.

So it’s weird that today they are using “community belonging” after  kicking out the local artists eight years ago. When they so want to tell our untold stories of the community, but isn’t the art that comes from the community the most authentic community story for an art museum to tell? The museum turned its back on local artists – where is the promised local art gallery for local artist shows? Promised 15 months ago! So much indecision and procrastination – they don’t know what to do, because they don’t really want to do it — they don’t like their local artists.

Narrowing the transmission

This year, the museum endeavors to engage the community by reducing the area it serves to a 2-mile radius. When they say community, they do not mean the entire Toledo area, and they certainly don’t mean the artists. They are reaching out to nearby neighborhoods who have not utilized the museum in the past. Must be the winning grant theme of the era. They are setting up “art-making stations” in federally-funded low-income housing, and they will feature these new local artists that they inspire and create, in a community gallery that they promised 15 months ago to Toledo’s local artists. They are emphasizing belonging (a membership drive, that is) by raising the parking fee to discourage visits to the museum by anyone who is not a member. Transportation for low-income housing within the 2-mile radius is provided by the museum for free.

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Map of the Toledo area that the Toledo Museum of Art once served, with the new two-mile radius marked, delineating their community outreach.

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This two-mile radius that the museum has been delineated as the area of concentration to foster their sense of community belonging is 1/6 of the City of Toledo’s total area, and about 1/50 of the Toledo area that it serves. The museum feels bad because the majestic Toledo Museum of Art building was not destroyed when the state put in the I-75 interstate highway 60 years ago.  The area outside this two mile radius, which most of Toledo, will not be included in the museum’s concentration to foster our sense of community belonging. We are considered outsiders and will be ignored. 

The relentless focus

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Excerpt from The Toledo Museum of Art press release, July 2022

the world we live in? 

In 2014, Erin the President of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies accepted the corruption of the rigged Toledo Area Artists Exhibition by saying, “I tell my students, it’s the world we live in.”

In 2022, John Stanley told the Blade in regard to the deaccessioning of the three French Impressionist paintings, “It’s the world we live in.”

Diversity – the perfect cover for selling off the good art… nobody gets to know who it is sold to! And what will be next?

Connecting with the government for political power and personal upward mobility?

Is this what it has come to?

Outsiders are telling our story, remotely, when they don’t know us.

The museum only does what looks good on the current grant application.

A museum run by remote control is bad for Toledo.

Jan Wahl’s great children’s story was appropriated, and he never forgot it. The current stewards of the great Toledo Museum of Art are deliberately erasing the real story of this community as they sell off our great art! Cézanne, Matisse and Renoir, and what is next? Rembrandt? We should not accept what is happening to the museum as if we can’t do anything about it, because we can!

Artists of Toledo

What a bunch of B.S. – telling our story! We want our museum back!

To tell the authentic story, see how the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition did it for 96 years. What’s more authentic to the community, than art that is made by community artists? There is no better way to help local artists, thus helping the community, than to bring back the annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art.

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.

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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

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?

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Artists of Toledo

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.
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.

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