We want answers to our questions, Erin Palmer Szavuly, president of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies

Erin Palmer Szavuly, president of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies photo by Penny Gentieu

For the 95th Annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, the Federation sent our local awards out of town. (See, blog post dated October 8, 2014.) All but the Potter’s Guild Award, which the Potter’s Guild withheld this year. These historic local awards were established for local artists and have been given to local artists for decades: the Israel Abramofsky Award of the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim, the Molly Morpeth Canaday Award, the Roulet Medal Award, the Athena Art Society Award, the Toledo Federation of Art Societies Purchase Award, the Toledo Friends of Photography Award, the Toledo Area Sculpture Guild Rose M. Reder Memorial Award, and the University of Toledo Award and Lourdes University Art Department Award, both of which were combined into a new award along with the new Bowling Green State University Art Department award. The Federation collectively and as individual groups, not just the Potter’s Guild, could have withheld awards in protest of the change in radius and in acknowledgment of the community’s widespread negative reaction to the Toledo Museum of Art’s new Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. But the Federation deliberately let our awards go out of town, thousands of dollars of awards.

Erin Palmer Szavuly, why did the Federation do that?

The Federation is a group formed in 1917, comprised of delegates from art societies and the Toledo Museum of Art, for the single purpose of putting on the annual Toledo area art show at the Toledo Museum of Art. The show is for our 17-county local community of artists. At 95 years old, it’s the oldest local art competition hosted at an art museum in the country. It’s very meaningful to our community. However, the Toledo Federation of Art Societies, a group that has held the trust of local artists for 95 years, has been corrupted and the show no longer serves the local art community.

Erin Palmer Szavuly, president of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies, delegate of, and associate professor at Lourdes University, should step down, along with her Federation cohorts, because their actions violate the mission of the organization.

Erin Palmer Szavuly, why haven’t you answered my questions? They are legitimate questions and as the president, you have a responsibility to the Toledo area artists to answer their concerns.

Not only has the Federation been complaisant while the museum has taken the show away from local artists, the Federation has been pathetic in response to the public’s negative response to the jurying results.

Is it because the Federation is working with the museum to kill the show? Does the fact that the museum put the two most recent Federation presidents in this year’s show have anything to do with it?

Erin Palmer Szavuly’s Oct. 14 Facebook post to me:

As you discuss this exhibition with artists in the community…the expectation of support for the show from “our” museum, please also discuss how the area artists can support “our” museum. The number of artists that were rejected from the show that were members of the museum is pretty disappointing. If we have expectations of support from the museum for the local art community…well the local art community can at least help show support of the museum. A reciprocal appreciation would be nice. 

The museum gave Erin Palmer Szavuly membership status information on TAA entrants. Really?

What is the breakdown of the winners’ membership status, Erin Palmer Szavuly, since you make an important issue about the membership status of rejected applicants?

Erin Palmer Szavuly, are you one of the two full-time art teachers at Lourdes University? Are there nine adjunct art teachers working at Lourdes? Are adjunct teacher wages per class approximately 20% of what you are paid to teach the same class? Are most of the TAA winners from out of town adjunct teachers? How many of the winners who are adjunct teachers are also members of the museum? Do the adjunct teacher-winners make a lot less money than the full-time professor-winners? Are all of the full time professor-winners museum members?

Is the average income of a professional artist 65% of the average mean income of all occupations total? Do you expect applicants to be members of the Toledo Museum of Art, even when they struggle to put food on the table, when they have children to feed, or not?

Considering the low wages of adjunct teachers and the average income of professional artists, is it a fair estimation that artists make about 50% of what most workers make?

Do you think it’s discriminatory for the museum to track membership status of TAA applicants? Do you think it’s fair to judge TAA show applicants by their membership status? Erin Palmer Szavuly, is it really anything that you should be looking up and bringing up? But as long as you have done this research, Ms. President of the Toledo Federation of Artists Societies, can we have the answers?

Erin Palmer Szavuly’s remarks to The Blade in the Oct. 31 article, Changes to artists’ exhibit draw criticism:

The selection for the exhibition, she said, is exciting to artists whose works will be featured, but she acknowledged that not being selected can be threatening for some…. “If the show is allowed to stagnate, it does not say very much about our community for that to occur”….

Erin Palmer Szavuly, what exactly do you mean by saying that “not being selected can be threatening for some.” Do you mean that those who are protesting the show are doing so because they were rejected? Do you not get it that the protesters are voicing their disapproval that the majority of the chosen artists are from far-away cities, not from our 17-county area, as it has been for 95 years? Are you hearing us? Why are you not supportive of the Toledo artist community that you represent? Do you seriously believe that the work of Toledo area artists in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition would “stagnate” the show? Do you really think it is a step forward to give our show away and our awards away to a far-away population 15 times greater than ours? How is that good for our local economy? Why did you sell us out, Erin Palmer Szavuly?

Is it true, Erin Palmer Szavuly, that you tell your students to create because they cannot live without creating and enter shows to fill up their resumes, but not to worry about anything in between because it’s out of their control and it’s the world they live in?

Should artists leave the business aspect up to you then, and people like you? Is it easier for you, and people like you, when artists don’t pay attention to business?

Is your handling of the TAA show this year your idea of looking out for the best interests of your students and the Toledo area artists, Erin Palmer Szavuly? Have you read the mission of the Toledo Federation of  Art Societies?

As president of the Federation, Erin Palmer Szavuly, how can you think it’s a good thing that 61% of the artists in the Toledo Area Artists show do not reside in the Toledo area? Do you think it’s fair for the museum to have judged the show itself and put in so many insiders, no local glass artists, and only two area women? To me, as a member of the Toledo community, it’s embarrassing that the museum would conduct the Toledo area art show by picking their own employees, a spouse of an employee, an ex-employee, and the two most recent past presidents of the Federation, not to mention a good friend of the museum director, while putting in very few other area artists and filling it up with out-of-town artists. How could you think that the public would not become aware that the few artists the museum chose from the community were insiders and favorites of the museum?

Ms. President, isn’t it a conflict of interest that two Federation presidents are in the show this year when so few local artists were picked? Are these the successes that you, the President of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies, feel the need to support and celebrate — that the two most recent Federation presidents were put in the show, at the expense of the Toledo area art community as a whole? Is that a conflict of interest?

Erin Palmer Szavuly, what work do you do with the museum director that is “many levels way beyond TAAE,” as you recently told an area artist? As the president of the Federation, do you think it is a conflict of interest to be working with the museum on “many levels way beyond TAAE,” when the radical changes the museum made this year to the TAAE go against the Federation’s mission to show Toledo area artists in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition? Does the extra work you get from the museum constitute receiving favors from the museum, Erin Palmer Szavuly?

We deserve answers.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if the museum spent $80,000 as they did this year – $60,000 more than usual, to freshen up the TAA show for the real Toledo area artists? Our show and our community would have been reinvigorated and Toledo area artists would have been promoted, as promised by the museum when the museum made their proposal to the Federation in 2010 to take control of the show in order to get high-caliber judges that would put the Toledo area artists on the map.

Instead the museum spent over $80,000 to promote outsiders from far-away communities this year, in the name of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. The museum took our 95-year old tradition, our legacy, and our monetary awards and made a mockery of us, while the Federation did nothing to stand up for the rights of the Toledo area artists and our historic show. The show belongs to our community, the Toledo area artist community. It’s called the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition for a reason.

Museum ruins artists’ tradition

Every community needs to support its own, or else it will lose them. The Federation has been an accomplice to the museum’s demise of our local art show. We, the local artists, think it’s dishonest of the Federation to violate its mission, while getting favors from the museum for doing so. We want our show back, at the Toledo Museum of Art, for our 17-county area, with fair and impartial judging.

Museum’s art show draws ire
Exhibit loses sense of community

Read more comments by community members here: artistsoftoledo.com/contribute.html

Statements in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition catalogs from the past three shows regarding Toledo Museum of Art’s commitment to Toledo area artists: 

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

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 corn field adjacent to his house. We need more like him.

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?

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.

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.

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? 

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.

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:

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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?

 

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?

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.