Tuesday, December 2, 2014

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.
The Blade, November 19, 2014, Letter to the Editor, Mary Weiss

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.

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.

The Blade, November 7, 2014, Letter to the Editor, Joe Schmidt
The Blade, December 2, 2014, Letter to the Editor, Mary Ellen Taylor

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: 





Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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 copyright 2014 Penny Gentieu/gentieuimagesearch.com

Saturday, November 1, 2014

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 Toledo area artists community.

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, Anna Friemoth'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. Institutions represent the best interests of institutions, not the best interests of artists. 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 needs or interests of individual artists -- they serve their own institutional interests, and 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 raise and educate 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? Or what? Is it for relationships with museums that eliminated their local art shows a decade or two ago?

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, art matters to us.

Give us another Adam Weinberg. He would never have thrown Toledo area artists under the bus.

From The Toledo Museum of Art’s mission:

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.

Dr. 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?














Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mary Wolfe: Artist, Art Historian, Art Collector, and Honored Patron of the Arts. (1931—2014)

Mary Wolfe at Anna Friemoth's opening at the Paula Brown Gallery, June 2013
Mary Wolfe and art: “This is what I imagine heaven will be like.”

Mary Wolfe died last Thursday. At 82, she still seemed to be in her prime. What a magnificent woman. She was extraordinarily bright, both in her intellect and aura. She will keep shining through the many gifts she and her husband, Frederic (Fritz), have bestowed upon the community.

She was an art history teacher at Bowling Green State University from 1968 to 1976. She always opened her house to students and artists, said her student Kathy Sobb, an accomplished New York City graphic designer. She then became the exhibitions director of the BGSU McFall Center Gallery through the mid-eighties. Relevant to this website, artistsoftoledo.com, Mary Wolfe showed the work of glass art pioneer Dominick Labino. She also put on the largest exhibition of Edmund H. Osthaus ever assembled. Osthaus (1858—1928), famous for his dog paintings and branding of the Du Pont Powder Company (see my blog post, Edmund H. Osthaus and my giant Pierre Project), was one of the founding artists of the Toledo Museum of Art.

The couple donated $1 million to Wilberforce University for a new administration building in 1993. (Another artistsoftoledo connection: one of the few known paintings by Frederick Douglass Allen and one that I have been trying to track down was of the 1934 president of Wilberforce.)

Mary Wolfe is well-known for the very generous contribution she and Fritz made that started the Wolfe Center for the Arts at BGSU. We can also thank the Wolfes for interesting architecture of the building, since they encouraged BGSU to hire the architecture firm, Snohetta, of Norway. The Wolfe Center opened in December 2011. Six months later, at the Toledo Museum of Art, the Wolfe Gallery for Contemporary Art opened, thanks to the Wolfes $2 million donation to the Museum for the renovation of the old glass gallery behind the Egyptian gallery that had not been used for 15 years. 

For interesting accounts of the many roles she played throughout her life, see these two tributes to Mary Wolfe that were published shortly after her death by The Blade and Bowling Green State University.

I love the quote that was in the earlier, Blade breaking news report, taken from a 2011 Blade interview in regard to her art patronage. Mary Wolfe said, “It’s made life so much more interesting and wonderful for us. It gives you a great feeling.” How lovely to know this, how the Wolfes felt about art collecting and their kind act of supporting the arts, since what they have given us has truly made the lives of an entire community much more wonderful and interesting and gives us a great feeling.

I am grateful to have known her. She and Fritz came to my daughter, Anna Friemoth’s opening at the Paula Brown Gallery last year and bought her work. It means so much, since I know they have such exquisite and discerning taste in art.

Two years ago, my husband and I were invited to a small studio tour of Austrian LED light artist Erwin Redl, currently living in Bowling Green, with Mary & Fritz Wolfe and two of their three daughters and a mutual friend. Erwin Redl’s studio is in a huge warehouse, divided into several rooms. Erwin creates conceptual light installations for international museums. The experience of the work in each room of his studio tour became progressively grander and more energetic.  It was pretty special to be experiencing this tour with the Wolfes and I could see that Mary Wolfe was inspired. Later, her daughter Lisa told me that her mother was absolutely taken by the installations, and especially the last room, that had streams of red lights and blue lights speeding rhythmically from wall to wall close to the ceiling. Mary remarked about the last room, “This is what I imagine heaven will be like!”

I was just getting ready to send Mary Wolfe a card for my upcoming show, Artists of Toledo at the Paula Brown Gallery, that opens November 13. I printed some snapshots from that night at Erwin’s, together with a note. I had them out on my table waiting to find the right sized envelope when I read the Blade report that she died. I had just been with Lisa two days before at Bowling Green State University and later I sat in the theatre in the Wolfe Art Center for a scholarly talk on animal vision. It was a celebrated event and the audience included many VIPs but Mary Wolfe wasn’t there as I thought she might have been. She had a stroke that evening and died the next day, surrounded by loved ones.

Our prayers go out to Mary’s family, her many friends, and to our entire community. We lost someone pretty wonderful. We will always remember her because she brought so much art to life.




Toledo Area Artists Matter

Edith Franklin and Anna Friemoth at the 2011 Toledo Area Artists Exhibition Jury Dinner

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 an artist of high stature and reputation 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 throughout her steady rise to fame. Leslie Adams has in turn contributed greatly to Toledo’s cultural history, as well as that of the Toledo Museum of Art.

Then there’s my daughter, Anna Friemoth, a 2012 graduate of Maryland Institute College of Art in Photography, who entered the 94th Toledo 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.

Monday, October 20, 2014

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.




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Letter to the Editor of The Blade

In today’s 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