Jerry Gray: Luminous alumniWritten by Jerry Gray | | email@example.com
Through discussions with friends and fellow creatives over the last year or so, I’ve found myself returning to an idea that I believe could be very beneficial for schools, groups, studio spaces and institutions through out Toledo that facilitate the fine arts in Northwest Ohio. From high school and college programs to long-running studio spaces such as the Collingwood Arts Center and Common Space to major institutions like the Toledo Museum of Art and the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, as well as art guilds and groups throughout the region.
One common goal for these places and their programs has been to promote, instruct and engage the artistic community within their own means and context. While these organizations have worked with hundreds — maybe thousands — of artists at multiple levels of development and experience, the engaging atmosphere of these relationships often fade into the background as new students, residents, members and the like are recruited and nurtured.
It is in no way any fault of the organization; it is just simply the difficult nature of the beast, trying to keep tabs on or stay in contact with such a diverse, often nomadic and perhaps lackadaisical breed of individuals. It could easily be an undertaking for an entire department or staff.
Nonetheless, rekindling some of these past relationships could help create an arts-based group or institution that relies on community exposure as a means to their end, and an Alumni Exhibition could go a long way toward putting alumni or their programs into contact with an audience that is perpetually looking forward instead of recognizing a talented history deeply rooted in their community.
There are many potential examples for an Alumni Exhibition, whether speaking of programs such as the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo’s Young Artists At Work program, The Toledo School for the Arts, The Toledo Museum of Art’s Family Center or any number of others that depend on public or private donations to help fund these artistic hubs and keepers of the creative flame.
For my example, I choose to use the at-the-time notorious Collingwood Arts Center (CAC), one of my personal foundation bricks in Toledo. I lived in and/or had a studio at the CAC for nearly five years, from 2001 to 2006. This is where I first became immersed in Toledo’s art scene and the time I spent there was vital in my development as an artist and advocate of the fine arts in Toledo.
The CAC is the only residential artist studio space in the state of Ohio. It is located on the fringe of Toledo’s historic Old West End and has housed a plethora of painters, dancers, writers, musicians, photographers, sculptors and performers of all other sorts, including jugglers and magicians, in its nearly 25-year history. Pooling such talents into a full and varied alumni-based event would be very rewarding for an institution attempting to maintain a 105-year-old building.
The logistics of such a task may be overwhelming and difficult, but I believe with online communities such as Facebook and MySpace as well as the building’s own mailing list, not to mention the spiderweb of friends connected from their lives together at the CAC, finding the artists and promoting the event and entries may not be as difficult as presumed. This step would become much easier in the case of an annual exhibition, snowballing through word of mouth and understanding of the positive impact such an event would promote.
As stated earlier, putting an institution or program into contact with the community would be very rewarding for all those involved whether artist, institution or patron.
The arts as a whole are facing the difficult task of encouraging and relating to new and younger demographics with an aging patron base and tough economic times contributing to less and less funding.
This scenario could prove to reconnect the community with an understanding of each institutional mission.
Jerry Gray is an artist, writer, vocalist, bartender, gallery owner and advocate of the Toledo Potential, which promotes the retaining and featuring of artistic talent and culture in our city.