New voices seek to harmonize with Toledo arts communityWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
They met three months ago, but they already laugh easily and finish each other’s sentences like best friends. They are all working artists who share a passion for art cooperatives and have big ideas for enhancing Toledo’s art community.
Kimberly Adams had founded “tart :: projects” and was organizing Toledo’s first PechaKucha Night when she met Crystal Phelps, a fellow renter of studio space in the Davis Building. Phelps had recently met Tim Gaewsky after contacting him about getting involved with his newly founded Launch Pad Cooperative. Phelps introduced the two and all three hit it off.
“I’ve always been the networker. I always bring people together,” Phelps said. “It’s important once you find those like-minded people to get everybody together and just start doing stuff.”
“It’s great meeting like-minded people,” Gaewsky agreed. “It’s exciting. We’re supporting each other. That’s the beauty of this whole dynamic.”
“We all have the same goals in mind, which really, really helps,” Adams said.
“We’re on the same wavelength,” Phelps said.
All are relatively recent transplants to Toledo.
Phelps, 24, grew up in Sylvania, but left to attend college in Arizona. She moved back in December after living in Phoenix for a few years after graduation.
Adams, 30, grew up in Salineville, in rural eastern Ohio. While an undergraduate at Bowling Green State University, Adams founded the Arts Extravaganza, an event still held annually. After working and going to school in Tampa, Fla., she moved to Toledo about 10 months ago.
Gaewsky, 33, earned degrees in his native Cleveland as well as Vermont and worked in Detroit before moving to Toledo three years ago to take a job as an art handler at the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA).
tart :: projects
tart :: projects, which Adams founded last year, aims to provide a platform for dialogue among artists and community members.
Its first exhibition, “The Cabinet of Curiosities,” featuring work from the private collections of five local contemporary collectors, will run through June 2 at the Davis Building Gallery. Hours are regular business hours Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and closed Sundays.
Another tart :: project event will be Neighborhood Watch: Projection Walk, set for 9-11 p.m. June 2 during the Old West End Festival. A group of people will walk from house to house with a projector, projecting images, films and slides onto houses. Adams, who teaches art at BGSU and Eastern Michigan University, got the idea from a similar event in Tampa.
“It’s activating another space,” Adams said. “It’ll be Toledo’s first one and it’s something we’d like to do in different neighborhoods.”
Adams’ long-term goal for tart :: projects is to establish a multidisciplinary artist-in-residency program that would house emerging artists from around the world. With lengths of stay ranging from two to six weeks, the project could house more than 250 artists in a year.
“There’s nothing like it Ohio,” Adams said.
Adams said she loves Toledo’s sense of community.
“In Tampa everything is spread out; here it’s tightknit,” Adams said. “It just felt like there was the potential for so much more to build and expand. When I first came here 10 months ago, I already liked what was going on, so I didn’t want to change it, but I wanted to enhance it.”
Adams also brought PechaKucha to Toledo. Pronounced “peh-chak-cha,” it is a networking event where up to 16 speakers are each allotted six minutes, 40 seconds to share ideas, stories, inspirations and passions in a format consisting of 20 slides for 20 seconds each. Derived from the Japanese term for the sound of conversation (“chit-chat”), PechaKucha events have taken place in more than 500 cities worldwide, Adams said.
“It’s a global community. It’s a big movement that’s going on,” Adams said.
The next PechaKucha is set for 7:30 p.m. June 12 at the Main Library, 325 N. Michigan St.
Launch Pad Cooperative is an artist-run gallery dedicated to the cultural enrichment of the greater Toledo area. Based at the Davis Building, 911 Jefferson Ave., Launch Pad will open its inaugural exhibition June 15.
Gaewsky’s vision for Launch Pad is to provide artists and writers with support, collaboration opportunities and learning experiences through lectures, panel discussions, film series, poetry readings, critique sessions and more. He is networking with co-ops in other cities about doing exchange exhibitions to help broaden exposure for Toledo artists. He also plans to establish a mentoring program pairing aspiring artists with co-op members.
“I want there to be more excitement about art,” Gaewsky said. “I really want to engage the community, especially the arts community, in a way I really haven’t seen happen here before. I want to go beyond exhibitions and gallery openings and get more in-depth with what’s going on in the art world outside of Toledo. It’s important to inform the arts community of Toledo that we can be a part of this ongoing dialogue that’s happening on a national and international level within the greater arts community, that we can participate in that.”
Gaewsky credits Toledo with providing the opportunity to start Launch Pad.
“You couldn’t really do this in a bigger city like New York or Chicago,” Gaewsky said. “Toledo is the perfect location for this to happen.”
A thriving arts community can help stem “brain drain,” Phelps said.
“When I was in high school, I was like, ‘What the hell is going on here? There’s nothing.’ And that’s why I left. I can’t be the only person who grew up here and did that,” Phelps said. “Don’t get me wrong; it’s great for everybody to leave and go do their thing, but long-term, as far as sustainability is concerned, you really need to find a market to keep those people here. Those bigger cities that everybody leaves for, that’s what they have.”
After graduating from college, Phelps joined an arts collective in Phoenix. The area — with pockets of untouched downtown space and residents largely sticking to the suburbs — reminded her of Toledo 10 years ago. She said the cooperative helped draw people to the area, making it a destination and attracting other businesses.
“Even though I’m only 24, I went and experienced these things and I was a key player in these other developments and if I can bring those skills here, I would love to give that back,” Phelps said. “I’ve seen it happen in other places and it gives me hope for a place like Toledo.
“It’s starting to happen, definitely. It’s happening on St. Clair and Adams streets. There’s a lot of really exciting stuff that’s starting to happen, so between us and the other people we haven’t met yet, I’m sure things can really just balloon and improve overall.”
Phelps decided to move back after coming to town for a friend’s wedding last summer and being impressed by what she saw happening in the arts community.
“I stumbled into the Art Supply Depo and said, ‘What’s this? What’s going on here?’ I met a couple of people and said, ‘Direct me to the artists. Take me to your people. I want to see what’s going on here,’” Phelps said, laughing. “And that was basically that.
“Since coming back, I really enjoy seeing these grassroots things starting to take what seems to be a more permanent root and that gets me really excited. It’s already starting to happen, it’s already starting to take shape.”
Kelly McGilvery, co-founder of Artomatic 419! and longtime collaborator with the Arts Commission, said established members of the Toledo art community are always happy to hear fresh ideas and perspectives.
“Tim is a good friend, and I have met Kim and Crystal several times and admire all their hard work, ingenuity, creativity and smart projects,” McGilvery said in an email to Toledo Free Press Star. “Personally, I’m really excited to see people investing so much of themselves, their energy and efforts on the arts in Toledo. These projects are bringing something new to the discussion and evolution of creativity in this city, and that will only enhance other initiatives already in motion. The more perspectives represented by our arts community, the better. The character of the region is deepened when its arts community is enriched by new voices.”
Toledo artist Dustin Hostetler also welcomes newcomers.
“I’m not involved in anything they’re doing, but I’m really excited to see what’s happening,” Hostetler said in an email to Toledo Free Press Star. “Artists are inspired by other artists, so when you have new people doing new things it encourages others to get off their butts and do new projects as well. Toledo’s art community, from my perspective, is very welcoming and encouraging of new ideas. I certainly hope these three feel the same and are getting positive reinforcement from the old-timers.”
Arts Commission Executive Director Marc Folk said the organization is always interested in engaging artists in conversation about ideas to enhance the arts community.
“It’s fantastic. The more stuff we have happening here, the better from the arts community perspective,” Folk said. “What’s not to like about other people moving to Toledo and moving the community forward? It’s a real easy thing to like for me. I think they deserve kudos for stepping up and trying to take things forward.”
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