Phelps: Reflections on one year as a Creative in ToledoWritten by Crystal Phelps | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I hear a lot about “Toledo loves love,” “Toledo provides” and “You will do better in Toledo” but when Toledo is provided with new ideas and new formats (from the new kids in town) people do not support them or participate in them.
And frankly, I am exhausted.
I have a new understanding of why there is little to no retention and a high turnover of creatives in the area. The fact of the matter is that change is scary — it’s the great unknown. It isn’t always easy to accept outsiders into the old cliques.
People say they are hungry for growth and change, but do they know why? Without support from the art community itself, how can there be sustainability within the larger community? The ones that see this and know, understand.
Meanwhile, the ones who don’t know why they want change trudge along with positive sentiments and blinders on. Galleries and cultural institutions should not have to convince advocates why they are relevant and inherently necessary to the well-being of a community. Mutually beneficial partnerships are paramount to taking the threads of creatives in Toledo and weaving them together to create a cultural identity.
I had my first experience with Artomatic 419 this spring and have to admit that while the number or participants and visitors was impressive, I was left underwhelmed. When quantity becomes a talking point over quality it is not helping the creative community so much as hindering it from developing a voice. Why put all of the eggs in one basket with one large event rather than providing support to the many small, grassroots things taking place?
There will not be a regional or national significance for Toledo arts until critical discussions that are relevant to the art market as a whole become pronounced. Growth doesn’t come from giving everyone a gold star for showing up. It comes from an ongoing dialogue and knowledge of what is going on outside of the bubble. It comes from being open to these types of conversations and new ideas. It comes from bridging the gaps between visual art, literary arts, music and theater.
Sure, we can look to art destinations across the country or even internationally to examine what worked to get them the title but it is unwise to emulate that and hope for the best. There are a lot of great things happening here but without support they will fizzle and burn out.
If Toledo keeps up this pace, the wheels will keep spinning and be the only constant the creative community has to bring it together. Toledo needs to develop a voice before it can be “louder, crazier and weirder.” It needs to retain the creative energy it has to attract others to the area before it can reach a new level.
Crystal Phelps is vice president at Launch Pad Cooperative. Visit her website at crystalgalephelps.com or email her at email@example.com.
Tags: Artomatic 419!