City aims to reach creatives through new initiativeWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
By Hannah Camille Bealer, Special to Toledo Free Press
City leaders are banking on a radical new initiative to lure and keep emerging artists, aiming to turn Toledo into a city where local creatives thrive.
Last October, Madison Avenue Marketing Group, 1600 Madison Ave., introduced Mad Ave Collective – a shared office space for freelance designers, photographers, writers and other creatives to work on their craft.
But Jerry Brown, CEO of Madison Avenue Marketing Group, noticed the space was not often utilized by local talent – mostly for financial reasons. Meanwhile, the city itself was not appealing to the group the work space was designed for.
“Most of the (college) graduates leave and they don’t come back here,” Brown said. “So, how can we keep that creativity in Toledo?”
Neil Duris, a 2013 graduate of the University of Toledo, moved to New York City shortly after completing his degree in American history. Now, he is in Toledo for a few months before heading back to New York.
“I’m only here for financial reasons,” Duris said, adding he was born and raised in the Toledo area but found living in New York more appealing.
The answer to keeping young graduates like Duris in the area, Brown said, is the Keep Toledo Creative initiative.
Keep Toledo Creative is a city-wide movement with one clear goal: to help fund career development programs for creatives in Northwest Ohio through a scholarship program.
The initiative will ride on a crowdfunding campaign launched Oct. 16.
Along with a campaign designed for the general public, Mad Ave Collective manager Nikki Kellers said the group is in the process of applying for grants through the city and Lucas County while also looking for contributions from local universities and other community partners.
“The question everyone’s asking is, ‘How can I help? What can I do to help?’” Kellers said.
Applications for the scholarship will be available after Dec. 12. Until the funding efforts end on Dec. 11, Brown said it is not clear how many scholarships will be distributed.
The scholarships will cover 12-month memberships to several city programs designed to help young professionals advance in their careers, including EPIC (Engaging People, Inspiring Change) Toledo, the American Advertising Federation Toledo chapter and the Mad Ave Collective.
The memberships offer networking opportunities, personal mentoring and opportunities to meet with movers and shakers in creative industries.
“This really benefits everybody,” said Scott Greggory, vice president of creative services at Madison Avenue Marketing Group. “It’s going to help get people into the workforce faster and make it easier for them to succeed. We just need help from the community to breathe life into this.”
A scholarship like Keep Toledo Creative is something Duris said he could see changing the minds of young professionals before they decide to move away.
Even though he does not live in the city full time, Duris said when he is back in Toledo he is reminded of what his hometown has to offer — from the Toledo Art Museum to trendy Bleak House Coffee on Adams Street.
“I could be like everyone else who says the city is in such an impoverished state and how it’s a ghost town,” he said. “But you have to look in the right places.”
A free breakfast will be offered 7:30 a.m. Oct. 23 at 1600 Madison Ave. for those interested in learning more about the Keep Toledo Creative movement, Brown said.