Dorsey: Collingwood Arts Center to end artist residency programWritten by John Dorsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Think about every artist you’ve known in Toledo during the past few decades. What do they all have in common? Chances are they’ve lived, exhibited or kept a working studio at the Collingwood Arts Center (CAC). That’s what makes this latest bit of news so sad.
I was recently sitting at my computer, just minding my own business, when my good friend Zach Fishel gave me the news that CAC Executive Director Sarah Kurfis had announced the end of the facility’s artist in residence program, which has housed working artists from around our region and around the globe for nearly 30 years.
Here’s a small piece of Kurfis’ public announcement; the rest can be found on CAC’s Facebook page, as well as its website, www.collingwoodartscenter.org.
“Due to our limited budget, we have been unable to upgrade the building. This has left us with significant electrical and plumbing issues that make it unsuitable to house full-time residents in 2014. As a result, the CAC will be ending our residency program.”
Kurfis goes on to state that the arts center will still maintain working studios, along with its theater and working relationships with longstanding organizations like the Children’s Theatre Workshop, Northwest Ohio Community Shares and the LGBT community center Pride Center 419.
These are all good things, right? Of course they are. So why am I feeling so sad right now?
The problem, at least as I see it, is that the residency program is what truly set the CAC apart from other arts organizations in the city.
Of course, I’m biased, having called the arts center my home from 2003-12. Many of its soon-to-be former residents are my friends. That said, I can think of a number of other spaces an artist can find a studio in this city, but there was only one they could call home. What was even more remarkable about the arts center is that while most artist residencies are short term, lasting a few weeks, maybe a few months, as long as you kept paying your rent and making work in your chosen discipline, you never had to leave the CAC. At least one of the building’s current residents dates back to the mid-1980s.
My own experience with the arts center began when Caroline Gauger first pointed the place out to me, saying that that’s where I needed to live. In the end, it’s what kept me in Toledo, what led to this column, and every good thing in between.
In first memory I have of being inside the building, I’m standing in the basement, the floor covered with water for whatever reason, about to experience the mixed media circus known as The Project.
It was shortly after that that I walked in for my artist review and the rest, as they say, is history.
What I’ll always remember about that first night is how young everybody looked, no matter what their actual age. There was a youthful passion in the air, the kind of passion that, as cliché as it sounds, comes from following your dreams. I’ll remember many things about my time there: long conversations with Robert Brundage, Fiona Lewis singing opera in the wee hours of the morning, my door shaking as ALMA Drum and Dance moved with frenzied excitement to an African dance beat. I’ll also remember many things that were important parts of my development as a working artist, that wouldn’t have happened without the arts center’s residency program.
Kurfis said in her statement that the arts center is planning a capital campaign to restore the building. Let’s hope that if it’s successful it will lead to the restoration of the residency program, which ends at the end of February. Without it, a lot of our memories as a community, artistic and otherwise, might look a whole lot different.
Until next time … keep your pencils sharp.
John Dorsey is a widely published poet. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Tags: ALMA Drum and Dance, CAC Executive Director Sarah Kurfis, Children’s Theatre Workshop, Collingwood Arts Center (CAC), Fiona Lewis singing opera, LGBT community center Pride Center 419, Northwest Ohio Community Shares, Robert Brundage, The Project