Phelps: Creative community sustainabilityWritten by Crystal Phelps | | email@example.com
As a Toledo native, I am excited to see grassroots movements taking a more permanent hold here in the Glass City. But I am left to wonder if the current movers and shakers are interested in or even consider the sustainability of these initiatives? Toledo arts seem to be stuck in a congratulatory mode of existence that can be short-sighted. Being supportive of the positive endeavors is great, but it is also important to have a critical dialogue about what’s going on in order for the community to experience significant growth. The influx of new initiatives, such as PechaKucha Nights, Launch Pad Cooperative, LeSo Gallery, and tart::projects are raising the bar for the local arts community with long-term goals in mind. Continued education, communication and cooperation are needed to sustain local talent and attract others to the area.
Recent art thefts at The Gallery at The Davis Building associated with the You Are Here Toledo project are an example of a bad situation and a prime motivation for my questioning.
Art being removed from the walls in a gallery is a strong indicator that there are pockets of the greater community that do not understand the importance of the visual arts — a lack of education. These are works of art inspired by and made for the City of Toledo, this place that we love and have civic pride in. The exhibition was organized by tart::projects to help raise community awareness about the You Are Here project and give viewers the opportunity to see the original work that was created for the dots. You Are Here dots being removed by grounds crews unaware that this public art project, coordinated by AIGA and The Arts Commission, was not graffiti, points to a lack of communication and cooperation between the organizations and the city.
One thing that greater metro areas have in common is an appreciation for the arts and the positive impact they have on the area- both socially and economically. If things continue to be destroyed or tampered with, the community may run the risk of losing its artwork. Those individuals who run the initiatives may seek out better venues, in different markets, outside of Toledo. It is imperative that the community shows support for local arts beyond the museum and takes pride in the fact that new organizations are forming and creating more opportunities for creatives. A lack of participation will result in frustration and boredom. The creative class will continue to flock to bigger markets while leaving the area in a perpetual state of the doldrums.
Showing up to gallery openings, artist talks, workshops and special events is the easy part. Education is readily provided through participation and experiencing all of the fantastic things that are coming to fruition here. If citizens of Toledo are not educated about the importance of the arts (in public and in the gallery setting), do not respect the amount of time and dedication that goes into the work or are simply apathetic, how can we grow together to build a vibrant city?
Cooperation between the arts, the city and all citizens is imperative to allow Toledo to move out of the shadow of Detroit and onto the next chapter in the Rust Belt renaissance.
Crystal Phelps is vice president at Launch Pad Cooperative. Visit her website at crystalgalephelps.com and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.