IN ‘GLASS CITY’ THEY BELIEVE ART CAN SAVE THE WORLD, AND WE HAVE TO AGREE
By P. Andrews-Keenan
Toledo is known as the “Glass Capital of the World”. It is now in its second century of glass manufacturing. Additionally, it is the birthplace of the Studio Art Glass Movement. Hands-on, glassblowing workshops continue to be a staple at the Toledo Museum of Art. Today, in addition to heralding growth through economic development, technology and advanced manufacturing, the arts are cited as a key to community revitalization.
Just outside the museum is a billboard that declares “Art brings Toledo together.” In 2019, the museum appointed Adam M. Levine director and CEO, recognized in 2017 as one of 20 Under 40 making a difference in the city. Joining him in leadership is Rhonda Sewell, the museum’s first director of belonging and community engagement. She is charged with cultivating and reframing the artworks in the Museum collection and spaces in exciting ways. And she is doing just that. Last October, the museum hosted Ohio native John Legend for a concert in the institution’s expansive Great Gallery. The backdrop for Legend’s performance was Titus Kaphar’s work Watching Tide’s Rise.
In addition to works by the master of Black fine art, Henry Ossawa Tanner and Elizabeth Catlett in the museum’s collection, are works by Kehinde Wiley, Thornton Dial, Jr. and a striking sculpture by South African Mary Sibande, Rubber Soul, Monument of Aspiration. Sewell continues to explore ways to bring everyone to the institution, and unlike some of her counterparts across multiple industries, feels both supported and empowered. One of their long standing partners has been the Frederick Douglass Community Association.
Since 1919, the DUG 419 (a reference to the name and the city’s zip code) has preached the gospel of self-sufficiency. Its focus is on community enrichment through education, economic empowerment, culture and innovation. Currently undergoing a renovation after a $2M investment from the city, Board Chair Albert Earl, says the arts have been part of the community staple since its founding. The sandblasted frieze wall that adorns the building’s 30 foot wall was done in 1976 for the national bicentennial observance by artist J. D. Jackson. Jackson’s goal was to celebrate the origins of America’s diverse civilization.” “I will create movement, abstract form, and poetry,” he said at the time.
Earl, who also goes by his DJ handle of Mick, hosts Hometown Live with Dante Mays, on the first Black owned station in Toledo, The Juice 107.3. He hosted Pigment International so his audience could learn more about the collective. He foresees art as both an aesthetic and entrepreneurial pursuit for the DUG 419. In addition to gallery space where artists can showcase their work, constituents can also learn the business of art, including skills like framing. Next month the center will celebrate its 103rd Anniversary at the Toledo Art Museum of Glass Pavilion.
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