Toledo Federation of Art Societies celebrates its tradition & looks to the future

Sculpture by Kenneth Thompson in "Decades in the Making" at Toledo Museum of Art.

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Doug Adams-Arman remembers attending the “May” Show, the once annual Toledo Area Artists exhibition.

Presented by the Toledo Federation of Arts Societies at the Toledo Museum of Art, it showcased the work of the best regional artists, from the elders who helped put Toledo on the artistic map to students from Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo.

TFAS President Douglas Adams-Arman

“To know that Toledo art could be in the museum was fantastic,” Adams-Arman, who has just be elected to his second term as the TFAS president, said recently. “It just gave me a sense of that I was living in a city with living artists. It was very exciting.”

Now that show is history. Its tradition is celebrated in the current exhibit “Decades in the Making: Highlights from the Toledo Federation of Art Societies” at the museum through June 24.

The show features more than 20 works, from the about 300 that the TFAS purchased from those shown in the area show. That collection is now being housed at the Toledo School for the Arts, where Adams-Arman works as a major gifts officer.

The work spans almost 70 years of the show from early representational paintings, “Still Life with Pheasant” by Jeannette Doak Martin and “Spanish Girl” by Miriam Silverman to the most recent purchase, “Slaughter of the Innocents” by K.A. Letts, an Ann Arbor-based painter.

Letts, Adams-Arman said, has a rising reputation in the art world and “it’s privilege” for TFAS to own one of her works.

“Slaughter” was exhibited in the 95th annual show, and the last one presented. Change was afoot in 2014. The boundaries for entries were expanded, but fewer artists, just 28, were included. Those exhibiting got to show more work.

The painting mixes Letts’ concern with current issues expressed through myth and primordial iconography.

Religious iconography plays an understated role in Sister Jane Catherine Lauer’s 1952 painting “Afternoon Collation.” With its use of straight lines and geometric blocks of color, it evokes a stain glass window. Yet the scene it depicts is a slice of everyday life in the Ursuline convent.

The piece Adams-Arman said was painted for the Toledo area exhibit.

Pottery by Harvey Littleton, left, and Rex Fogt.

The show also has iconic names from the Toledo scene. That includes Edith Franklin, a ceramicist who also participated in the studio glass workshop at the museum that launched at the art glass movement.

Adams-Arman, worked with Franklin and credited her with getting him involved in TFAS.

Two of the driving forces behind the glass workshop have work displayed, glass pioneer Dominick Labino and ceramicist Harvey Littleton.

The show, which was curated by Halona Norton-Westbrook, offers an excellent representation of the work exhibited over the years.

While this marks an end to a tradition, Arman-Adams said that the relationship between TFAS and the museum is “still steadfast and strong.”

“We’ll be working together on many things. There’s a lot of opportunities and exciting things coming next year.”

The federation and the museum have a long history together. TFAS got started when George Stevens, the founding director of the museum, brought together three community arts groups. The next year the first Toledo Area Artists exhibition was staged.

Now TFAS has about 25 organizational members. It now offers individual memberships. Adams-Arman said “we felt we needed to open up…” As a result “we’re getting a younger crowd.”

Toledo has a burgeoning art scene, he said. “Toledo is accommodating.” Artists can afford to have studio space here.

All this comes into play as TFAS enters its 101st year. The TFAS is reaching out to its members to get ideas for how to move forward.

Adams-Arman said that includes “pop-up” shows featuring other pieces from the federation’s collection. And the organization is looking to revive its longest standing tradition, the “May” show, to continue to celebrate the living artists who make the Toledo area their home.

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