Art all around us

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

With the help of city funding, Toledo has been speaking to city neighborhoods through its public art for almost 40 years.

The Toledo Arts Commission is in the process of adding five new large-scale sculptures to its repertoire of art in public spaces. These have grown to almost 80 installations since the 1977 ordinance that set aside 1 percent of the city’s capital improvement budget for such installations.

Between 2005 and 2015, the city spent $2.4 million on public art.

The new installation, by Glendale, Calif., artist Mark Lere, features five large aluminum sculptures spaced on the Collingwood Boulevard artery between Ashland and West Central avenues. The pieces include three house-like sculptures, Stacked Houses, Rising House, and Tower, as well as Timeline Screen, a long aluminum piece that snakes along the boulevard, and Turret Roof.

“The forms directly address types of architecture you would find in the neighborhood. They all have to do with home and place and community in an abstract form,” said Nathan Mattimoe, coordinator for the arts commission’s art in public places.

Details are still being finalized: There’s some hardscaping that has to be completed, including a sculpted mounded brick wall on the north end that will be built around Tower, creating the effect of the piece sliding to a halt. The installment has yet to be named.

But people are already talking.

“We are almost there, and we are pretty happy with them,” said Mattimoe. “There’s a little buzz that’s been created about them.”

Mattimoe said he expects the work to be completed in the next few weeks, and he will schedule a reception soon. The project, which includes artist fees, receiving, installation, and hardscaping the work, was $100,000 and was done in coordination with the city’s planned repavement project along Collingwood. The Arts Commission is being assisted by Flatlanders Sculpture Supply in Blissfield, Mich.

Lere, whose work was chosen by a Design Review Board from three finalists, is known for his large metal-and-concrete interactive pieces and has been commissioned to do public art work for various locations in the United States, including the University of Southern California; the Kalamazoo Museum in Kalamazoo, Mich.; a Santa Monica, Calif., parking structure; 20th Century Fox studios in Los Angeles, and Seattle, where various pieces were installed across the city.

The installation is the most recent in an almost 40-year-old initiative that has produced 47 large-scale pieces and 30 artist-designed bike racks scattered about Toledo. Sculptures like the 1983 City Candy — a vivid, red-and-white-striped abstract on Summit Street near the Vistula Parking Garage designed by artist Pierre Clerk — and Perspective Arcade — a 50-foot sculpture installed in 1980 that gives the perception of tension and was designed by Greek artist Athena Tacha — have become visual landmarks in the city.

“City Candy is iconic. It has become the symbol of the city. It’s the symbol of the Arts Commission,” Mattimoe said. “It looks like it grew out of the ground and planted itself there. It is one of the most insightful pieces we have in the collection.”

Major Ritual, a bright orange sculpture designed by New York artist Beverly Pepper, was the first installment funded by the 1% for Art program in Toledo. It was erected in 1979 at the eastern edge of the Civic Center Mall at Orange Street and Spielbusch Avenue.

Funding for the 1% for Art has remained somewhat steady around $200,000 in the last 15 years, with the exception of 2005 and 2009, when it dipped into the $150,000 range.

In 2013, it peaked at $323,877, according to figures provided by the city administration. The Arts Commission should expect to get about $200,000 from the 2016 CIP budget, which hasn’t been finalized yet, according to city spokesman Janet Schroeder.

Toledo was the first in Ohio to create a 1% for Art program, which is overseen by the Arts Commission’s Art in Public Places Committee and has served as model for other city- or state-funded public art programs.

The Ohio Arts Council adopted similar legislation in 1990 that affords them 1 percent of the state capital appropriations bill on new construction or renovations of public buildings, with appropriations of more than $4 million. About 15 projects across the state are typically designated on one biennial bill, and many of the projects are at universities, including the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University, said Kathy Signorino, coordinator for artists programs and Percent for Art for the Ohio Arts Council.

“The reason why the legislature put this into effect in 1990 is they really thought it was a way to get artwork into communities where there isn’t [any] but also as way to employ artists ... give a sense of place,” said Signorino. “This is a model that has been replicated across the country. It’s a way to make sure cities have an identity that is made up of more than just buildings.”

Although Toledo’s ordinance was also once based on new construction projects, the legislation was relaxed in 1992 to eliminate the need for public art to be tied to a construction project. Now site locations are chosen on a case-by-case basis and usually are suggested by the city, a council member, or a member of the Arts Commission committee. The change untied the hands of organizers who wanted to ensure there were public art pieces in all of the city’s neighborhoods, Mattimoe said.

Although they try to do at least one larger piece with each year’s funding contribution, the money is also allocated for washing and waxing, moving, repairing, and repainting structures. For example, Mattimoe said, next year’s allocation will mainly go to conservation of some pieces that have been in the collection for years, such as City Candy and Perspective Arcade.

“We love the new new projects, and we are definitely going to pursue more. But we are running into … some regular maintenance, repainting,” he said. “As we get more work in the collection, our needs grow.”

Other pending projects expected to come to fruition this year or in 2017 include the Gateway Project, a collaboration with the Ohio Department of Transportation that will place art at the entrance to downtown Toledo at the intersection of Erie Street, the Anthony Wayne Trail, and Lafayette Street, and a request for an artist to create a large-scale glass installation for the atrium of the new ProMedica headquarters downtown (the committee just narrowed the artists down to three finalists and expects a build phase of next spring).

The Arts Commission has made a request for regional artists to submit proposals for an interactive playground installation at Close Park in West Toledo, a project they hope to install next spring.

The Arts Commission’s newest project, Art Loop Inter/?Active, seeks proposals for public works of art that will be placed near stops on the 3rd Thursday Art Loop route.

Contact Roberta Gedert at: or 419-724-6075 or on Twitter @RoGedert.


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