Rust Wire sat down yesterday with Kelly McGilvery, an arts advocate in Toledo and former coordinator of Live Work Create Toledo, a project of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, that sought to create an arts zone in the warehouse district, connect artists with resources, and develop live/work spaces for artists.
Below is an edited version of our conversation:
Rust Wire: How can the arts contribute to economic development in Toledo and cities like it?
Kelly McGilvery: “The arts allow us to take advantage of under-utilized spaces.” For instance, she said, an Artomatic 419 event was held in a building in Toledo that had been vacant for several years, and after the event, a boxing gym opened in the space.
“It was rented out a month or two after that,” she said. “You can get people to come into a space and see it filled with arts and life and people walking through it.”
A similar concept puts art installations in vacant storefronts, which has been done in many cities. It puts something in the empty store window, and gives artists access to spaces they normally wouldn’t have. “It’s one of those situations where everybody wins.”
“Also, a lot of times, the people who first go into a rough neighborhood and open it up are artists,” for instance in the Short North neighborhood in Columbus.
RW: What is Toledo doing right?
KM: In a place with a limited arts budget, “the Arts Commission does a good job of connecting artists with spaces, and businesses that need their services.” It also organizes an ongoing artists’ networking series.
“I think there has been an increase in the number of collaborative projects [because of that],” she said.
RW: What could Toledo do better?
KM: Because many people in Toledo don’t buy art, and those who do often buy art from out-of-town artists, we could do a better job of “helping people recognize the value of local art and local artists.”
RW: We had a short-lived program run by Lucas County to help encourage people to buy art here.
KM: “It’s a real shame [that no longer exists] because it was a great program,” McGilvery said.
Another great local program, she added, is run out of the Sofia Quintero Arts and Culture Center in South Toledo, and offers art classes to neighborhood children.
“That’s an awesome program,” she said. “If it could be replicated in other neighborhoods, I think it would do a lot to integrate the arts into everyone’s life… That’s the sort of thing where I wish I had a magic wand, and I could say, ‘OK, it’s in every neighborhood.'”
In terms of other art projects, “I’ve been continually impressed by Cleveland and Pittsburgh.Whenever I hear of a cool project and I Google it, it seems like there is something similar in Cleveland and Pittsburgh,” such as Pittsburgh’s Sprout Fund, which supports innovative art projects.