From the TMA to Today: Looking back at the art history and development of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies

. June 27, 2017.
Former Toledo Museum of Art director George Stevens brought together prominent members of several Toledo arts organizations  to form the Toledo Federation of Art Societies in 1917. (Photo Credit: Copyright 2017 Penny Gentieu artistsoftoledo.com)
Former Toledo Museum of Art director George Stevens brought together prominent members of several Toledo arts organizations to form the Toledo Federation of Art Societies in 1917. (Photo Credit: Copyright 2017 Penny Gentieu artistsoftoledo.com)

A volunteer arts organization that survives a hundred years has proven itself an active participant in cultural life. So, after a century of promoting visual art in Northwest Ohio, the Toledo Federation of Art Societies threw themselves a well-deserved party.  Members and supporters of TFAS honored the organization’s centennial with a one-night-only exhibit of highlights from the TFAS collection on Friday, June 9 in the Porter Gallery at the Toledo School for the Arts.  

Beginning with only four members, the TFAS now boasts twenty institutional members— which includes galleries, museums, art schools, universities, professional artists, artist collectives, among others— and a newly-developed strategic plan designed to make sure the organization stays relevant.

Origin story

Shortly after glassmaker Edward Drummond Libbey founded the Toledo Museum of Art in 1901, he orchestrated a move to its now-famous Greco-Roman building, designed by architects Edward B. Green and Harry W. Wachter. By 1912, the museum was located by the Old West End neighborhood.  Then director, George Stevens, gathered prominent members of several Toledo arts organizations — the Tile Club, the Athena Art Society and the now-defunct ArtKlan — to form the Toledo Federation of Art Societies in 1917.

In the following century, TFAS continued to support the Toledo Museum of Art and local artists by organizing the annual Toledo Area Artists exhibition, encouraging the sale of local work and encouraging cooperation.  Now, TFAS’s support is taking on a slightly different form.

Developing artists

TFAS is developing a program to help young artists make the transition from student, or emerging artist, to working artist.

“The Toledo area has three universities and one community college that all have strong art programs, area galleries and The Arts Commission,” says TFAS Vice-President Margaret Lockwood-Lass. “Our goal going forward is to have a strong portfolio development program for artists looking for feedback.”

Lockwood-Lass also envisions a more active social media and social event schedule for TFAS in the future, saying that “…we are continually adapting to make our organization more meaningful to emerging artists and upcoming organizations.”

An art historical mission

Despite changes, the mission of TFAS isn’t just about the here and now. The organization is the guardian and archivist of Toledo’s art history through its permanent collection of works by significant artists of the region.

The TFAS collection began in 1948 with the acquisition of a small gouache by William T. Staffel, and has grown over the past 70 years to now include more than 250 artworks representing prominent Toledo area artists in all media. Ceramics by Robert Archambeau and Edith Franklin, glass art by Dominick Labino, paintings by Robert Garcia and Janet Ballweg and many more, form a unique, comprehensive and ever-growing anthology of Toledo art.  

Heroes, Robert Garcia. 1988.

Heroes, Robert Garcia. 1988.

To further promote artists of the region, TFAS recently entered into an alliance with the Toledo School for the Arts to lease pieces from the school’s art collection to area businesses and community centers.

Planning a strategy for the future

The board and members of TFAS are engaged right now in planning for the future of the organization through an extended strategic planning process that began in June 2016.

“There will be more Toledo Area Artist exhibits and more art purchased for the TFAS collection…  membership has already broadened from the organizational-members-only to include independent members,” says TFAS President Douglas Adams-Arman. “Planning continues to allow TFAS to launch “a truly comprehensive regional online TFAS Arts Calendar for our community partners and area artists. After the directory is up and running, we envision adding an online directory of regional artists.  [That’s] technically more complex and needs more prep, but it will be worth the wait.”

By maintaining existing programs while adding new services, TFAS members continue to pursue the mission of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies.