Remembering an Old West End legend

Family and friends of one of the Old West End’s most legendary residents are invited to celebrate the life of Joyce Perrin on Saturday, September 18 at the Agnes Reynolds Jackson Arboretum. 

The celebration from 2 to 6 p.m. will feature speakers who knew Perrin, a drum circle and a variety of musical acts. A plaque honoring Perrin will be installed, and organizers are also raising money to install an outdoor garden musical instrument in the community park on the corner of Delaware and Robinwood.

Perrin, an avid promoter of the arts in Toledo, died last October at the age of 91. She is perhaps best known as the founder of Any Wednesday, an eclectic gathering of musicians, artists and others from the community that she hosted for decades at her home at 2344 Glenwood. 

A jam session for everyone
The group began in 1963 with a small group of friends who wanted to learn to play guitar, according to Perrin’s youngest daughter, Kassie Guzzardi. It evolved into a weekly jam session and eventually moved from 14th Street to the house on Glenwood, where it was held for most of its existence. The gatherings drew musicians and those who wanted to learn to play, along with poets, dancers, visual artists and neighbors simply looking for good conversation. 

All were welcome, with the only rule being that the music had to be acoustic, Guzzardi says. The large house had many rooms that allowed for a variety of genres. “You could have a honkytonk going on in the front room on the piano, with jazz going in the back kitchen, and a drum circle out back,” she says. 

The gatherings lasted into the early morning hours and drew a diverse crowd, from local politicians to motorcycle gangs. It wasn’t unusual for acts of national renown to stop by, and talented blues and jazz legends like Jon Hendricks and Clifford Murphy were frequent guests.

Guzzardi says her mother welcomed everyone into their home. 

“She had a way of bringing everybody together, no matter your background, your race, your beliefs. It did not matter,” she says. “Everybody came together, and it was always a peaceful gathering.”

Creating opportunities for artists
The Any Wednesday gatherings continued monthly until Perrin was in her late 80s, according to Kent Illenden, one of the organizers for the memorial event.

“The stories are legendary, and it’s going to be fun to celebrate,” he says.

Though Perrin was not one to talk about her accomplishments, Illenden says, she was constantly coming up with new, unique opportunities to support artists and musicians. 

Born in 1929, Perrin was married four times and had eight children. After living for a time in Mexico with her first husband, she returned to the city of her birth and dedicated herself to the arts professionally and personally. She was the entertainment coordinator for the former Portside Festival Marketplace and served on the Collingwood Arts Center Board. With two other women, she opened one of the first coffee shops in Toledo in the Oliver House. In 1994, she initiated a monthly “Art Trolley Trot” tour of downtown art galleries. 

Perrin was also one of the first to teach yoga locally and founded the Toledo Yoga Association. 

In a 2012 interview with Scott Recker for Toledo City Paper, Perin called Toledo the most artistic place she had ever lived. “I’m including New York City, Mexico City and Athens, Greece,” she said. “We have more creative people in Toledo.”

She also expressed appreciation for how supportive people were in Toledo. “For example, there is not jealousy and pettiness between artists; they support each other’s shows, support each other with ideas,” Perrin said.

Seeing the good in others
Guzzardi says her mother was born with her passion for the arts, and notes Perrin was a gifted visual and performing artist herself. As a young adult she was scouted in a ballet performance at the Toledo Zoo amphitheatre and ended up moving to New York City to dance and sing Off Broadway. “She lived life with gusto and for adventure,” says Guzzardi.

Perrin also took great interest in others and had a knack for seeing the good in everyone she met. In the 1970s, she directed a play at Scott High School with no budget and made costumes from burlap sacks. “Even up to a couple years before she passed, she had people come up to her that were in that play and said what an impact she had on them,” Guzzardi says.

“She saw what was wonderful in everybody,” adds Guzzardi. “She said, ‘Everybody has a gift, or gifts. They may not even know it.’ ”