Art Installation Commemorates Toledo’s Rich Jazz History

Glass City Center Murals Spotlight Iconic Performers

Live jazz was part of Toledo seven nights a week when jazz players and fans flocked to Rusty’s Jazz Cafe in South Toledo or met at Murphy’s Place downtown. While both of those iconic jazz clubs are now closed, Toledo’s rich jazz legacy is honored with an exhibition showcasing Toledo’s jazz players and venues, “Glass City Jazz: A Global Legacy.” A permanent installation inside the newly renovated Glass City Center downtown, the exhibit was created by artists Yusuf Lateef and Pete Goldlust. The pair responded to a Call for Artists through the Toledo Arts Commission, using examples of Lateef’s work in jazz imagery and murals as well as Goldlust’s extensive experience in public art installation to complete their application. Based on the submission, their ideas were chosen by the Commission. 

“We chose from a field of 184 national and local artists and narrowed it down to 11. Then we worked with the larger Design Review Board team comprised of community and civic leaders to further narrow the field and that Board selected the [Glass City Jazz] team as one of the eight projects ultimately chosen for the Glass City Center,” said Susan Reams, Chairman for Public Art at the Glass City Center. 

A Global Legacy

The exhibition is a “combination of glass, photographs, painted murals, and portraiture [honoring] the clubs and musicians that have made Toledo’s jazz history internationally renowned,” Goldlust said. Goldlust and his wife, Melanie Germond, have worked as a team with art coordinator Rachel Richardson and lead artist Yusuf Lateef to formulate the plans for the artwork and the exhibit. 

The piece recognizes and celebrates local talent like Art Tatum, Jon Hendricks and Ramona Collins – iconic Toledo musicians who played on the scene for decades. 

The exhibit’s jazz player murals are enhanced by pieces created by glass artist Aaron Paula. 

Two-time Grammy award-winning artist Art Tatum is a Toledo jazz legend.
Credit: Photo courtesy of the Toledo City Paper.

The art director for this project is local public art coordinator Rachel Richardson. Richardson, who is married to Lateef, said she “encouraged Yusuf to focus on a piece he made years ago for TREO (a former jazz venue in Sylvania) of Art Tatum made out of record album covers.” 

The exhibit  “honor(s) not only Art Tatum, but other jazz greats that stayed in Toledo and created a rich and well-known jazz scene [at places such as] Rusty’s Jazz Cafe and Murphy’s Place,” Richardson added.

The Spirit of Jazz  

“The Design Review Board decided to commission this project because of its high quality, the importance of the history of jazz right here in Lucas County, as well as the incredible team that is locally based,” said Reams. 

Richardson noted that the Arts Commission and the Lucas County Commissioners have been instrumental in providing the opportunity for the team to actualize their vision. “Convention Centers can be such anonymous, sterile places. I think this installation will give every visitor a tangible way to engage with the City itself, even if they’re only here for a few days. Hopefully the project will help generate interest in Toledo’s rich contributions to art and music over previous decades and encourage the exciting regrowth of these traditions that has been underway lately,” added Goldlust. 

“The mark of a truly vibrant community is the way it celebrates its heritage, its current experience and its future. The Glass City Jazz team definitely accomplished highlighting the spirit of jazz in Toledo!” said Reams.