Did you see this week’s episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, with Bourdain in Cleveland, Ohio? If you missed it, you missed a great episode. Bourdain understood the grey atmosphere, the hodgepodge food, and the determined attitude of Cleveland. World famous traveler, diner and chef Anthony Bourdain ate Skyline Chili’s Chili-Mac. Plus added bonuses of Harvey Pekkar and Marky Ramone!
It was great to see Bourdain in the upper Midwest. I love Cleveland, in part because it is so similar to my beloved Toledo, Ohio. Both are nestled at the tip of Ohio and along Lake Erie. They are two of Ohio’s major arteries and, if we take as truth Ohio’s moto that it is The Heart of It All, then both should be two of the country’s major arteries. And both have been called Post-Industrial Wastelands by outsiders who visited.
Watching the episode, I kept feeling like I was watching Toledo. The factories spewing smoke, the industrial buildings falling down, the Polish and Hungarian food.
Cleveland has, from what I know, done some wonderful work revitalizing itself. They’ve cleaned up the Cuyahoga River and the work done on the Riverfront Area seems to have been a big success. Plus, the fun of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and, as spotlighted by No Reservations, the Free Stamp.
Meanwhile, Toledo continues its economic decline. Toledo’s local government, at all levels, along with its media have spent the last five years or so pointing out that jobs are leaving Toledo, the young are leaving Toledo, property values are droping faster than the clothes at Democratic fundraisers and the mayor’s leaving his dog in his car again.
But this week’s Toledo City Paper offers an idea to help restart and reinvent Toledo’s economy, image and psychology. Read the full story:
Live. Work. Create.
The basic concept: turn Toledo into a vibrant arts community. Attract artists to live in Toledo and retain the young (and old, I assume) artists who already live in Toledo. The government will assist in developing Downtown Toledo into an area filled with artists’ studios that are affordable. And, according to Mayor Finkbeiner and the people behind Live/Work/Create, the money would be coming from Federal Grants that Toledo already has so it won’t cost the city or the citizens anything.
This is hot on the heals of Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop’s Art Assist program, which will give Toledoans short term, low interest loans to be used to purchase local art.
Many, especially Toledo’s conservative talk radio hosts, have basically called for Konop to resign because they think these kinds of ideas are insane. Critics of these kinds of programs have been rabid in their attacks. Basically, they believe Toledo is not an arts community, cannot be an arts community and should not be an arts community.
But what if we did it. And what if it worked.
I’m biased, of course, since I consider myself, as a poet, to be a part of the arts community. That said, Toledo already has a strong arts community and anything that will make it stronger and can bring in artistic tourists, who according to the Live/Work/Create program spend around 40% more than “regular” tourists, will be a good thing.
I’m not from Cleveland so I don’t know how much the arts played into their attempts at recovery. And I’m not from New York, so I don’t want to make comparisons between Toledo and SoHo (but the arts thing worked there). And I’ve never been to England, so I’d hate to comment on what has been happening in Manchester (but the arts thing work there, too).
But, between the Toledo Museum of Art, the Collingwood Arts Center, The Valentine Theater, The Toledo Symphony, The Toledo Opera, The Toledo Repertoire Theater (among other local theater groups), The Toledo Public Library, The University of Toledo (with its many amazing degree programs in the arts), Bowling Green State University (with its many amazing degree programs in the arts) and the Toledo Ballet, to name only a few of the artistic ventures already set up in Toledo, imagine what could happen if we as a city actually supported our artistic ventures.
What if we did it. And what if it worked.
If you missed the Cleveland episode of No Reservations, it will likely be repeated throughout the week, at least. And while you’re at it, be sure to check out the Lebanon episode as well.
Filed under: Art, News, Toledo | 5 Comments »