- 2413 Collingwood Blvd. Map
- Toledo, OH 43620
- Phone: 419-244-ARTS
- Fax: 419-244-2820
Providing the people and arts community of greater Toledo a unique space wherein creativity, diversity and artistic expression is fostered and nourished thus serving the educational, social, and ascetical needs of our region.
Jan 17, 2007 Toledo City Paper : The Collingwood Arts Center ushers in a new era of programming and public visibility
There are many large, historic buildings along the stretch of Colling-wood Avenue in the Old West End. Perhaps none are as impressive as the Collingwood Arts Center. Originally conceived as the south wing of a quadrangle stretching all the way to the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral — the quad never came to fruition — the Collingwood Arts Center is an architechtural gem that remains relatively hidden, a collage of buildings and foliage.
Executive Director Joseph Zsigray might just be the best thing that has happened to the Collingwood Arts Center, though, he would be the first to refute that claim. Zsigray has been at the helm of the CAC for about a year and a half. Not coincidentally, during that time, the Arts Center has become increasingly visible as an active organization.
From convent to arts center
After a relatively small boiler was donated and installed in the building, it was soon discovered that the pump wasn’t strong enough to push water to the fifth floor. That meant cutting pipes, redrilling and rerouting through very thick concrete on the fourth floor. "It was a huge project," says Zsigray, "especially considering that was 1985 in a new organization with virtually no money."
But problems didn’t end with the heating issue. In fact, they’d just begun. "This was to be the original ‘Valentine.’ It was conceived of as a place where the Symphony and the Ballet could come. But they never came. When the Valentine was restored, they all moved down there for a brief time," says Zsigray, adding, "And eventually they all left there, too. For whatever reason, grouping of the arts organizations doesn’t work in Toledo."
With no flagship organization to bring either people or money into the building, the CAC was forced to look into other avenues to keep its mission alive. "The primary purpose of the Arts Center was always this building; to preserve this building. The founders decided on an arts center because income from the activities that would take place here would provide revenue for the building," Zsigray says. So, in 1986, to curb the loss of established organizations, the CAC created Ohio’s first and only artist residency program.
A unique legacy
In the 20 years since, the CAC has been providing low-cost housing and studio space for those trying to forge a career in the arts. The organization has seen more than 400 artists pass through its doors. "That is the biggest legacy of the Arts Center in Toledo. It’s the influence on the cultural landscape of the communty," says Zsigray. About 70 artists reside at the CAC. "We’re at 82 percent capacity," he says proudly, "and we’re still renovating some rooms." In all, there is room for about 90 artists in the CAC, with around 110 total rooms in the 118,000 square-foot space.
What separates the CAC from other arts residency programs in the nation is that there is no time limit on the residency. "Peter Von Schoik has been here for 20 years. He was among the first artists to be admitted into the program. A few others have been here ten or fifteen years. That’s really significant. And, it becomes an added feature of the organization. On some level there is some mentoring between the older, more established artists and the younger ones," says Zsigray.
Of the 400 artists that have resided in the CAC, Zsigray says that literally dozens have gone on to forge significant cultural pathways in the community. "I could go on for a while," he says, "but you have guys like Eddie Abrams, who was the house pianist at Rusty’s Jazz Café for 26 years. He gave lots of local jazz musicians their start, and he resided here until he fell ill in 1994." Abrams passed away in 1997.
So, what does it take to establish residence at the CAC? "We basically require all of our artists to be virtuosos," Zsigray says. He explains the admittance process as an evolutional scale. "Someone who got in here five years ago might not get in today. We look for the work to get continually better, raising the caliber more and more of the work that is produced here."
Poet and three-year resident John Dorsey, a member of the deciding panel, stresses that admitting the right people to the program is something he takes very seriously. "Most of the current residents have come here in the last year or year and a half," he says, noting that during this period is when admittance expectations became higher. "Basically, now, you have to be one of two things to get in here. You have to be a student aspiring to be an artist, or you have to already be working as an artist."
Artists looking to reside at the Center first apply to be a resident and then are required to pass a review by a panel composed of residents and administrators. "We check out all of their references, do a background check and, if the work is good enough, they come to the review. If they pass, they are admitted into the program," says Zsigray. Once admitted, the benefits can be wonderful. "It’s one thing to be able to create art, it is another thing to earn your livelihood from it. I see us in the next year or two helping artists create business plans, and learn how to market their art. I don’t think that there should be starving artists at the CAC. They should have a quality of life where they can be happy and proud to be an artist," he says, "Once you’re in here, you are in here for the purpose of working on your art."
"I like living here. I’ve had a home with five bedrooms, three baths, a foyer, breakfast nook, seven hours of mowing and a half acre pond. And I am very happy now in my 18 by 26 room." If the residents are happy in their one-room life, Zsigray says it continues to be a place for artists to establish themselves in their careers.