Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hometown pride is coming to Toledo. Or, at least for me it is. Toledo has two news items that should be helping all of us from the Glass City (current and former) to hold our heads up.

The first is the new addition to the Toledo Museum of Art. While you scratch your head, I'll remind you that the TMA is one of the world's great art museums. The collection includes Rubens's The Crowning of Saint Catherine, El Greco's The Agony in the Garden, and Matisse's Apollo. True to its hometown, it is also houses an impressive array of glass art. This is possible largely due to a generous endowment given by industrialists upon its founding.

And, the history of the museum itself is something to be proud of. It was first built as a depression era project that helped construction employment.

The main building is in the Beaux Arts style with majestic pillars at the main entrance. Yet, it's the least impressive of the three main structures, despite these great rooms. It includes, the Peristyle, which houses the space for the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and other concert venues. Outside the main building, a sculpture garden of modern sculptures invites the visitors and Monroe Street traffic.

The first addition was designed by Frank Gehry and I think it is one of his best designs. I actually like it better than the overblown, too clever, larger works he has done since then. While many people don't see the connection to the original structure, the leaded copper plates in his building actually have a similar pattern to the marble in the main building. This is one element that pulls the two buildings together. And, maybe you have to stand there to see it. But, the building feels right in context, unlike many of his works.

Now, we have the latest addition. It is located across the street and is in the minimalist style. So far, it's been given rave reviews from the LA Times and NY Times. I haven't seen it in person yet but I'm looking very forward to it. This is a great institution.

The next reason to be proud is an appointment at the University of Toledo designating a Chair of Islamic Studies. It makes sense. Toledo, as I have noted before, has significant Arab and Islamic populations. The Arab population is about 1% of the MSA population. The suburb of Perrysburg is home to the largest mosque in North America. The "famous" Toledoans most known, Jamie Farr and Danny Thomas, are Lebanese (and Christian). Alas, Katie Holmes is not (either anymore, I guess).

I'm just really happy to see these sorts of advances in Toledo. The area really needs to capitalize on its strengths. And, it seems to me that it has hit two solid home runs with these developments. Moreover, these changes will have positive long-term results by attracting a diverse population of educated persons to the region. For too long, Toledo has basically focused on industrial development -- hoping to hold on to its past manufacturing dominance in a global economy that keeps pulling manufacturing out of developed countries. The university and museum are important components of Toledo's future. These new developments will help balance the region's pull factors. Yeah, Toledo!

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