A group of local business owners gathered Wednesday with hopes of discussing bringing more arts based programs to East Toledo.
Led by District 3 Councilman Mike Craig, the focus of the meeting involved revitalizing Main Street.
“When I first came on, we were counting on the Marina District to help with developing,” said Craig. “But tonight, we’re going to shift things around and have Main Street help the Marina District.”
Craig discussed how bringing the arts to Main Street would not only be beneficial to Toledo’s art community, but would also lead to a better looking city that will not only give residents pride in their hometown, but also bring non-residents to the area.
“We have the businesses, we have the property owners, and we have the people who are looking to make things happen on Main Street,” Craig said.
During the meeting, a presentation was given by Robb Hankins, recent appointee to the Ohio Arts Council. Hankins talked about his successes over the last ten years reforming downtown Canton, Ohio using local artists and passionate business owners who knew that something had to be done.
“The arts can help revitalize your downtown,” Hankins said. “And I come to you with the plan I came (to Canton) with: we need public art, studios and galleries, and live music.”
Hankins suggested the approach of going to artists first, and then using their passion to help to slowly grow the project.
“Artists will die for you, will die for your downtown,” Hankins said. “If you give them the opportunity, they can work miracles.”
One of the tactics that Hankins had previously used in Canton, and suggested Toledo might use, was hiring local artists to paint garbage containers and murals on buildings. That way, the only cost for the city would be paying for materials and for the artists’ time. A cost which Hankins said came out to a reasonable $500 per garbage can.
Hankins also discussed how the revitalized art community in Canton brought in new businesses and, as a result, tourism for the city. This is a result he thinks Toledo is also capable of. But first, there needs to be the support of local residents.
“If folks don’t believe in your downtown and you neighborhood, the business community is not going to invest,” Hankins said.
While a majority of the attendees showed support for Hankins ideas, not everyone saw it as the best approach.
“I disagree with everything you just said,” said one local business owner, referring to Hankins presentation. “We’ve tried this before, but without the city’s support, we won’t get it off the ground.”
“You’ve got me,” said Councilman Craig, “I’m on your side.”
It was noted at the meeting that this isn’t the first time attempts have been made to bring the arts to Main Street, which had previously been derailed by residents who made complaints about the rowdiness brought about by the new businesses in the area.
“If you’re desperate, people will try things,” said Hankins. “Even the arts.”
The important thing for Craig is getting the city and the business owners on the same page, and reaching out to local artists, who Craig is convinced, will want to be a part of the project and will bring their excitement and love for their work to Main Street.
“We have plenty of great artists right here in Toledo,” Craig said. “We don’t need to go anywhere else.”