This summer, NPR's Destination Art series went off the beaten path to visit small to midsized North American cities that have cultivated lively arts scenes. We asked you, our NPR audience, to tell us about your favorite art towns. A few residents of Toledo, Ore., with a stake in the city's arts and tourism economy, rallied to recommend their hometown.
What's it like in Toledo?
"The quality of work here in Toledo is excellent; more interesting, perhaps, is the blossoming of the arts community in what might seem an unusual place: a small, industrial and mostly nontouristy town that has seen difficult times. ... Most important may be the sense of community: Our artists meet every week for breakfast; they often advise and mentor each other, and we have a very comfortable, small-town atmosphere here with lots of Main Street meetings and conversations each day." — Jill Lyon, Toledo City councilor, chairman of the board, Yaquina River Museum of Art, Toledo, Ore.
"It is a mecca for visual artists of all stripes, from fine art to metal sculpture to paper arts and photography. We have a four-block walkable Main Street, a novelty since most coastal towns have Highway 101 passing through. There are public art installations of mosaic and ironwork. Galleries and studios dot the hilly streets. A clayworks sits across from City Hall. ...
"This is a great place for art. ... There is the abundance of natural subjects, the special light created when water, sun and mist meet, the striking tall trees, the green and hidden meadows, the lazy estuaries. Time passes more slowly here. One can take a breath, relax and take it all in." — Deborah Trusty, Chamber of Commerce director, Toledo, Ore.
"Every artist opens their studio/gallery to the public the first weekend of every month for First Weekend Toledo, an event that has a monthly featured artist and theme. Each month, the featured artist creates a hand-carved stamp, and visitors can collect the stamp in their Passport to Toledo Arts. Labor Day weekend is a huge annual three-day Art Walk event that draws thousands of people into this small town of 3,500. The artists have pooled their resources to create a map and guide to the arts, with a listing of dozens of artists located within Toledo, a map of several public art benches, murals, etc., throughout town.
"There is also Toledo Clayworks, where the public can sit next to local artists and play in the clay, throw pots, apply glazes and fire their work. The town often uses the motto 'Where art and industry meet' because we also have a large working mill, a boat repair yard (we are a coastal port) and several other industries." — Becky Miller, artist, owner of Pig Feathers BBQ and Twisted Snout Brewery, Toledo, Ore.
A perfect day in Toledo?
"I would start with breakfast at Sassafras Sue's, followed by a stroll to the port to look at the boat house and the wooden boats they build there. Be sure to take a look at the new pavilion with its osprey wind vane created by local metal artist Sam Briseno. Then a stop at the History Center to learn about Toledo's history of logging and boat building. Strolling up Main Street, you can stop at the art galleries: SolaLuna, Toledo Clayworks and [Gallery] Briseno. Pick up a brochure and visit the home/galleries of Michael Gibbons, Ivan Kelly, Becky Miller Carol Loomis, Berta Sergeant and many more. Take time to walk the art bench trail and see the beautiful sculptural benches throughout town. Stop at Port Station One and see the public art sculptures sponsored by the Port of Toledo. Check out the [large] outdoor mosaic ... next to City Hall — and check out the architecture of City Hall: one of the finest examples of art deco single pour concrete building in the Pacific Northwest. And finish the day at Pig Feathers/Twisted Snout for the best BBQ and microbrew on the coast. That's a GREAT day!" — Michelle Amberg, city manager, Toledo, Ore.