Downtown Toledo Art Fosters Innovation, Community

“We want to be known as a city of art, a city of culture,” said Randy Oostra, President and CEO, ProMedica, speaking of Toledo. “Aesthetics matter; settings matter.”

That’s why ProMedica commissioned three works of art to enhance the downtown Toledo Steam Plant campus and Promenade Park. “This is all about celebrating the human spirit and motivating people; encouraging people to live better lives and more innovative lives, and the best way to do that is through art,” said Mr. Oostra.

Three unique art installations play a prominent role on the downtown campus: Trace, Tower of Light, and Echo.

According to Marc Folk, Executive Director, The Arts Commission, this investment is creating future landmarks and is helping to develop a movement that’s happening along the waterfront called The Nautical Mile. “You’re really inviting people to come and use the park, and meditate and reflect and have a new experience, and take something back with them that’s more than what they came with,” he said.

“Public-private partnerships are incredibly important to public art in the role of cultural legacy,” said Danielle Roney. Her piece, Trace, is a series of 6,000 blown, hollow glass spheres that hangs in the Steam Plant’s atrium. “Trace has a lot of layers of meaning to it,” explained Ms. Roney. “Whether you’re tracing the movement of the community, like a swarm or flocking pattern, or you’re even considering the home of the piece, which is the Steam Plant, and particles of water becoming steam.”

Erwin Redl said that as an installation artist, he creates artwork that you inhabit with your whole body. “It’s not just your eyes; you walk through an assembly of objects,” Mr. Redl explained. His work, Tower of Light, is an LED lighting installation on the north side of The Depot parking garage. The changing patterns of light create a rhythm which can be seen from a distance like a beacon of light. “Being in the middle of downtown Toledo and facing the river just makes it clear it’s a ProMedica piece, but the piece is for the whole city,” Mr. Redl said.

The art pieces are beautiful not just on their own, but within their environments. Dane Turpening, Artist, Echo, said, “The Echo piece, with its coloring scheme, has this really dynamic look to it, and it’s bright and vibrant, going from coal to water to steam. I think with the Tower of Light, it’s going to interact so well with it.”

Kristine Rumman, Artist, Echo, agreed. “When you’re working in a public space, you want there to be a relationship; you want it to have a connection.”

Echo turns reclaimed steel from the original smokestacks into an interactive work of art in Promenade Park. The piece represents the echo of a sound returned form its destination and is a reverberating reminder of Toledo’s first energy center and its resounding impact on our community. “We wanted people to be able to touch this 100-year-old material and bring that past into the future and bring that relationship to the present,” said Ms. Rumman.

“This is all about…encouraging people to live better lives and more innovative lives, and the best way to do that is through art.”

“Our [commissioned art] budget was fairly small in this whole project and yet we think it’s probably one of the most important parts. Really it’s going to create this amenity outside and inside that really speaks to not only innovation but it speaks to the past and hopefully speaks to what we’re going to become in the future,” said Mr. Oostra.

“Art drives community,” said Mr. Turpening. “When you start putting art within a large scale, it’s going to influence people to want to go visit and go see things.”

“I think that’s really the power of the arts,” added Mr. Folk. “Whether it’s people, technology, civic space–the arts function as the way the people come together.”

Click here to learn more about the meaning and making of each piece.