Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Art

‘Handwritten Dreams’ marks shift for Toledo artist

Leslie Adams' new piece shown ahead of Michigan competition

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    Teagan Kennedy, a third-grader from Maumee, poses as part of artist Leslie Adams’ exhibition, ‘Handwritten Dreams,’ an interactive installation that invites the viewer to remember the importance of both dreams and the handwritten word.

  • Margret-Ann-Miller-9-21

    Margret-Ann Miller, a needle felt artist from Toledo, will participate in ArtPrize Eight. ‘Needle felting is not well known in the area, but I am working on that,’ she said.

  • Leslie-Adams-9-20

    Leslie Adams of Toledo will compete in ArtPrize Eight in Grand Rapids, Mich.

    THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
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  • ArtPrize-HUB-jpeg

    More than 1,600 artists will compete during the 19-day ArtPrize show by displaying their art at 170 locations in Grand Rapids, Mich.

    DREW DAVIS

Toledo artist Leslie Adams has only done drawings and paintings for the span of her professional career. Until now.

HOW TO VOTE

Attendees can vote for their favorite pieces at ArtPrize Eight by visiting the show at least once. Participants can vote three different ways: by registering and casting a vote in person at an ArtPrize hub, by downloading the ArtPrize app and registering while at the event, or by texting artist vote codes that are displayed beside each entry to 808080. For more information, go to artprize.org/vote.

Her latest piece, Handwritten Dreams, is a time-based, interactive installation that will carry viewers through Adams’ childhood in the third grade, an artistic effort to expose the present generation to the importance of learning cursive through the writing of their own dreams. It will be shown today through Oct. 9 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum as part of ArtPrize Eight, an international art competition held annually in Grand Rapids, Mich. She will be joined by at least seven other northwest Ohio artists, including Margret-Ann Miller, a needle felt artist from Toledo.

In a conversation earlier this week, Adams spoke of her new piece.

She is known for her portrait paintings of governors and other public figures.

“This is very unusual for me, since I am normally really traditional [in my work],” she said. “What I want people to do is come in and study my work and study my drawings, and be in the 1970s. I want them to remember what it was like to learn how to write in cursive. It might be the only time in one’s life that they learn the beauty of a line.”

The work circles the modern-day debate about the elimination of teaching cursive in schools. It was also born out of friend Gregg Dodd’s 52 New Year’s resolutions in 2014. Family and friends pitched in to help the Toledo native complete the list, and Adams later received a thank note from Dodd.

“Mine said #leslieslist. This show is going to be about hopes and dreams and ambitions, not just mine but others,” she said.

The piece is made up of memorabilia from Adams’ childhood, including student desks donated from Rosary Cathedral that represent different subjects in school, globes, World Book encyclopedias, and her registration card from Saturday art programs at the Toledo Museum of Art. Mixed in will be Adams’ drawings, video, music and soundtracks of principal announcements, and other school-reminiscent audio. Visitors can write out their own dreams as part of the piece, which she researched in her old third-grade classroom at St. Patrick of Heatherdowns.

ArtPrize is a nonprofit organization started in 2009 by Michigan entrepreneur Rick DeVos, who wanted to create an event that was curated by the public instead of only by a small group of people, said Todd Herring, director of creative and communication for ArtPrize.

During the 19-day show, each of the more than 1,600 individual artists will compete by placing his or her art at 170 participating venues in downtown Grand Rapids. The artists and venues — galleries, restaurants, shops, lobbies, parks and small businesses  — are the ones who put the event together by connecting with each other through artprize.org, Herring said.

Artists compete in four different categories — 2-D, 3-D, installation, and time-based — for two top awards of $200,000, as well as finalist cash prizes. Half are decided by public vote, and half decided by a jury of art experts.

“One of the greatest components of our event is the tension between populism and professionalism,” he said. “Some of these artists have shown around the world, and then for some, it’s the first time they are displaying their work. We recognize that this diversity is not a bad thing; it’s what was making the event so successful.”

The free, annual show and its prize purse is funded mainly by corporate sponsorship and last year drew more than 400,000 visitors, Herring said. Advertising, program membership fees, and grants make up the difference.

This is Adams’ second year of ArtPrize competition. It is also the second year of competition for Miller. The needle felt artist uses wool roving and a needle with notches to interlock the wool fibers into sculptures. She is felting her way to artistic recognition with dragons, but also does framed landscapes, wizards, flowers, and animals.

Last year, Miller was invited to display Smaug the Needle Felted Dragon, standing at 5 feet tall, at Inspirations by Art Studio. This year, Artie the Felting Dragon, standing at 12 feet high, will be at the studio to greet guests.

Miller teaches needle felting at the 577 Foundation in Perrysburg and in 2014 started the felting guild the Fiber of Our Being Felting Guild.

“Needle felting is not well known in this area, but I am working on that,” she said.

Contact Roberta Gedert at: rgedert@theblade.com or 419-724-6075 or on Twitter @RoGedert.

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