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Published: Wednesday, 2/8/2012

Toledo leaders denounce city's 'miserable' listing


Leaders of Toledo’s biggest cultural institutions Wednesday had a resounding message for Forbes magazine: Toledo is not a miserable city.

Top executives for the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Zoo, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and Arts Commission gathered at a council hearing to highlight their organizations’ achievements, plans and beneficial impact on the community. Together, they outlined dozens of projects, partnerships, educational initiatives and cultural events, presenting a picture of Toledo that contradicts a recently released ranking of the city by Forbes as the nation’s eighth most miserable place to live.

From zoo-led programs for schools to traveling orchestra performances to international art conferences, Toledo’s cultural offerings provide both entertainment and economic stimulus to the region, the speakers said.

“I wish we had a whole audience of people here who every day say there is nothing to do in Toledo,” Councilman Mike Craig said after listening to the fact-filled presentations, which lasted about two hours. “You just presented about 200 to 300 events that you can [attend] in Toledo,” many for free or at low cost.

Councilman Rob Ludeman, who arranged for the hearing, said he did so before learning about the Forbes ranking, which the magazine released Friday. However, he and other councilmen seized on the information as evidence that Toledo is far from depressing.

Mr. Ludeman also stressed that the institutions inject millions of dollars and provide hundreds of jobs for the local economy.

“We didn’t even hit all the arts,” he said, adding ballet to the list of the city’s cultural offerings. “Economic development is … not just business or government-driven. It’s driven by other entities like the arts, sports, and education.”

Across northwest Ohio, the creative economy generates over $2.4 billion and sustains 33,000 jobs, according to a documentary produced by Bowling Green State University. Some $250 million from the industry helps bolster local, state and federal coffers through tax dollars, the report said.

The Toledo Zoo alone attracts between 850,000 and 1 million visitors a year, many of them from outside the area, including Michigan and Indiana, director Anne Baker said. An economic impact study showed the zoo injected $38 million in 2010 into the local economy, she said.

Dr. Baker and other executives outlined upcoming plans for Toledo’s cultural scene, including an aquarium renovation and new elephant and penguin exhibits at the zoo, the Toledo Symphony’s tentative visit to China later this year, and the hosting of the Glass Art Society annual conference in June by the Toledo Museum of Art.

Marc Folk of the Arts Commission said his organization continues to sponsor numerous events and programs throughout the city, including a downtown Art Walk and artist workshops. Mr. Folk also dismissed the Forbes ranking: “I don’t read into that stuff. Bad news is used to sell magazines. There’s too much fantastic stuff going on in this city — I don’t buy it one bit.”

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett

at: cbarrett@theblade.com

or 419-724-6272.

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