Sylvania Community Arts Commission continues to grow

–by Sylvania AdVantage Staff

Sylvania Community Arts Commission Executive Director Jennifer Archer and her assistant Sadaf Sediqe arrange some of the products they offer for sale in their new office in the Sylvania Historical Village.

For the past five years, the Sylvania Community Arts Commission has been on a growth path under the leadership of Executive Director, Jennifer Archer. In addition to the children’s theater program, the Sylvania Community Orchestra and Maple & Main Art Fair, several innovative programs have made their way to Sylvania’s ‘center stage’. Public art has become a focal point from the two outdoor murals to the yarn art and Main Street banners flying from lightposts. Also, some of the newest programs are the Tree City Film Festival including Shorties U, a film workshop for students and the Tree City Playhouse, which brings performance art to the fore. The inception of the Red Bird Art District and its First Friday Art Walk shines a spotlight on many art forms and emphasizes a sense of community by bringing people from all walks of life into downtown businesses and restaurants for the monthly event.

What once was a quiet, but focused and determined organization is evolving into an energetic and dynamic force in Sylvania.

Two years ago, Sadaf Sediqe joined Archer in a part time position. “Art has always been my passion,” Sediqe noted. “My parents and I escaped Afghanistan and fled to Kuwait when I was very young. Art became very important to me then. It was even more important when we moved to the United States as a 10-year-old as a means to communicate and express myself in my new home.”

Sediqe received her undergraduate degree in arts education from The University of Toledo and spent four years teaching art at the Toledo Islamic Academy. “I realized that while I really liked teaching, there was more that I wanted to do,” she offered. “I felt that arts advocacy was what I could do to really make a difference.”

To that end, Sediqe returned to school and received a Master’s Degree in Arts Administration.

“I’m still teaching art part time,” she said. “But, I am now also advocating for art through the Arts Commission and helping Jennifer in other ways. I love getting students involved with the community through the arts, which is what the SCAC allows us to do. This offers me the best of both worlds.”

According to Archer, “I could not do this job with all of our growth and development without Sadaf. We work closely on all that we do especially now that we have our new office space. And while we are very dependent on our board, many committee members and volunteers for all of our events and programs, it is very important to have a staff member be part of each of those. Sadaf and I continue to look for additional ways to share responsibilities so we can continue to grow.”

Archer has been the guiding force of the Sylvania Community Arts Commission for the past five years. She joined the organization on April 1, a few weeks before the inaugural Maple & Main Art Fair in June, 2012, and the celebration of local artist Walter Chapman’s 100th birthday.

“It was an exciting challenge from the minute I started the job,” Archer remembered. “My family and I have made many corporate moves because of my husband, Steve’s job. We had lived in Sylvania for three years and one of my friends from that time and I reconnected when we moved back to Sylvania in 2010. She was active on the Arts Commission and told me of the job opening when the former director moved out of town.”

According to Archer, she and the board were a good fit. “I grew up in the art world as my mother was a talented water colorist and an elementary art teacher in my school. I helped her in her class and at art shows through the years so I knew what it is to be supportive. I am creative and have a great appreciation for the arts even though I am not an artist,” she revealed.

Along with helping artists find ways to exhibit, display and market their work, Archer is also always looking for ways to expand the scope of the SCAC.

“The year after I started with the Arts Commission, I helped my brother, who is an independent filmmaker, with a film festival in Michigan. I came back inspired, as were SCAC board members, and launched the first Tree City Film Festival in 2013,” she remembered.

“I want to continue to grow what we already have and find new things, which fit our mission,” she said. “There is so much more to what the arts bring to life and so much more that we as an organization can do to help people embrace all of the arts.”

“I look forward to our doing even more amazing things,” she added.

Archer mentioned that the Sylvania Community Orchestra will perform March 5 at Lourdes Franciscan Center. “This is a great community event. We have over 50 musicians who play in the orchestra and offer free concerts for the community. This orchestra is truly a jewel and a great source of pride,” she said.

The fourth annual four-week Shorties U for students begins Feb. 25 featuring students who have grown out of the program returning to mentor new students. The shorties screening will be held April 30 at Northview High Schools Performing Arts Center.

The fifth annual Tree City Film Festival will be held March 25-26 at Olander Park’s Nederhouser Community Hall. The sixth annual Maple & Main Art Fair returns the first weekend in June.