Rachel Richardson, director and CEO of Art Corner Toledo, lives and breathes art. Since 2010, she has coordinated more than 20 mural projects, bringing beautiful art to Toledo’s public places. In addition to her work life, her homelife is similarly guided by the arts.
In 2009, she met now-husband Yusuf Lateef, artist and co-founder of Radiant City Arts, an arts education group. Since they both create and work in the art world, it’s no surprise that they first connected through art. Richardson explains their chance encounter, “We met at Bozarts… Bozarts will forever go down in our personal history as where we first met.” Since then, Rachel and Yusuf married and have one little girl together, Naima, 11 months old.
While Rachel has always been involved with the arts— she is a talented singer and writer— but art was not always her profession. Her previous work with Independent Advocates (IA), a social change organization that “provides comprehensive court advocacy to survivors of domestic violence, community education to young people about healthy relationships, and training to professionals about the dynamics of domestic violence,” led her to a career in the arts.
“I realized how often artists and advocates came together for a cause, and I wanted to create something very visual that called attention to that. The collateral effect would be to promote nonprofit organizations around Toledo. Many [of the murals organized by ACT] are connected to local humanitarian or nonprofit organizations,” Rachel explains.
The “Toledo Loves Love” Mural (at Adams and 13th) is connected to Equality Toledo and was created to promote marriage equality. Back in 2012, when the mural was designed, same-sex marriage had not yet been legalized in Ohio.
Rachel’s personal favorite is the mural at the corner of Adams and 11th, across from the downtown library: a white background with a black line drawing of a woman. Judy Dilloway, the original artist, a close friend of the family, passed away in 2006, and Maura Amato adapted her design to create the mural. “The entire family got involved; it was a very sentimental affair,” Rachel recalls.
A creative home
Rachel and Yusuf strive to expose Naima to the world of art. “We take Naima with us everywhere; she has been incorporated into our lifestyle. When Yusuf has a performance or a show, she goes. If I have meetings [for ACT], I can usually bring her with me. That’s one of the nice things about Toledo; I know most of the people I work with, and they are very supportive, so they don’t think it’s a drag to bring her along.”
Since the couple lives close to the Toledo Art Museum, they frequently visit, and Rachel extols the kid-friendly activities there. “[The Art Museum Family Center] provides opportunities to paint, draw and make collages. The museum does baby tours every few months…. There are just so many opportunities there.” Rachel also takes Naima to Positively Portable Preschool, led by teacher Denice Rokicki, for early exposure to reading, songs, and movement.
“When she is older, we will give her every opportunity to create art. I will encourage her to play music, and Yusuf will teach her how to draw,” Rachel adds.