Helen Grubb

Helen Grubb

Visual Artist

July 20, 2016


Tell us a little bit about some of your past projects:

Last October I did a large installation painting on glass for a synagogue in Cleveland's 75th anniversary. It was my first experience painting on glass and it was a lot of fun to play with a new media.

What are you currently working on?:

Some more experiments with painting on glass and some portraiture at the moment. I always come back to portraits. There is something mysterious and fascinating about drawing someone's portrait.

Living in Toledo is an advantage for your work because:

It's a supportive, close-knit community. I also don't have to meet as many new people, because I know a lot of them already now.

One of your greatest successes:

I have a disorder called dysautonomia, which means my autonomic nervous system doesn't function correctly. I was very sick for a while, and spent days being unable to leave my bed. Through different medicines, exercise and changes in my diet I have learned to manage my disorder in ways I didn't think could be possible. I still have a long way to go, but I'm really proud of my progress, and feel as though I have rejoined life.

What inspires you?:

Everything, Nothing. Everything again.

About your background:

I grew up in Sylvania and have a BFA from University of Toledo.

A favorite quote you try to live by?:

"Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness."    —Terry Pratchet

What's your favorite local culture in Toledo?:

The art scene of course!

Toledo’s ‘best-kept secret’ is..

There are actually a million things to do every night of the week. I hear people complain all the time that there is nothing to do, and it drives me crazy. Also, Charlie's ice cream.

Your favorite place to chill locally is…

Gathered Glass or The Attic

Favorite natural space in Toledo: 

The beach at Maumee Bay State Park.

When not working hard, you can be found…

By a body of water with a book. I've also been considering trying to learn to yodel. It's a lot harder than it looks.

If you could change the current landscape for creative progressive people in Toledo...

At the moment I think we are doing pretty well. I've seen a great deal of change in the last 5-10 years and I'm really proud of our city.

One person (living or deceased) you’d like to collaborate with:

Neil Gaiman

An album, book or website you can’t live without:

Whatever book I'm reading at the moment is the one I can't live without. Right now I'm really into the books of Robin Hobb, but I don't know if I could live without the Bronte sisters either. Anne Bronte is very underrated.

Three words that best describe you and/or your work:

Control, Chaos, Layers

Your 5 ‘desert island’ album picks:

The Best of Gilbert and Sullivan

No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom 

Joni Mitchell - Clouds

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

Grateful Dead- American Beauty

Gogel Bordello - Gypsy Punks

Verdi's Macbeth (with Maria callas singing Lady Macbeth) 

Les Miserables, the Broadway cast recording (preferably a recording of the 25th anniversary concert)

Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat

Biggest vice is…

Procrastination. And buying too many books. Also sushi. I've been known to crave sushi so badly that I've gotten a to go order and eaten it in my car in a parking lot. I'm not proud.

I’d like to see _______ in Toledo.

More mermaids.

The last dream you recall:

I was in Australia picking out Renaissance gowns and getting a hairdo that turned out to be an actual beehive, complete with dripping honey and bees buzzing in and out. Then I realized I was the queen bee, because my workers started to revolt, because I wasn't paying them.

The last lyric that moved you:

The entire song "Sounds of Silence" by Paul Simon. I got to see it live recently and was moved to tears.

One movie character you identify with:

I'm going to expand this to TV shows also. I love the character Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She's awkward and quirky, and often rambles. Also, she's occasionally evil and her eyes turn black. Very relatable. 

The best gift I ever received was…

The first "Boxcar Children" book from my mother. I had a lot of trouble learning to read. One day, I was sick and I went with her to work, and she gave me the book. That day, reading clicked for the first time, and it turned into a lifelong love of literature.

My most inspiring moment is/was:

When my mother was in hospice, I would sing to her. Many people came to visit her during this time, and at one point we had about 20 people in the room. One by one, they began to sing with me. We sang her the Hebrew folk songs she loved, including the song Hine Ma Tov, which translates to “How good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to sit together.” The experience of singing together with friends and the community to comfort my mother was profoundly moving to me, and I will always remember it.

I want my last meal to be:

Kengo sushi, a little bowl of olives, waffle fries, a crusty baguette tuna sandwich, cheese manicotti, bruschetta, garlic bread, seared tuna, freak salad, fruit salad with mango, berries and mint, a slice of pizza and a dessert of creme brulée AND an almond tart with fresh berries on it. And a scoop of moose tracks from Charlie's ice cream. Oh, and a dirty martini with Hendricks and bottle of Virgil's root beer. I figure since it's my last meal, it doesn't matter if I have a stomachache.


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