Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Akron Artwalk Wonders
Just to our north, my favorite sister city has an Artwalk event on the first Saturday of each month. When I held my One Night Stand show there last year (April 2009), Todd V and I shook hands over an idea to someday bring Canton to Akron and Akron to Canton so as to take advantage of the two events as one big ongoing art party once a month. Needless to say, that idea, like many other good ones, get swept away by the continuous waves of things to do, opportunities that can’t wait, and the inevitable divides of 2 different ways of thinking. Perhaps someday the idea will take hold but for now, I want to share what is going on up there for those who have never taken advantage of the experience of our older sister.
For the record, no Artwalk will be held in July due to the holiday so the next chance is August 7th if you want to get out of the Football Follies and take a breather. The Akron art scene is spread out over a much larger area than Canton’s so one has to either walk or can take advantage of the free trolley service the operates from 5 – 10pm in a continuous loop with no wait lasting longer than 15 minutes. Lots of parking is tucked throughout the area. Buzzbin Magazine had an article about Akron’s Artwalk in its April 2010 issue but they did not connect it to Canton. Allow me to connect a few dots for you and weave a few threads between us and them.
First and foremost is the Akron Glassworks Gallery run by Jack Baker. Jack is a Canton guy. His wife helped me with Kimono, his son is in my Scout Troop (on his way to Eagle), and they have been a supportive family for the arts. His work is north of here however and well worth the trip to see a fine display of art glass that can be viewed in its production process as well. The gallery has the glassworks kilns right behind it with a viewing room for visitors. Another glass artist was acting as the guide, explaining each step of the process. Because the space can reach 120 degrees or more during the summer, classes are offered only in the fall and winter months. During Artwalks as well as all other times, Akron Glassworks, like both the Ice House complex and the Artspace complex, the studios are working, the artists are working and visitors can see how art is made, not just that it is for sale. A few of our galleries do just that during First Fridays and I hope to see more in the future.
Another Canton connection was with the Zeber-Martell studio who participated in the recent Canton National Art show. We had a chat about his experiences with the show and he had some good feedback. Outside his studio on the street was a sax player whom the owner had recruited from our own Friday events to come up and share his talents with the Akronites. The tin cup was overflowing so I suspect he will be back. With this gallery as well, one has access to the kilns and such that produce the fantastic ceramics pieces on display.
A third space to see is the Red Light Gallery, a former brothel; hence the small rooms down a narrow hall. Exhibits and artists are constantly changing (hmmm….customers come and go, image that!), but it reminded me of 2nd April’s Annex complex. One big difference, and one worth considering, is that all the walls, especially the hallways, had artwork on them, some of which were quite different and experimental, but one felt more like being in a complete space rather than going room to room. Ceilings, walls, doorways, stairwells…all of it was utilized and small gems of work could be found among the more attention grabbing “prop” pieces.
Canton shares the musical aspect of Akron’s event, probably to a better degree as Canton’s layout is more conducive to outdoor venues. Most of the music we heard seemed to come from inside the restaurants and galleries themselves. I overheard that Michael Stanley was playing nearby so that could have been a factor. We lack two things down here however, which could perhaps take our event and our district to the next level. One is outdoor dining options for good people watching. I don’t mean street vendors or park bench munching or tents with samples kept warm, I envision fenced off extensions of the finer restaurants with waiter service and the same menu as indoors. Umbrella tables, cloth napkins and so forth just like one sees in the bigger cities and more established art venues. The “see and be seen” crowd with money to spend on good wines and lingering tabs would probably appreciate this option.
The second thing we lack are clothing stores that sell one of a kind or urban chic boutique clothing at a fair price. Akron has several in their arts district that hold fashion shows and other related fabric and fashion inspired events during their Artwalk. With a major fashion school just to our north in Kent, maybe a student run satellite boutique could be located in the heart of the arts district. We have no fabric store (JoAnn’s does not count and neither do the quilt places in Amish country), we have no art paper outlet (been to Hollo’s?) and no designer label centered in Canton, Ohio. Our grasp of music, dance, theater and visual art is well established now, so maybe it is time to reach for the fashion fanatics, the fine dining donors, and the see it made crowd. Face painting has its place, but it does not appeal to everyone and is actually one reason given to me as to why some people I met in a gallery won’t come to FF’s. That was their impression of us, more street fair than sophistication, and more frat party than focused on art. In our defense, only a few years ago all we had was a pot hole and some punt pass and kick so given time, everything finds its niche and begins to grow roots.