What makes your district special? How do you know?
Several Akron artists will realize their visions in three boroughs over the next two months in projects sponsored by the Akron Black Artist Guild and funded by the Downtown Akron Partnership.
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Floco Torres, project manager of the initiative, said the aim of the Reimagine Fellowship is to bring people together.
“We wanted to focus on neighborhoods that, you know, are loved sparingly — they don’t get as much love as downtown, in particular. We wanted to bring three artists together with the three neighborhoods… bring them together with community organizations to create something that continues the dynamic with those neighborhoods and what those community organizations are doing in those neighborhoods.
The grant awards the artists a $4,000 stipend and $2,000 for materials.
Tyron Hoisten, one of the founding members of the Akron Black Artist Guild, said there were 20 applications for the grants. Applications were reviewed by a panel of artists, community leaders and neighborhood representatives.
“We put together a jury to look at their applications, to look at their work, and selected three very strong artists.”
“The most important thing we were looking for was a real passion — a passion that exuded through their application through what they thought through their work,” he said. “We also wanted something that would bring people together.”
The projects are expected to be completed in June.
Focus on the people of Kenmore
Talia Hodge, who was awarded one of the grants, has been looking for people to photograph who are symbolic of the character of the Kenmore community.
Hodge, a 26-year-old who earned her photography degree from Kent State University, said her goal is to use imagery to create a vision of the Kenmore community.
She said photography has been her passion since high school.
“I’d love to create a portrait series that highlights the people who create cool things or do cool things that aren’t necessarily highlighted or discussed outside of the neighborhood or even in the neighborhood,” she said.
A few examples include a local teenage artist and a local music store.
“I’m still in the process of making a list,” she said.
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Hodge said the final product is in the works, with the final ad “to be determined”.
“I have a few ideas about how I want to compose everything, but not how I want to present it,” she said.
Hodge said the appeal of photography for her is the opportunity to see the world from her unique perspective.
“Something I see that other people might not see, but it’s like something I find appealing or beautiful or interesting, but also things that anyone can see but doesn’t consider further than a look,” said you.
A portrait of West Akron
Artist Stephanie Stewart and her daughter Kayla, 20, are branching out from their pandemic-inspired business.
“The pandemic stopped everything,” Stephanie said, explaining that after 20 years in the information technology industry, she ended up at home with her five children due to the shutdown. To cope with the isolation, she gathered the children’s skills to start P-31 Art & Design, an online company that makes magazines, mugs, wall art, cards, kits and wearable art.
The company name stands for Proverbs chapter 31, which states: “A woman of noble character, who can find her? It is worth far more than rubies.”
Stewart and her daughter said they were self-taught.
“I was working in the community garden at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the gardening season ended and it was like, ‘OK, what do I do now?’ “Said Stephanie. “Well, I did like everyone else, went from farm to hobbies and just expanded.”
Kayla, whose dancing career suffered a setback due to a knee injury, joined her mother.
While Kayla took on marketing tasks, the other children also pitched in: one son took care of the bookkeeping, another concentrated on writing advertising copy.
They plan to create a mural that brings people together.
“We created ‘Our Path, Our Journey’ basically to illustrate hope, rebuilding and connecting to the community,” Stewart said. “West Akron is a hodgepodge of borders and sects and just – there’s this avenue and then this street and north and south…
“We just wanted to create something that would really bring light and value to the entire community; not northwest versus west, versus southwest, just the community as a whole.”
The mural will feature images from different parts of the neighborhood, along with a message from the Greek poet Dinos Christianopoulos, who wrote, “What did you not do to bury me / But you forgot that I was a seed.” The verse is a call to stand up against the persecution.
Return to the reservoir park
Chris Harvey, a US Army veteran who turned to graphic design for a career, said he’s returning to the place where he spent many teenage hours playing basketball — the neighborhood where his grandmother still lives .
“My work is digital,” he said, explaining that he will create images to print on basketballs that will be available at the Reservoir Park Community Center in Goodyear Heights.
“I’m going to take photos of ordinary people just playing basketball and incorporate them into this illustration, using this photo as a reference,” he said. “I’ll put residents on different days at different times, connect and just translate that into art.
“It’s like a colorful basketball with art on it.”
Harvey said he has never attempted this type of art before but has examples of decorated balls created after championship wins and believes he will be able to create unique designs that will inspire people.
A former Ohio Army National Guard infantryman, Harvey served on a tour of Egypt with the multinational force and observers tasked with patrolling the border with Israel. After his service, Harvey said he worked in security before deciding to become an artist and earn a degree in graphic design from Cuyahoga Community College.
He later worked as an art director for news website The Devil Strip before the publication closed.
“I grew up in West Akron, right? But my grandmother lives four blocks from the reservoir, and the reservoir was one of the first places I ever went,” he said. “It was like, ‘You’re older, it’s just up the road — keep going!’ “
He said basketball is an ideal way to bring people together.
“Basketball is one of those things that nobody really has to teach you. It’s one of those things, once you know, you can go anywhere and everyone knows how to play by pretty much the same rules. It’s kind of self-governing in that sense.
“I enjoy observing the spirit of basketball and that’s what the scholarship is about – the intersection between the arts and the non-arts sectors. Basketball is considered a non-arts sector, but I think basketball has an artistic aspect because everyone plays differently or is inspired by someone else.
“Basketball is also very community-oriented. It’s usually very cordial. It’s still a competitive sport, but it’s community building and self-government. I thought that would be an interesting interface and topic for my community.”
About the Akron Black Artist Guild
The Akron Black Artist Guild was formally formed in 2021 as an organization with the goal of creating a network federation and support system for Akron Black creative talent.
The group received initial funding of $20,600 from the Knight Foundation and administrative support from ArtsNow, which implemented the Akron Collaborative Cultural Plan.
Hoisten said the guild hopes to work with Reimagine Fellowship applicants who have not been accepted through workshops and training.
“We work to ensure that artists who apply are absolutely at their best in terms of professionalism and professional portfolio,” he said, adding that some applicants have not developed a portfolio of their work.
“We still want to be in a relationship with them — they still matter.”
Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MarottaEric.