Inside|Out: Art in the heart of Akron

arts / Article

The launch has begun! On the evening of Thursday, May 7, the Akron Art Museum hosted what it called a block party to celebrate the start of Inside|Out, a new community-activated project funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation that is bringing reproductions of the museum’s art into the city’s streets and beyond. A few hundred people (many of them children) came to the party, eager to listen to the live music, taste some of the local food and drink (and desert ices) provided, engage in art activities for all ages, and participate in guided tours of the museum galleries (including a gallery talk by Liz Carney on the opening of her new exhibition, “Staged Photographs”). Reproduction of Childe Hassam's "Bedford Hills" at Big Bend trailhead, Akron, OH. Photo by Roger Durbin Reproduction of Childe Hassam's "Bedford Hills" at Big Bend trailhead. Photo by Roger Durbin Guests that evening had the chance to pick up maps showing where the 30 reproductions are located throughout the Downtown area, the North Hill neighborhood of Akron, the towpath along the old Ohio and Erie Canalway, and spots in Akron-Summit County metro parks. The works will be on view in these areas until later in the season, when they will be moved to other locations throughout the city, giving other neighborhoods the chance to host them and the residents to see them all. According to Dominic Caruso, design marketing and communications coordinator for Akron Art Museum, the current reproductions will be re-installed in three new neighborhoods from August-October (in Cuyahoga Falls, The University of Akron/University Park, and the west hill/Highland Square areas of Akron).  In 2016, there will be 40 new reproductions installed in eight total neighborhoods. It really seems, though, that the artworks have been selling themselves. It didn’t take long after some of the works went up that there were Facebook postings from people saying that they had seen a reproduction or two, adding “What a great idea!” The gathering reaction has come simply because the reproductions are woven closely into the fabric of Akron’s life and history. My first encounter came when I was out running along a four-mile corridor on the towpath. This particular area is popular with walkers, runners, bicyclists, amateur nature photographers, local history buffs, outdoors enthusiasts and fishermen (who cast their lines down along the edge of the Cuyahoga River). Thousands of people use the area over the course of the year, especially when the weather is fair, so the opportunity for the works to be seen and people to have the opportunity to view them is magnified. Reproduction of William Sommer's "Landscape with Yellow Clouds" at Mustill Store, Akron, OH. Photo by Roger Durbin Reproduction of William Sommer's "Landscape with Yellow Clouds" at Mustill Store. Photo by Roger Durbin The towpath area is rife with local historical monuments as well. At the Mustill Store (a preserved 1850s building that once was a stop along the old Ohio and Erie Canalway), there is a reproduction of William Sommer’s “Landscape with Yellow Clouds” depicting rolling hills and big cloudy skies, much like the real place itself. At the other end of the four-mile stretch, Sommer’s “Bordner Mural” is placed at the North Portage Path terminus near the statue of an American Indian carrying a canoe in the same spot where the place got its name. In between, at the Big Bend trailhead, Childe Hassam’s rustic landscape “Bedford Hills” is nestled in the heavily wooded area where the river bends as it makes its way north. For Akron residents, the area represents recreation, exercise, nature, the outdoors, local history – and now, art. Life is good. Inside|Out transcends more than these aspects of Akron life, however. Images are scattered throughout the Downtown area, blending and mingling art with daily work affairs and weekend partying and celebrations that occur frequently during summer months. Both the Akron Art Museum and the main Akron Public Library building have installations, but so too do highly frequented places like Jilly’s Music Room and Crave restaurant. Reproduction of James Gobel's "I'll Be Your Friend, I'll Be Your Love, I'll be Everything You Need" at Jilly Music Room, Akron, OH. Photo by Roger Durbin Reproduction of James Gobel's "I'll Be Your Friend, I'll Be Your Love, I'll be Everything You Need" at Jilly's Music Room. Photo by Roger Durbin[/caption] In the North Hill area of Akron, the works become embedded in neighborhood life – from a church to a music store, bank, community center and library reading garden. To really catch neighborhood life, there’s a large portrait on the outside wall of Giovanni’s Barber Shop on E. Cuyahoga Falls Ave. Reproduction of Elmer Novotny's "The Artist and His Wife" at Giovanni's Barber Shop. Photo by Roger Durbin Reproduction of Elmer Novotny's "The Artist and His Wife" at Giovanni's Barber Shop. Photo by Roger Durbin In a press release, Mark Masuoka, executive director and CEO of the Akron Art Museum, noted: “Civic engagement is the focus of our vision, and Inside|Out is the perfect project to demonstrate our mission to enrich lives through modern and contemporary art.” It clearly does that in this project by placing art in the middle of daily life and living within the community. The spots for art were well chosen for reaching as many people as possible and making it meaningful at the same time. This project has done something else special as well. The images are not postcard size pieces stuck along the sidewalk. They are one-to-one quality reproductions, done in the same measurement as the originals. Some are quite huge, like the 6.5-by-11 foot “Untitled from the Scissors Jack Series” by Larry Zox. That’s a nice quality feature of this project. Reproduction of Larry Zox's "Untitled from the Scissors Jack Series," Crave restaurant, Akron, OH. Photo by Roger Durbin Reproduction of Larry Zox's "Untitled from the Scissors Jack Series" at Crave restaurant. Photo by Roger Durbin The Akron Art Museum has made it pretty easy to get started and get involved. Maps showing where the images are located are available at the museum and in several places within the neighborhoods. However, you can do it yourself by doing an online tour and getting site information by searching insideoutakron.toursphere.com. You can also earn travel stickers for visiting each of the areas where the art is located, which will gain you free entry to the museum. For more information, call the museum at 330-376-9185.

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