AKRON, Ohio — The city of Akron seems to never have a shortage of art on display, often in surprising places.
Through Dec. 8, visitors walking the hallways of the Summit County Courthouse will be exposed to “Faces and Feelings,” an apt exhibit during a pandemic when people must view one another from afar, said probate court Community Outreach Specialist Lisa Mansfield in a release.
“Whether it was due to isolation or masks, we hadn’t really seen each other in a very long time,” she said. “These artists capture the joy of our feelings in seeing faces.”
The exhibit is hosted by Curated Courthouse, a collaboration between Summit County Probate Court and Curated Storefront, a nonprofit that has activated some of the darkest corners of downtown Akron since 2016.
“Faces and Feelings” features the photography of Laura Ruth Bidwell, and the paintings of Max Markwald and Care Hanson.
Bidwell is a photographer, bookmaker and collage artist who earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in painting at the University of Akron. Markwald, a graduate of the University of Akron Meyers School of Art, focuses on large-format oil paintings. With master’s of fine arts degree from Bowling Green State University, Hanson’s work includes acrylic on canvas, mixed-media on recycled cardboard, and nature mandalas.
Art opens doors of communication and connects people, Hanson said.
“In the months of COVID-19 and quarantine, those doors have been life affirming,” she said.
Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer was already displaying local art in the courthouse in 2019, showcasing work by clients of Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board, Summit Metro Parks and Community Support Services.
That same year, her project, Curated Courthouse, was awarded $50,000 in the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Arts Challenge, to continue to bring art to the public.
The goal of Knight challenges is to connect people to places and to each other in 26 Knight Cities, where the Knight family once published newspapers. In the arts challenge, offered every few years, Knight asks the Akron community a single question, to be answered in 150 words or less: What is your best idea for the arts in Akron?
Those who submit ideas are offered a chance to compete for a share of $1 million to fund their projects.
Since Curated Storefront was named a Knight Arts Challenge winner, the initiative, under the direction of Executive Director Rick Rogers, has brought curated, multimedia exhibits to 86 Akron storefronts in 25 mostly neglected or underutilized buildings, lighting up windows and doorways and illuminating the tops of buildings. Windows are dressed in tableau-style shows and multimedia art has been installed on ceilings and outside buildings.
The initiative has attracted more than 100,000 visitors to downtown Akron, the organization reported. Of the empty buildings Curated Storefront has activated, 11 have been commercially redeveloped.
Current Curated Storefront exhibits include “Outside the Box,” which turns shipping containers into mobile art galleries and performance spaces in Akron’s Northside District.
“World of Wonders” is a popup museum featuring the work of ceramicist Clayton Bailey. The museum runs through Oct. 30 in downtown Akron at 156 S. Main St.
The Knight Arts Challenge returned to Akron this year, asking Akronites for their best ideas throughout the month of July. Winners are expected to be announced soon.