Monday, September 28, 2015

Akron Marathon 2015

Akron Marathon 2015 Photo Essay
by Joanna Wilson

I showed up at 6am before the race began and chalked some funny--and hopefully inspirational-- messages on the streets before the marathon last Saturday.  I also hung out and took some photos of the participants while cheering them on.  I was a Blue Line Party of one--but that means I was able to be mobile and cheered from several locations.  Congrats to all the runners--you are all winners.  Check out my photos and video.

High Street--a quarter mile from the start.

I also chalked on Broadway--just beyond the relay transition area (heading south).

Hey runners--anyone see these during the race?

I drove by these on Monday morning--they are already gone thanks to the rain.

Yes, it was still dark out at 6:30am. Waiting for the race to begin. I'm standing a quarter mile from the start.

That's the Akron Art Museum behind the runners--on High Street.

Action shot!

One block north and one block east--(Perkins and Broadway) watching the runners cross the Y-Bridge (All American Bridge) returning from North Hill.

Looking up Broadway--Quaker Square building in background. 

I returned to High Street--now on corner of High and Market. Waiting for runners to pass Art Museum a third time.

At High and Market looking east--runners on Broadway crossing Market.

Runners coming up High and turning down Market--heading west.

I can't wait for next year! 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Diary of a Teenage Girl at the Nightlight Cinema

Film Review: Diary of a Teenage Girl 
by Brit Charek

A good friend of mine and I were planning a girl's day out and looking for a chick flick to indulge in when we came across Diary of a Teenage Girl. Girly coming of age tale? Sounds perfect! Plus it featured Kristen Wiig, so it must be funny, right?

Not exactly.

Well, parts of it were funny.

The film takes place in San Francisco in the late 60's as the hippies are fading out and the punk are taking over, providing a retro setting and wardrobe worthy of envy along with an epic soundtrack featuring the likes of the Stooges, Television and T-Rex.

The story centers around Minnie (Bel Powley), a 15-year-old budding artist who announces triumphantly that she has lost her virginity in the opening scene.

The film takes an uncomfortable and morally ambiguous turn when it's revealed that her partner was her mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig)'s 35 year old boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård). Minnie deals with the emotional turmoil caused by the affair by doing the standard things all teenagers do: distracting herself with unsavory activities, ignoring school and her family, keeping a diary (We all know the danger implied by that...),  and most importantly delving into her art.

Minnie imagines asking comic legend Aline Kominsky-Crumb (yes, that Crumb) for advice,  not just on her art but on life and questions that come along with womanhood. Kominsky becomes a character in the film, leading Minnie on her journey to find the balance between who she truly is and what society expects of her. The lines blur between Minnie's imagination and reality as her drawings animate the the screen and dazzle the audience.

Based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s semi-autobiographical graphic novel of the same name, Diary of a Teenage Girl reminds us (especially us women) how hard it was to be comfortable in our own skin and how it takes a combination of looking inward and remembering those who have been there for us all along to get there.

Diary of a Teenage Girl is showing at the Nightlight Cinema until October 1st.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Knight Arts Challenge in Akron

Knight Arts Challenge
by Brit Charek

The deadline for the Knight Arts Challenge is quickly approaching! Do YOU have a big idea for the arts in Akron?

This challenge is a $3 million, three-year initiative to draw the best and most innovative ideas out of local organizations and individuals seeking to engage and enrich the community through the arts.

The Knight Arts website offers this invitation:

"Whether you’re an independent artist, business, established arts institution, organization or individual – we want to hear from you. No idea is too large or too small, as long as it follows three basic rules:

1. Your idea is about arts.
2. Your project takes place in or benefits Akron.
3. You find other funding to match Knight Foundation's grant. "

All submissions must be the in by 11:59 p.m. ET on Sept. 14 at

We reached out to the Knight Foundation for some tips, and here’s what those interested in submitting need to know:

  • This phase is purely the generation of ideas. Knight doesn’t need a budget or a full plan at this point. They want people to dream big.
  • Three C’s – Be clear, concise and compelling. Be brief but be inspiring.
  • Don’t use “grantspeak.” Do come up with a catchy title. We like those.
  • Here’s the $1 million question: What kind of ideas is Knight Foundation looking for? Answer: We are looking for ideas that authentically represent Akron - as a place, as a cultural inspiration.
  • What’s on the no-no list for the challenge? Don’t ask for general operating support. This is an ideas contest. It’s for something that is bold, unique and exciting, and that’s what we encourage and what we support.
The Knight Foundation’s Arts Program Director Bahia Ramos will also be holding virtual office hours online at noon ET Sept. 10 to answer any remaining questions. Join the conversation via phone or video.

If you want to browse previous winners in other cities, visit the Knight Arts website. Bahia Ramos can be reached at anytime at

Good luck! We here at Akron Empire can't wait to see what big ideas are generated because of this challenge!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Akron Women in Tech

Akron Women in Tech
By Rachel Krantz & Stephanie Baker

Kevin Wirth and Monette Richards founded Akron Women in Tech in July of 2014. They each noticed that they rarely worked alongside women in their jobs, and they started the group to create a network of women in Akron interested in programming, having fun, and building a community.
Since the first event, the group has grown to more than 200 members and has hosted more than 25 events, including presentations ranging from Basic Web App Security to introductory HTML/CSS.
They’ve also expanded their offerings to include quarterly workshops and monthly hack nights, which are an open forum for people to work on independent projects collaboratively. At the last hack night, two people got new websites up and running, one person was connected with potential job opportunities, and another brought up her idea for a tech company she wants to start and got feedback from other attendees.
And that is exactly the kind of energy AkronWIT wants to continue to grow in Akron.
In the upcoming year, AkronWIT is looking to:
  • --Set up a mentorship program for their members
  • --Help women who currently work in tech continue to advance in their careers
  • --Host on-site tours with companies looking to hire junior programmers
  • --Create a scholarship fund to send women to developer conferences across Ohio
  • --Form a network for women who want to start their own businesses
  • --Make Akron the place to be if you are a woman who wants to work in tech
AkronWIT just gained incorporated nonprofit status, which better positions the group to achieve these goals. It’s also going to allow the Akron community to support AkronWIT along the way.
If you’d like to promote more diversity in tech and want to be part of a supportive tech community, we’d love to meet you.

Please join us at The Nightlight Cinema on August 31st, and celebrate our first year and future with the AkronWIT community!
Please RSVP on meetup by August 28th. We hope to see you there.

More Upcoming Events from

September 16th - Part II of Jump into Javascript
September 24th - Hack Night
September 26th - Wordpress Workshop - $45 for 5 hours of instruction – lunch included
October 21st – Become Agile with Heather

Monday, August 17, 2015

Akron History: Sojourner Truth in Akron

The following essay first appeared in the July/issue #11 of The Devil Strip--our new, twice monthly, arts & culture newspaper in Akron. Issue #11 is now available--go out and pick up a copy or eventually read it on-line.  As many of you know, I love researching and writing about Akron history. I'm writing a regular column about Akron history for The Devil Strip.  If you have any suggestions or requests for particular topics, let me know.

Sojourner Truth in Akron: A Brief but Powerful Historic Moment
by Joanna Wilson

Akronites have always been supportive of the underdog. This is true whether the underdog is one of our own or even someone passing through. Evidence of this truth lies in the long-standing pride we have that social and political thinker/lecturer Sojourner Truth once spoke here. 

Truth was an outstanding nineteenth-century women’s rights advocate and abolitionist.  Born into slavery, she renamed herself Sojourner Truth to embody “a traveler preaching truth to all she met.” Already a noted lecturer, Truth came to Akron to attend a women’s suffrage convention on May 28-29, 1851 at the Universalist Stone Church in downtown.  According to reports, a group of local ministers occupied much of the gathering with criticisms about women wasting their time worrying about their right to vote. Hearing enough of this malarkey, Truth stood up and extemporaneously but eloquently pleaded for human freedom. In what has since been titled the “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, Truth demanded to be considered the equal of anyone, despite gender or race.

Sojourner Truth Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-119343

Her ideas and words were well received amongst the progressive-thinking crowd in Akron that day. Those unmoved by her words included a local newspaper writer for The Summit Beacon, who dismissively reported that Truth “also spoke.” However, the convention participants were inspired by Truth’s fiery passion and eventually the speech was written down and published. Although women’s suffrage would continue the struggle nearly forty years after Truth’s death in 1883, the “Ain’t I a Woman” speech grew in popularity through the following decade--the Civil War years--calling for racial equality.

An Ohio Historical Marker identifies the spot where Sojourner Truth delivered her famous speech in Akron. Anyone can easily visit the location where the Universalist Stone Church once stood. The marker is on the wall of what is now named the Sojourner Truth Building, of The Summit County Department of Job and Family Services, on N. High Street between Perkins and E. Market Street.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Good Life: Body Piercing and Jewelry

Good Life Body Piercing and Jewelry in Highland Square
by Joanna Wilson

At the start of our blog three years ago, Akron Empire welcomed a guest writer named Laura Maidens who shared about her favorite neighborhood tattoo and piercing shop.  Today, I'd like to do a follow-up on Good Life which has grown to become a piercing-only business.

Good Life owner Jeremiah Currier and I have been friends for a few years--we initially met through mutual acquaintances--and we were able to spend some time together this Spring on the Akron2Pittsburgh trip. I hadn't been to the shop in Highland Square in a while, so Jeremiah invited me over to get a look at the recent remodel inside. The changes include an additional piercing room, carpet in the lobby area, and tower jewelry showcases. These expansion efforts give more of a boutique feel to the space.  The new piercing room also provides shortened wait times and more privacy to patrons. The expansion in jewelry now includes more than 100 options across styles and a range in prices to accommodate every budget.

Currier with patron.

"Piercers are changing the world," Jeremiah told me, reflecting his pride in earning his membership in the Association of Professional Piercers. The association is a community of piercers who value knowledge about their craft and advance the use of implant-quality jewelry in their work. Jeremiah explained to me that it is this professional community of piercers that are at the forefront of those advocating for safety and cleanliness standards, professionalism, and helping people express themselves through body piercings. Both Currier and Heather Weber, the other piercer at Good Life, belong to the Association of Professional Piercers.

Jeremiah convinced me that he truly loves the many opportunities he has with patrons (and the family of patrons) to discuss the value of self-expression and self-actualization for those getting pierced--as well as those just considering it. He says he's learned over the years that his skill in safe and speedy techniques are valued but sometimes people need to talk about how important it is to them to get pierced and to adorn themselves.  Both Jeremiah and Heather welcome these conversations and take this part of their work seriously.  As specialists in piercing, they encourage people to not feel intimidated and to make thoughtful decisions about their appearance.  While I haven't gotten pierced recently, I know several of my friends always come to Good Life.  Many thanks to Jeremiah for inviting me to Good Life to see the new changes to his shop and for the good conversation.

Looking for an excuse to stop by Good Life?  Jeremiah let me know that he is hosting a guest piercer later this month--Perry Doig from Rose Gold's in San Francisco.  Follow along with Good Life on Facebook or your favorite social media platform to keep up with their announcements.

Good Life is located at 752 W. Market Street (down the plaza from Two Turtles)
Phone #: (330) 374-0100

For more info, check out the website:
Facebook: GoodLifeAkron
Twitter: @GoodLifeAkron
and Heather Weber's website:

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Bit Factory: Akron's Startup Incubator

This piece first appeared in the August/issue #11 of  The Devil Strip--our new, twice monthly, arts & culture newspaper in Akron. Issue #11 is now available-- go out and pick up a copy!

The Bit Factory: Akron’s Startup Incubator
by Brit Charek

I have to admit that one of that one of my favorite things that I’ve done this summer was binge-watching HBO’s Silicon Valley. So when I was invited to take a tour of The Bit Factory, a tech startup incubator run by the Akron Global Business Accelerator, I was halfway expecting an environment akin to Erlich’s house, complete with a group of socially-challenged developers and coders awkwardly coping with the existential dilemmas of startup life where the line between work and home life is blurry if not completely nonexistent, all for my viewing pleasure.

Let’s just say that The Bit Factory is a few notches up from Erlich’s house.

Thanks to a grant from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the talents of designer Dominic Falcione of Rubber City Fab, the space is beautifully designed around a collaborative philosophy where startup companies work closely together. In addition to providing members with space, The Bit Factory has a plethora of resources it provides its startups, including a mentorship program.

And of course, The Bit Factory is available to its tenants 24/7. Because, startup life.

“The fact that there’s an internet startup accelerator in Akron is just one reason why Northeast Ohio has arrived as a startup community,” says Annal Vyas, Program Director for The Bit Factory. Vyas teaches full time at the University of Akron School of Law, where he organized the NEXTOhio Internet Startup Conference, but is loaned to the Akron Accelerator one day a week to assist with various initiatives, with The Bit Factory being one.

Akron, in particular, has truly arrived as a startup community. Just this week the city was named a "TechHire City" by the White House as part of a new federal program aimed at providing technology job training programs.

“Before, people thought they had to move to the coasts to work on sophisticated technology startups,” continues Vyas. “Now, they’re realizing that there’s so much activity and energy in their own backyard, and that this region is a great place to start a company.”

Vyas hopes to expand The Bit Factory’s programming to host evening events that will generate a culture of innovation, not just in the tech scene but also the art scene here in Akron. On Thursday, August 6th, they hosted a brainstorming sessions for artists and creative businesspeople interested in sketching out ideas for the upcoming Knight Arts Challenge.

In 2017, The Bit Factory plans to launch Bits and Atoms, a makers’ space that will provide entrepreneurs access to technology and equipment that will continue to fuel creativity and innovation in Akron.

To learn more about the Bit Factory, or to keep up with future events, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.