Monday, September 22, 2014

Akron Empire Favorites: Favorite Parks

Akron Empire Favorites 2014: Favorite Parks
by Joanna Wilson

We are rolling out the results of our poll each week through the rest of the Fall.  Thanks so much to everyone who shared their voices in selecting our favorite things in Akron.  To see the results of all the voting so far, be sure to click on the Akron Empire Favorites badge on the right hand side.

The winner for Favorite Park comes as no surprise.  1. Sand Run Metro Park

Located along Merriman Valley, Sand Run is one of the outstanding gems within the Metro Parks system.  Not only do visitors enjoy the Parkway Jogging Trail but Sand Run also offers several more rustic and challenging hiking trails.  It is also a popular destination because of the shelters, the soccer fields, ice skating, and my favorite, the drivable water crossing (ford).  Because of its wetlands, Sand Run also offers curious animals lovers the unique opportunity to witness the springtime salamander crossing.  Wouldn't THAT make a great post for Akron Empire in the future?

North Hill's Waters Park

Voters created a four-way tie for second place.  2. Canal Park, Cascade Valley Metro Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and Waters Park.

We recently featured guest blogger Jenny Jones who shared her 5 Great Hikes in the Akron Area which included several in the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Our own Brit Charek wrote about her experiences at Canal Park two years ago (before they changed their team name to the Rubber Ducks).  But it's the same ball park and the same fun location for Akron residents to enjoy.  It's also great to see not just the Metro Parks appreciated in our Favorites poll but also a city park, namely Waters Park, which is located across from St. Thomas Hospital in North Hill.  Not only does Waters Park have public shuffleboard and tennis courts, but the top corner of the park offers some stunning views over the valley of downtown Akron!  Another reason Waters Park is an Akron Empire Favorite.

Thanks again to everyone who voted! Check back next week as we reveal more of your favorites.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Akron Empire Favorites: Favorite Annual Event

Akron Empire Favorites: Favorite Annual Event
by Brit Charek

We asked our readers to tell us their favorite things to do in the Empire, and you responded with amazing ideas-- some of our own old favorites, and some things new to us that we're excited to check out! This is the second post in the series. We started last week with your Favorite Thing to do in the Summer-- click HERE to see that post again.

This week, we're revealing your Favorite Annual Event!

1. Porch Rokr

A free festival will feature more than 80 bands, no-cost workshops, dramatic performances, food and art vendors and activities for children? Sign me up!

The Highland Square Neighborhood Association, a community focused organization, is hosting the 2014 PorchRokr Festival which is tomorrow, Saturday, September 20th from 10am to 8pm. Opening Ceremonies begin at 10:30 with a parade, a performance by the PorchRokr
Performers will be hosted on stages and porches across several streets, including Belvidere Way, Beck Avenue, Byers Avenue, Dodge Avenue, Grand Avenue, S. Portage Path, Crosby Street, Westmoreland Terrace, Payne Avenue, West Market Street and at Perkins Stone Mansion.

For more info, check out HSNA's website. Make sure you stop by the mini-Crafty Mart pop up shop on Byers!

2. Hamburger Festival

This year marked the 7th anniversary of the National Hamburger Festival. Over 120,000 hamburger fans have enjoyed family fun, great entertainment and one of the largest assortments of hamburgers ever assembled in one place.

The festival is held at historic Lock 3 Park in beautiful downtown Akron in August and raises money each year for one of Akron’s favorite charities, the Akron Children’s Hospital.

For more info, and to make sure you don't miss out next summer, visit the National Hamburger Festival's website!

3. The Akron Arts Expo at Hardesty Park

The Akron Arts Expo at Hardesty Park has been running strong every summer for 35 years now! This free outdoor festival features over 160 fine art and craft vendors. 

The weekend kicks off with the Taste of Akron food sampling from area restaurants on Thursday evening. On Friday evening we host our premier Wine Tasting and Silent Auction fundraiser. The fest often includes contests, like the steak cook-off sponsored by West Point Market. I wrote about that a few years back when my dad was competing! Click HERE to see that post again.

Check out their website for more details.

Honorable Mentions: Squarefest, Crafty Mart, the Akron Marathon

Thanks again to everyone who voted! Check back next week as we reveal more of your favorites!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Portage Trail Barn: 5 Steps from Thrift Store to Fashion

The 5 Steps from Thrift Store to Fashion
by Mary Beth Filion

Hello!  I'm Mary Beth and I'm the owner of Portage Trail Barn in Cuyahoga Falls.  The Barn is a seasonal shop open a few weekends each year. It features local vendors of handmade and repurposed goods.  I'm not only the owner, but a crafter too and I love to work with repurposed materials.  I'll shop garage and estate sales, auctions, and thrift stores. Using repurposed materials is so easy!  Today I'm going to share the 5 steps I take to go from thrift store to finished item. 

1. Gather ideas. 
This is my favorite part.  I’m on Pinterest everyday.  I have over 3,000 pins and counting.  Having a visual way to organize ideas is the best. I have boards by season or product line.  I also look at manufactured items and devise a way to use thrifted materials in the reproduction.  

2. Be familiar with your local shops.  This will help you decide where to go for what you want.

Goodwill on State Road is good for books, small furniture, and sundries (you never know what you’ll find).
Salvation Army in Montrose is good for large furniture and I love the way they display home goods by color.  All thrift stores should do that.  It makes it so much fun to shop.  

Salvation Army in Montrose

Village Discount Outlet on State Road is great for clothing.  This is where I picked up some great belts all at half price or lower!

Village Discount Outlet on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls

3. Know how much you’d be willing to pay.  This comes with time and research.  I always keep in mind that on discount days I could be getting it for as low as $0.50!  That makes that belt for $6.00 seem overpriced and I’m likely to pass it by.

Know your Discount codes!

4. Don’t be afraid to buy and try.  
The beauty of buying thrifted goods at a low cost is you can be brave about your trial and error process.

5.  Proudly display your handmade goods…and let the compliments stream in.  Take note of what materials you enjoyed working with. Each time you hit the thrift store keep an eye out for something to add to your stash.  

Leather belt ring

These leather belt rings will be available at the Fall Barn Sale, as well as more of my repurposed goods.  Come see us opening night form 3-8p September 18, 10a-4p Saturday and Sunday.  Also the second weekend Thursday September 20 from 3-8p and Saturday and Sunday from 10a-4p.

For information on seasonal sales check out the website.  
To get a peek behind the scenes find me on Instagram.  
And to see what inspires me follow me on Pinterest.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Akron Empire Favorites: Favorite Thing to do in the Summer

Akron Empire Favorites: Favorite Thing to do in the Summer
by Brit Charek

We asked our readers to tell us their favorite things to do in the Empire, and you responded with amazing ideas-- some of our own old favorites, and some things new to us that we're excited to check out! We'll be rolling out the winners over the next few weeks, starting with your Favorite Thing to do in the Summer!

1. Riding Bikes in the Park
Some readers like riding in the metroparks, and some specifically recommended the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. A while back, Joanna wrote about How We Roll UA, a program that offers free bike tours through downtown. Click HERE to check out that post again.

Similarly, guest blogger Jenny recently wrote about her top 5 places to hike in the greater Akron area. Click HERE to check out that post again

2. Going to an Akron Rubber Ducks Game
A few summers ago, I wrote about going to a game when they were still the Akron Aeros (Click HERE to see that post again.) I've been several times since the team rebranded to the Rubber Ducks, and it's one of my favorite family activities in the summer! With all the cool promotions, from giving out free Akron rockstar bobbleheads to Thirsty Thursday featuring dollar draft beers, the Rubber Ducks have something for everyone.

One of my favorite parts of seeing the Rubber Ducks is eating at the Game Bar & Grille!
For tickets and more info, visit the Akron Rubber Ducks' official website.

3. Downtown@Dusk at the Akron Art Museum

Did you know that the Akron Art Museum is free every Thursday? To top it off, on Thursday evenings the Museum hosts live concerts in their parking lot!

Even though summer is coming to a close, the Art Museum is still free on Thursday, and they still have some amazing events lined up on Thursday evenings. During the day they host family-oriented workshops and in the evening they line up more grown up events, like free films organized by Akron Film & Pixel or their  innovative speaker series called Slide Jam. 

For more info, visit the Akron Art Museum's website.

Thanks again to everyone who voted! Check back next week as we reveal more of your favorites!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Paranormal Paranoia: the other side of tattoo art(ists)

Paranormal Paranoia: the other side of tattoo art(ists)
By Guest Blogger Roza Maille

Do you believe in ghosts and aliens and witchcraft and Bigfoot? The new exhibit at The BOX Gallery, opening September 6 at 5pm, explores all those things. Paranormal Paranoia: the other side of tattoo art(ists) is a group show consisting of over 30 tattoo artists from around the country. I curated this show with my twin brother, Ezra Haidet, who is a tattoo artist himself. He grew up in Ohio but is currently residing in Austin, Texas.

by John Massie
Ezra and I contacted artists from all parts of the country; from Ohio to Texas to California to Maryland, much of the country is represented in this show. Some of the artists featured in the show include: Austin Maples (California), Henry Hablak (Georgia), Marie Sena (Texas), Tony De Rigo (Ohio), John Rippey (Maryland), Jason Phillips (California), John Massie (Ohio), Boxcar (Pennsylvania), Nathan Abney (Ohio), Cory Schofield (Texas), George Archer (Virginia), Erik Jacobsen (California), and Josh Adams (New York). There is even one international artist from Switzerland, Cyrill Neff.

by Erik Jacobsen

Some people’s perspectives of tattoo artists’ art may be narrowed to things such as the butterfly tattoo on your cousin’s ankle. The art in this exhibition goes well beyond that. The artists were asked to make a painting within the paranormal theme guidelines. Because “paranormal” is defined as anything not explainable by science, the artists could take on subjects ranging from aliens to cryptozoology to ghosts.

by Boxcar
Since the participating artists are using paper instead of tattooing a destined area of skin, they have the option to be more expressive with their work. Some of the art follows a more traditional tattoo style with black outlines while others are softer. It is interesting to see the range of styles within this group of artists.

Most of the paintings will be for sale at the show during gallery hours. At a later date, an exhibition catalog will be available for purchase with most of the artwork represented. The release date is TBA but will be announced on the Facebook event page. You can find more details about the opening and a full list of the participating artists there also.

by Cory Schofield
There will also be a short sci-fi film shown in the video salon entitled The Exchange. This film was written and directed by Ohio natives The Campbell Brothers of Compound Pictures. It was also shot on Super 8mm film for all those film buffs out there.

There is a Preview Party that is open to the public on September 5, 2014 from 5-9 pm. The show officially opens during the September Artwalk on Saturday September 6, 2014 from 5-10 pm. During the Saturday opening, a tattoo artist from Kustom Culture Tattoo in Tallmadge will be present to draw temporary tattoos on visitors. The show will be open until the next Akron Artwalk on October 4, 2014 (gallery open from noon until 9 pm on the closing day). The BOX Gallery is open Friday and Saturday from noon until 5pm and is located at 140 E. Market St. Akron, Ohio 44308. Admission is free and the gallery is open to the public.

Paranormal Paranoia will run the same duration as the Akron Art Prize! So come upstairs to the 3rd floor at Summit Artspace to the BOX Gallery after you cast your votes!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Akron Art Prize

Akron Art Prize 2014
by guest blogger Rob Lehr

In its 3rd year, Akron Art Prize is one of the most exciting and democratic art exhibits to occupy the Rubber City. In fact, it is the only Akron art exhibit that empowers the viewer (that’s YOU) with a real-live vote to determine which artist will win $5,000! With over 150 entries and 5 different venues, this is a great opportunity to make history with your fellow Akronites.  This year visitors are welcome to journey through the Zeber-Martell Studio, 43 Furnace Art Complex, Akron Glass Works, The Nightlight Cinema, Palladian Palette, and Summit Artspace Gallery. Before I proceed, I want to recognize and thank the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation for making such a cool creative event possible in Northeast Ohio.

As if news of the multi-venue Art Prize exhibit wasn’t exciting enough, there is more to share with you!  I have been privileged with the opportunity to curate a group of artists, which will bestow short slide presentations at the Akron Art Museum. Slide Jam deconstructs the traditional yawn-inducing lecture format, creating something that's fun, unexpected and accessible. I spent hours viewing Art Prize portfolios but could only choose six artists to speak. Ultimately, it was a tough decision since we are fortunate to have incredible talent living within our beloved city.  Here is a quick preview of the chosen artists, which will be sharing their vision of contemporary art on Thursday September 4th at 7pm.

Vintage Wall Paper, Kristi Wall

Kristi Wall is most known for her ability to transform paper into breathtaking and stunning kaleidoscope designs. Using a unique self-taught technique by combining pins, layering colored paper, and utilizing her sharp precision; she creates a work of art that is time consuming and beautifully obsessive. Embark on a journey of creativity and charm as she tells her story.

Lucky Ten, Chris Ross

Chris Ross has been painstakingly cutting paper too but for a much different result. His Lucky Ten Series is a snapshot into a compelling world of social commentary about the American Dream and how we value wealth in our nation. By infiltrating into our nostalgic past, Lucky Ten simultaneously captivates and terrifies by using advertisements as a catalyst.

Still from Momentive, Inda Blatch-Geib

A true artistic chameleon, Inda Blatch-Geib has an fascinating approach to commercial art which will surely entertain, mystify and evoke excitement at the upcoming Slide Jam. Inda has worked as a Production and Costume Designer for nearly 500 theatrical, commercial, and film releases. Her body of work is both diverse and plentiful.

Connect the Goddamn Dots, Casey Vogt

With euphoric colors and psychedelic compositions, Casey Vogt creates ornate, mandala-like paintings that serve as a backdrop for politically charged figurative scenes. His most recent paintings explore Americans’ relationships to drug use, the war on drugs, and the pharmaceutical industry. His painterly and metaphysical backgrounds contrast to the socio-political narratives presented by the figures.

Cinched Sac, Kate Budd

Kate Budd seeks archetypal forms, creating hybrids that take emotional cues from the human body and possess the singularity of fruit, shells and roots. She carves solid blocks of wax; creating a positive by the removal of material which is both magical and challenging. Much of her work seduces the viewer with a dark subject matter and an elegant transformation of a humble material.

A Trip Around Olsen, Steve Ehret

Finding inspiration at dusk, Steve Ehret paints panels filled with phantasmal creatures within illusive landscapes. His obscure scenes and psyches bob between terror and hilarity, influenced by abstract realms of experiences. He contrasts harmony and separateness within his work, using acrylic, spray paint, and ink.

Don’t miss out on meeting these six talented artists and hear their stories first hand at the Slide Jam presentation ( on Thursday September 4th at 7pm. This event is free and open to the public.

The Akron Art Prize voting exhibit will not begin until Saturday September 6th during the Art Walk from 5pm-10pm. All galleries are free and open to the public. 
See it. Experience it. Vote!

About Akron Art Prize
The 3rd annual Akron Art Prize is sponsored by the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation and presented by the Downtown Akron Partnership. Artists will show their works in five Downtown Akron venues between Sept. 6 - Oct. 4 during which time the public will determine the winner of a $5,000 grand prize and five $1,000 runner-up awards.  For more Information visit:

About the Author
Rob Lehr is a curator and creative director specializing in contemporary art. As the current Gallery Director for Summit Artspace, he is very passionate about linking emerging artists with respected patrons and prestigious institutions.  His participation with numerous curatorial projects has helped shape the public’s attitude and awareness toward contemporary art in the northeast Ohio region. Recent projects include Clever Little Devils, Adorned Spaces, and his upcoming exhibit, Transitions. Serving on several local and national non-profit boards, he has been hired as an educator and critic of new contemporary art. He is a life-long resident of Akron, Ohio but loves to travel to galleries and museums around the world.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wanted: Guest Bloggers for Akron Empire!

Wanted: Guest Bloggers for Akron Empire!
by Brit Charek

Do you love Akron? Do you have a favorite thing to do in town that you'd like to share? If so, you should share it with Akron Empire!

Since Joanna and I started blogging two and a half years ago, friends have approached us with things that we should write about-- which is awesome, and it has given us some really great experiences-- but we have limited time and resources to explore these leads. That's why we have opened up our blog to guest bloggers, who can share their own experiences.

Some people are intimidated by the idea of posting their writing on the internet, but I assure you-- it's not a big deal. And to put you at ease, here are some tips as you develop your post:

The post can be as long or short as it needs to be.
Many of our guest bloggers are writing about something they really love--whether it's their good friend's band, their favorite place to eat, or an event they love-- and they want to do it justice. That doesn't mean you need to squeeze in every detail. Give the readers a taste of what you like about your subject, and let the reader discover some things for themselves!

Timing is everything.
Are you trying to help promote an event? Approach us sooner than later.  Joanna and I each post once a week, and since we have a backlog of awesome ideas--many of them time-sensitive--it's good to send us an email ahead of time so that we can schedule it and give you a timeline for when you should have the post ready for us.

People love lists.
We live in the digital age--it's great to have options. Check out Dina's 5 Reasons to Shop Crafty Mart or Jenny Jones's 5 Great Hikes in the Akron Area.

Not so great with words? Try pictures!
My buddy Heather took such great photos of the Light-UP Lantern Festival that the pictures spoke for themselves!  I just wrote a paragraph to give them some context, which would be easy for any great (or amateur!) photographer.

From Joanna's post about Flurry's Cafe

We love food posts!
Everyone needs to eat, and we love to hear about great places to go! We also love supporting area businesses and encouraging Akronites to reinvest their hard-earned money locally instead of at generic chain restaurants.

Check out guest bloggers' reviews of some of our favorite restaurants: Saffron PatchFlip Side Burgers, the Blue Door Café, and Chin's Place in West Akron.

But I have so many things that I could write about...
That's even better! Limit it to one thing for now--you can always write for us again in the future! We have plenty of guest bloggers that return once, twice, and even five times.

Nothing nice to say?
Then we're not the blog for you. Even though we encourage honest reviews of music, food, and other graeter-Akron experiences, our ultimate goal is to support all things local.

This is another reason we want guest bloggers! Just because I have no interest in the Akron death metal scene (or maybe I do? It's just an example...) and therefore don't have the language to talk about it, that doesn't mean it's not awesome. It just means someone besides myself is better suited to write about it, and find an audience for it.  Akron Empire is happy to give you that platform.

Ok, you win. I'm interested in blogging!
If you have a subject you’d like to write a blog post about for Akron Empire, please email us and place the words ‘I wanna WRITE’ in the subject line.

Click HERE for a list of all our posts by guest bloggers.