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 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.

Monday, August 11, 2014

National Hamburger Festival

2014 National Hamburger Festival Review
by Joanna Wilson

The 9th annual National Hamburger Festival took place this past weekend in downtown Akron.  South Main was closed down to accommodate vendors that line both sides of the street to show off their burger creations in this one-of-a-kind summer festival.  I wasn't able to attend last year's event and so this year I made a point to come down and enjoy it in all its glory.

Menches Bros. booth--anyone else read David Giffels' humorous discussion of the invention of the hamburger in The Hard Way on Purpose?

Burger-makers come from far and near to showcase their specialty burgers.  Among the options, attendees were able to choose from regional burger chains such as White Castle, Max & Erma's, and Eat'n Park.  Those interested in tasting burgers from Ohio-only restaurants could choose from Youngstown's Martini Brothers, Smoke: The Burger Joint located in nearby N. Canton and Carrollton, and Menches Brothers found in both Green and Massillon, among others.  Menches Brothers is the local restaurant that boldly claims they invented the hamburger.

Did you grow up eating at Bob's Hamburg?
I was interested in sampling another Akron favorite, so I ordered from Bob's Hamburg--a local favorite diner whose legend stands tall.  (Bob's Hamburg is located at 1351 East Avenue).  Though there were tempting deluxe burgers all around me, I ended up delighted with my choice--a classic quarter-pound Bob's cheeseburg-- and I'm looking forward to visiting the Akron restaurant again.  Other local burgers at the festival included Retro Dog and Stray Dog--two Akron Empire eateries that we've written about before.  My partner doesn't eat meat yet he had several healthier burger options to choose from.  He went with Retro Dog's Bean Burger--one he regularly enjoys at each visit.

There was a long line for last year's winner at Smoke: The Burger Joint.

The National Hamburger Festival isn't just a place to taste delicious beefy sandwiches--they also host competitions in several categories including Best Traditional Burger, Best Cheeseburger, Best Creative Burger, Best Creative Toppings, Best Healthy Burger, Festival Favorite, and Festival Spirit Award.  The list of winners of the 2014 festival and past year's winners are to be found at the festival's website:  The two-day, family-friendly festival also includes children's activities, live music and entertainment throughout the weekend.  What's your favorite summer festival in downtown Akron?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

5 Great Hikes in the Akron Area

Akron Empire is beyond excited to welcome guest blogger Jenny Jones. She is a social scientist by trade and currently spends her days serving the public. She likes to keep it simple and tends to geek-out about nature and love being outside, especially hiking, biking, and backpacking. She also likes to make things, and has been known to cut a rug or two on occasion.

If you happen to see her on the trail, say hello, she would be love to meet you!

Salt Run at Kendall Lake, CVNP, in the winter.

5 Great Hikes in the Akron Area
by Jenny Jones

“Keep close to nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” -John Muir

In the hustle and bustle that is modern life, it’s incalculably easy to get caught up in the stress of the daily grind. With each passing day the effects are felt, exponentially increased. By the end of the working week, the full impact of the cumulative effect takes its toll. There are many ways through which we can unwind, to peel the layers of stress away. I love taking advantage of the wonderful and various outlets and resources that we have in Akron: great local food and microbrews, live music venues, an indie theater, record stores, professional and alternative sporting events, and a growing number of really cool retail stores and pop-up art & craft fairs. I have learned, however, that my budget doesn’t always permit me to take full advantage of these, which is itself is a source of stress!

Recently, I found that I am in need of more. And by more, I mean less. And what I have discovered is an amazing, and free resource which also happens to be vastly more effective at reducing my stress and helping me to regenerate. My friend, and Father of our National Parks, John Muir, was on to something when he suggested I break away and spend some time in the woods. OK, he isn’t really my friend, and he didn’t really give me any advice, but only because I was born about 100 years too late. I’m sure we would have been great friends though, as he was a genius engineer, a talented writer and naturalist, and not to mention, had an amazing beard. Oh, and he just happened to recommend to President Roosevelt (Teddy), a proposal to preserve our natural resources which eventually led to the creation of our National Parks.

And he was right, the best way I’ve found to “wash my spirit clean,” is to spend time in wilderness. Doing this on a regular basis allows me to continue to function normally outside of the woods. Seriously. You know how that one friend is at 11:00am when they haven’t had any coffee? That’s me without trees. It can get ugly. So if you’re anything like me, and you are looking for a way to recharge without spending money to do so, take a hike. Literally. Right in our backyard is a number of beautiful Local and State Parks, and even a National Park, each as unique as the next. If you’re looking for a place to get started, here is a list of my 5 favorite hikes in the Akron area with some of the things I like best about each one.

1. Salt Run at Kendall Lake, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

I feel as though the parks are like children; as a parent, you really shouldn’t have a favorite. But let’s face it, you do. And Salt Run is mine. It’s incredibly beautiful year-round and is perfectly set in the Cuyahoga Valley to be whatever it is that you need it to be. The Salt Run trail itself is about 3 miles long, but it can be combined with the Kendall Lake, Kendall Hills and Cross Country trails to make a more than 8 mile hike. It is filled with hills and valleys and great foot bridges and stairs. For these reasons, it’s considered moderate, and is my go-to for a fitness hike. You’ll likely see dear, blue jays, a variety of Monarchs and other butterflies, and if you are lucky, you may even see a Pileated Woodpecker or two among the moss-covered trees. This loop-trail can be easily accessed by several different trailheads and is home to the Winter Sports complex where skis and snowshoes can be rented for your cross-country trek.

2. Kendall Ledges/Octagon Trail, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Also in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley is the Kendall Ledges trail. It’s a relatively easy 2 mile loop that is probably the most visually rewarding trail in the Valley. It can be combined with the Octagon Trail to increase it in length and difficulty. This hike will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery in NEOH. You’ll wind through 300 million year-old, moss-covered boulders, groves of eastern hemlocks, and find your way to a vista overlooking the Valley. Wild mushrooms, butterflies, and birds are plentiful, you’ll want to take a camera, and your time on this hike.

3. Buckeye Trail – Pinelane to Boston Mills Road, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

This trail comes in at a little over 4 miles, and I like to take it out and back, starting at Pinelane. This is a moderate-to-difficult hike. Be prepared to cross a stream at the bottom of the first hill, wool socks and waterproof boots are a best bet for a comfortable hike. You’ll soon find yourself looking up at what I lovingly refer to as the grand staircase. This is a relatively tough elevation change, but the most daunting of the trek. And your lungs will quickly forgive you as you take in the views of the rest of the journey. This portion of the Buckeye Trail winds through groves of fragrant pines, and is home to a variety of native oaks, hickory, and beech trees. This hike is my favorite winter hike, and especially so after the sun has set. Reflecting off of the snow, the moon will set the forest alight, making headlamps entirely unnecessary.

4. Hampton Hills Metro Park – Adams Run/Spring Hollow

These two trails are rated difficult, and can be combined to make a 4.8 mile loop. Hampton Hills boasts the most dense, earthy-smelling forest of moss-covered trees, ferns, and groves of white pines. The trail is rough in spots and there are several footbridges and stairways have been built to ease the way. Spring Hollow trail travels along the crooked run, and connects with Adams Run*. The trek up Adams Run is rewarded with a view from the “Top of the World”. Here you will see a meadow filled with beautiful wild flowers, eastern blue birds, and may even spot the nest of a Heron. (Adams Run is currently closed for repairs to tremendous damage suffered during the storms in May 2014).

5. Quail Hollow State Park 


This is by far the easiest of the hikes listed here, and the closest to my heart. Having grown up nearby, I have spent countless hours in and among the trees of this small but beautiful State Park. The trails here are referred to not by name, but by type and are vastly different from one to the next. Travel on footbridges through the wetlands and Peat Bog trail. Take time to meander through the dense and fragrant coniferous trail and deciduous trails. You’ll see a variety of ferns and wildflowers, several species of birds and ducks and dear. Hike in the evening, you may even hear the call of the resident Barred Owl. Plan to spend some time walking through the beautiful flower and herb garden, and pay a visit to the birds of prey housed by the park’s naturalist for rehabilitation.


Thanks, Jenny for contributing! If you like what you see, you can follow Jenny's adventures on Instagram.

Interested in guest blogging for Akron Empire? It's really easy! Just email us at with the subject line "I wanna WRITE" and tell us your idea. We'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Akron Empire Favorites 2014: VOTE NOW

After more than two years of writing about our favorite places, restaurants, organizations, bands, and events,  Akron Empire wants to hear from YOU!  We are polling our readers for their greater-Akron favorites--for a limited time--and then, this Fall we will roll out the results.  We're motivated to do this for two reasons.  We'd really like to include our readers more in what goes into Akron Empire.  And, we'd like to give back a little more to those we write about.  We've got no plans to hand out fancy awards or host a gala ceremony.  Hopefully, the winners will be honored and will take pride in being selected an Akron Empire Favorite in 2014.  Okay--there are three reasons we're doing this--it also gives Brit and Joanna a strong suggestion for upcoming reviews and blog posts!  We hope you have as much fun voting as we did when we came up with these categories.

We welcome your participation.  Please vote only once--but we encourage you to get your friends to vote as well.  And, please--don't vote for national chains or out-of-towners.  Akron Empire and this poll are only about supporting greater-Akron efforts.  Voting ends MONDAY SEPTEMBER 1st, 2014 at 11:59PM(ET).  So have at it:

Sorry!  Voting has since ended.  Thank you to everyone who participated.