Monday, October 19, 2015

smARTStudio in Akron

Profile with Jennifer Davis from smARTStudio in Akron
by Joanna Wilson 

I first met Jennifer Davis when she was hosting a workshop in conjunction with a Crafty Mart show a while back.  Eventually I signed up for one of her painting classes--I was a part of the Jeff Goldblum portrait painting group. 

I had never painted on canvas before, felt a little out of my element, and was a bit anxious. However, Jennifer walked me and the other participants through the experience and now I proudly hang the painting on my bedroom wall! Jennifer impressed me with her skill and ability to work with people.  And, I've already signed up for another painting class. I've reserved my spot at Hot Black Coffee: The Twin Peaks portrait painting pARTy which is Oct. 27th. 

Jennifer Davis is the owner/Visual Arts Educator at smARTStudio in Akron's Highland Square neighborhood. The studio's mission is to provide enriching and creative art experiences to artists of all ages in our community. She graciously answered a few of my questions for this profile. 

Hi Jennifer! Please describe your physical studio space for us.
smARTStudio is located in a converted space inside our carriage house. The studio is a wonderfully welcoming place to facilitate visual arts learning with small groups and private lessons. 

You used to be an art teacher--how did you come to open smARTStudio?
I'm still an art teacher, only in a different capacity!
I was employed in a public school district and left the position after five years. The underwhelming support for the arts was a huge disappointment and providing students with an enriching art experience became difficult and near impossible. Opening smARTStudio has always been a goal of mine, and is a perfect fit for my philosophy of art education. I see myself as a facilitator of visual arts learning and a guide. Art making should incorporate discovery, play, and a focus on the process-not necessarily on the product.

What inspires you?
I never stop learning! Inspiration is everywhere is you are willing to be inspired. I gather and collect ideas from museum visits, hiking in the parks, books, film, family, friends, and students!

Tell me a little about the workshops you have going on right now? 
smARTStudio has ongoing, curriculum based studio instruction for homeschool classes and after school lessons. 
I also provide art enrichment workshops in the community, which include "Hot Black Coffee: Twin Peaks Portrait Painting pARTy" at Musica on October 27. I will host a "Watercolor Cityscapes Class" November 7 at Summit Artspace in conjunction with Full Circle Exhibit. Two "Have a Murray Xmas (Bill Murray) Portrait Painting pARTies" will be offered by smARTStudio during the 7th Annual Crafty Mart at Summit Artspace and the Akron Art Museum. 

Keep an eye out for upcoming creative classes with smARTStudio at the Canton Museum of Art, Summit Artspace, and the Akron Art Museum.

But you offer open studio time too, right? Studio time for artists who don't need instruction--tell me about that.
The studio is also available for Open Studio times, a great option for artists who don't need instruction- they just need the space to focus on their craft. I have artists that prefer to use the space for a variety of reasons and I can offer flexible times at a reasonable rate. The studio also houses a kiln that artists can bring their clay work to be fired for a firing fee.

Thank you Jennifer. You're a wonderful asset to the arts & culture community in Akron :)

"Diane, mark my calendar for Oct. 27th."

There are a limited number of spaces still available for the smARTStudio workshops--including the Twin Peaks portrait pARTy.  I want to paint the Log Lady, or maybe agent Dale Cooper.  I don't know yet--I'm too excited to make up my mind.



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Givits Thrift and Recycle--Again

Givits Thrift and Recycle: Again in 2015
by Joanna Wilson

Givits in Hudson is still one of my favorite places.  Ever since my first visits in 2013--I wrote about those here--I like to drop by Givits as often as possible.  There's always something new and the owners are the nicest people!

Looking for a set of six drinking glasses that honor Apollo 12 and the 2nd moon landing?  Here ya go.

There's always time to look through the records.

Givits is better than a thrift store--it's a store for vintage items to find a second life.  One of the reasons I stopped by this past weekend was that I was looking for vintage men's neckties.  Sure enough, I found four that were better than I even imagined I'd find.  I was looking for neckties to wear to my upcoming book signing events and I found one with the local department store label 'Polsky's' and another with the label 'O'Neil's.'  My book is about the store histories of both Polsky's and O'Neil's--so these are perfect for me.  I couldn't be more pleased.

Are you an artist looking to paint on slate? Most of these pieces are already pre-drilled for holes to make your paintings easy to hang.

Givits is the perfect place for creative people because they stock pieces and parts of items that other  thrift stores won't bother with.  Want to replace a broken leg on a favorite table or chair?  You can find a reasonably priced vintage leg at Givits.  Looking for supplies for an art project?  There's inspiration around every corner.

A stack of old magazines. I saw vintage copies of Life Magazine, Look, and old Playboys.

What could you do with a dozen star-shaped glass candle holders?

A beautiful set of four glass kitchen canisters.

Stop by Givits and say 'hi.'  There's always something new to discover there. 

Givits Thrift and Recycle
Open: Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon 11am-4pm
5153 Darrow Rd. in Hudson
Facebook page link: Givits Thrift and Recycle

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fall Art Fair at the Gardener of Bath

Art Fair at the Gardener of Bath
by Brit Charek

This Sunday, the Gardener of Bath is hosting an Art Fair from 11am -6pm.

It's really more than an Art Fair. In addition to fine artists and makers selling their wares, there will be live bands (7 of them!!) and food trucks, making it a showcase for creativity in Akron.

Among food vendors who will be present are Zydeco Bystro and The Beachcomber trucks-- perfect for sampling local flavor!

"I feel like Akron is this weird creative hot spot, but there is so much 'distance' between making art and people who buy art, says organizer Heather Girves of the Gardener of Bath, "I would love to help close that gap and shine a spot light on shopping small and local."

She continues, "At this Art Fest people will be able to find some really great local treasures, anything from gourmet pork rinds and corn on the cob to hand crafted jewelry, locally made candles, and some fantastic vintage and reclaimed finds."

Check out the event page on Facebook for more details. See you there!

Monday, October 5, 2015

500 Plates

500 Plates
by Joanna Wilson

If you're active on social media, then you've probably been inundated with photos from yesterday's 500 Plates event. But that's sort of the point. The event on Sunday was one effort--among many--to extend the awareness and discussion about the upcoming closing of Akron's Innerbelt (Rt. 59) and re-imagine the space for the betterment of our city.

What was 500 Plates?  It was 500 Akron residents gathered together around one dining table to share a meal and a conversation about the future of our city's Innerbelt space. Ideas were shared and written down by discussion leaders at each table.

The 500 Plates project was the idea of Hunter Franks from the League of Creative Interventionists in San Francisco.  He worked with Akron's League including David Swirsky and the idea got funding from the Knight Foundation.  500 free tickets for the dining event were made publicly available and the event took place yesterday, Oct. 4th.  Yes, the meal took place on the Innerbelt itself!  What a weird and rare opportunity it was to enjoy a meal on a freeway!?  But it worked--and the weather was perfect! People from all of the 22 Akron neighborhoods came together to share their experiences and their vision for our future. What a gathering!

The video is by Amani Abraham from WAKR.

I heard early on that tickets were "sold out" soon after they were made available.  But a friend who had tickets urged me to get on the waitlist and I'm glad I did.  A week before the event, I was contacted about waitlist tickets and I got them!  I ended up sitting just three or four tables from the end--but it was worth it.  (If you can't tell from the photos--there were 63 dining tables lined end-to-end for seating down the middle of the Innerbelt to host 500 guests.) It was a spectacular event.

Dining on the Innerbelt?  Why not?

It was fun seeing friends seated throughout the length of the table.  Liz from Urban Eats lives downtown, and Roza from the Art Museum's Inside|Out program lives in Highland Square.

If you didn't attend 500 Plates, it's not too late to join the discussion about the future of the Innerbelt.  You can share your ideas on social media using the hashtag #500Plates or #AkronInnerbelt.  Or, you can share your ideas at

My plate has a Squash Casserole recipe from Larry in the Lane-Wooster neighborhood.
My friend Jeanne from North Hill found her seat just 2 tables from mine!

Everyone who came to 500 Plates also received a tote bag and a ceramic plate.  Each plate has a favorite recipe provided by someone from one of our Akron neighborhoods on it.  The custom plates were made by local artist Eva Kwong.  During the meal, we also enjoyed live music by The Admirables.

The Admirables sounded great!

And, Ace Epps from BMe Community and the Akron Urban League opened and closed our meal with two poems he wrote just for the event.  I bumped into Ace after the event--and he gave me permission to share the opening poem Food for Thought.  I think it captures the creative spirit of the 500 Plates event and the meaning behind it as well.  Thanks Ace!

"Food is the universal language that connects people
The rich and the poor; the plate sees us as equals

The central activity to all mankind
Over one meal we learn as we dine

Feeding on our differences creates common ground
Together we eat as new friendships are found

Instant rapport as relationships run the world
A cultural exchange for every man, woman, boy and girl

Fork hits the lips while the mouth sparks conversation
Sharing our experiences invokes celebration

Life without each other is like a meal with no food
While focusing on our different neighborhoods sets the mood

From Highland Square to Arlington and Summit Lake
People coming together with hopes to collaberate

Food can look beautiful, taste exquisite and smell great
As we build better communities starting with 500 plates."

Still to come are these markers created by Dominic Falcione of Rubber City Fab.  One will be placed in each of our neighborhoods to continue the dialogue about 500 Plates and our city's future together.  Dominic told me that he hopes they'll be up by the time it snows.  So that shouldn't be too far off, I'm guessing!