by Randall Hatfield, staff writer

Pictured is the exterior side of the Artspace leading down South Summit Street. Summit Artspace is located in the heart of downtown Akron, and allows local artists to convene and display their work. Photo by Alyssa Cocchiola, associate editor.

OCTOBER 2021 – The afternoon of September 10th was a busy day for the Summit artspace. Multiple artists making chalk works were lined up on the sidewalk, as an audience watched them work under the Artspace’s large, colorful entrance. It was time for the Artspace’s most recent Artwalk, titled “Chalk Fest.”

The building contains galleries, studios, and shops for local artists to display their work. Several organizations are also headquartered there, such as the Summit Choral Society and The Devil Strip. The building often holds exhibitions in its galleries, showcasing the individual works of one or more artists. Exhibitions like these allow local artists to present the work to an audience who may not have heard of them otherwise.

In addition to the exhibitions, the Artspace’s ArtWalk is another good way for community members to meet local artists and discover their unique styles. ArtWalk is an afternoon event hosted every three months. During ArtWalk, the entire Artspace opens up, allowing guests to visit its galleries and studios. Many local artists are present at the event creating, displaying, or selling their work.

Each ArtWalk has its own theme, represented in some of the featured pieces at the ArtWalk. One example of a past theme was “mothers,” a celebration of maternity and parental care through art.

The first floor was a bustle of activity. Many of the space’s larger galleries could be found on this floor, and they were filled with many different types of artwork. The first floor also had a booth run by The Devil Strip, a newspaper focused on covering events in the Akron area. “The Devil Strip exists to help more people care more about Akron and all its residents,” states the newspaper on its website/.

At their booth, members of The Devil Strip staff sold promotional stickers and other merchandise, and dispensed the latest edition of their newspaper.

The Artspace’s second floor mixed the galleries of the first floor with a larger group of vendors. A DJ was set up at a table in the corner, playing music for all who would listen. More works on display peppered the room, around some artists’ booths.

One of the art booths present was that of P31 Art and Design, a local art company. Kyla Decatur, the company representative at the P31 booth, explained the story behind the company’s founding. “My mom – she’s the artist — she started painting around August of 2020,” she said. P31 became an official limited liability company (LLC) in March of 2021.

Decatur explained her mother’s artstyle, saying, “she likes to reach out to just anyone, mostly her artwork is about wishes, dreams, we have some that go for mothers [as well].” More information about P31 Art & Design can be found at their website, www.p31art.com.

Many of the rooms off the side of the main space also contained individual spaces and displays for other artists. In one gallery, local artists Abby Cipar and Kim Wengerd had set up their wares on a group of large tables.

Abby Cipar is a multimedia artist working out of Akron. Working out of their studio within the artspace, Cipar has created numerous paintings and sculptures based on their experience growing up queer, and their connection to nature.

They had been creating art all their life, but began seriously pursuing it their junior year of high school.  “If [my work] inspires anyone at all, it’s worth it,” Cipar stated.

Their website, https://sites.google.com/view/abbycipar/home, has more information on their art and exhibitions.

Another artist at the ArtWalk was Kim Wengerd, a designer and illustrator living and working in Akron. Her designs integrate simplicity and story through vibrant colors and contrasts. “I started making art for fun [when] I was a small child, but professionally, five years ago,” Wengerd said. “I like the idea of being a local artist, you know? Finding people in the community, seeing them over and over again, I just want to develop more relationships in the Akron community.”

Her work is displayed on her website, https://kimwengerd.com/. Wengerd is also a member of the Akron-based design collective Midwest Subset, a group of local artists dedicated to furthering their skills.

The Artspace’s third floor was the most densely-packed with vendors, featuring a number of smaller galleries around the venue. These galleries contained a wide variety of styles. Some contained intricately sculpted pottery, while others contained colorful abstract work. One gallery housed Christopher Hoot’s Simplexcities, geometric, layered images creating the impression of a bustling, transcendent city. The amount of art and booths made the third floor an activity hub for vendors and visitors alike.

In the building’s stairwell was one more open studio. Artist April Couch sat at the back of the room, surrounded by various zentangle wood carvings, plant pots, and knit designs. Couch had been creating art for as long as she could remember, but started making it professionally under the name Totally Tangled Creations in 2014. “My goal is to make art accessible to everyone, that’s why you will see my art on many different things; from a $3.50 card all the way up to a $5,000 piece,” she said.

“I want that little kid who comes in and they’re excited about seeing something. I want their parents to say ‘Oh yeah, that’s $3.50, you can buy that.’” Couch hopes to introduce art to children, and help grow their passion for it.

Outside the Artspace, many visitors lined up outside the food at the various food trucks parked outside. The chalk artists were still working diligently on their pieces. Despite the rain, remnants of the chalk pieces remain in front of the artspace, highlighting its artistic potential and the thriving culture of Akron.

The next Akron ArtWalk will take place Friday Dec. 10. Its theme is currently unknown. More info on ArtWalk can be found on the Summit Artspace’s website, https://www.summitartspace.org/akron-ArtWalk/.

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