Meet Theresa Bembnister, New Associate Curator at the Akron Art Museum

by Theresa Bembnister, Associate Curator

When I think back on my first month in Akron, one word comes to mind: snow.

André Kertész, February 6, 1977

André Kertész, February 6, 1977, 1977; gelatin silver print; 10 in. x 8 in.; Purchased with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and Mr. and Mrs. C. Blake McDowell, Jr.

OK, I’m kidding. Sort of.

It’s been six years since I last lived in Northeast Ohio. In 2009 I left for an internship in New York after graduating with an MA in art history and museum studies from Case Western Reserve University. Last month I left Manhattan, Kansas, where I worked as associate curator at Kansas State University’s Beach Museum of Art, to fill the position of associate curator at the Akron Art Museum. In those six years I’d forgotten how harsh the weather here can be.

But winter in Northeast Ohio is filled with anticipation. As I walk and drive around Akron, with the sidewalks, roads, tree branches and buildings covered with snow, slush and ice, I can’t help but look forward to spring and the changes that come with it. What will the melting snow reveal? How will the city look and feel when the grass is green, the trees have leaves, and more and more residents venture outside?

Jeannetter Klute, Apple Blossom, c.1950

Jeannette Klute, Apple Blossom, c.1950; dye transfer print; 19 3/16 in. x 14 15/16 in.; Gift of George Stephanopoulos

Just as I eagerly await experiencing Akron after the temperatures rise and the snow subsides, I’m excited to get to know the museum’s collection and its audiences. Delving into the library’s artist files and catalogs to conduct research for the museum’s recent acquisitions meeting has given me the opportunity to gain knowledge of the collection. I’m eager to see upcoming exhibitions like Staged and Proof which will highlight some of the excellent photographs in the collection that have not been on view recently, as well as introduce audiences to exciting new acquisitions. I’ve also begun to familiarize myself with artists and cultural institutions in Akron and the region by attending gallery openings, viewing exhibitions and conducting studio visits. I’m impressed by what I’ve seen so far.

I’m also impressed by Akronites’ sense of ownership in their museum. I’ve been blown away by the positive responses I’ve received from people when I’ve told them I work at the Akron Art Museum—from the cable guy installing my internet service to the clerk setting up my bank account. They shared memories of past exhibitions and the summertime concert series Downtown at Dusk. The turnout for the Inside|Out kick-off meeting demonstrates that community members are invested in partnering with the museum to improve the quality of life in their city. I can’t wait to see reproductions of work in the museum’s collection while walking in my neighborhood this fall.

Dwight Tryon, The New Moon, 1921

Dwight Tryon, The New Moon, 1921; oil on panel; 20 in. x 30 in.; Bequest of Edwin C. Shaw

I’m filled with anticipation for all that the museum, the city and the region have to offer as the weeks go by. I look forward to developing a deeper understanding of how I can serve the collection, museum audiences and the surrounding community through my curatorial practice. I’m glad to be here in Akron.

Beauty Reigns title wall and installation view. Photo by Chris Rutan Photography

Immerse Yourself in Beauty Reigns

by Gina Thomas McGee, Associate Educator

How do you experience an art exhibition? You look, of course. You enter the galleries and spend time taking in the colors, textures, and lines of the works in front of you. Maybe you even read the label. During the Beauty Reigns exhibition, the museum invites you to take your experience a step further, and we’ve come up with some tools to help you do just that.

Beauty Reigns Gallery Guide Designed by Micah Kraus

Beauty Reigns Gallery Guide Designed by Micah Kraus

First, you can pick up a copy of the gallery guide as you stroll through the exhibition. This guide (a work of art in itself!) will let you in on the mysteries of the artistic process. The sketchbook-like booklet was created by local designer, artist, and educator Micah Kraus. He was inspired by the artwork in the exhibition and the aesthetic of Field Notes notebooks. The guide looks like an artist’s sketchbook and it can become one, as there are blank pages in the back dedicated to your personal sketches and doodles.

Beauty Reigns Gallery Guide Designed by Micah Kraus

Beauty Reigns Gallery Guide Designed by Micah Kraus

Beauty Reigns Gallery Guide Designed by Micah Kraus

Beauty Reigns Gallery Guide Designed by Micah Kraus

As you finish looking at the exhibition and reading your gallery guide, you’ll be directed to a studio that has been constructed just outside of the gallery doors, in what we call the “video box”. Here, you’ll find a wealth of materials that will allow you to try out the techniques and processes you saw on display in the galleries. Continuing the theme of working with local artists, the studio includes an instructional film with original music and animation by Akron Art Museum staff member Gabe Schray, whose talents go far beyond his work in the museum’s External Affairs department.

Jerry and Patsy Shaw Video Box Beauty Reigns video created by Gabe Schray. Photo by Chris Rutan Photography

Jerry and Patsy Shaw Video Box. Beauty Reigns video created by Gabe Schray. Photo by Chris Rutan Photography

Finally, you can take a walk through an artwork. Literally. The museum commissioned local artist Jessica Lofthus to create a large-scale interactive artwork for the lobby inspired by Beauty Reigns. The piece is a walkable labyrinth that takes cues from the patterns, textures, and shapes found in the exhibition. Walking the labyrinth will add another dimension to your museum experience as you physically wind through the curves and turns of Lofthus’ design.

Akron Carpet Labyrinth designed and assembled by Jessica Lofthus with materials provided by Shaw Contract Group

Akron Carpet Labyrinth designed and assembled by Jessica Lofthus with materials provided by Shaw Contract Group

Akron Carpet Labyrinth designed and assembled by Jessica Lofthus with materials provided by Shaw Contract Group, photo by Chris Rutan Photography

Akron Carpet Labyrinth designed and assembled by Jessica Lofthus with materials provided by Shaw Contract Group, photo by Chris Rutan Photography

So, visit the museum. Look. Make. Create. Feel. Take in the exhibition with all of your senses. It promises to be a Beauty-full experience.

2014 Highlights

By Mark Masuoka, Executive Director and CEO

2014 has been a year in which we sought to connect the energy that drives great art to that which drives our great city: the energy of ideas. In every exhibition, program, event, and conversation, we strove to stimulate ideas and encouraged everyone to look at what they already do in a new light, and to recognize the ways in which we all Live Creative. What follows is a brief recounting of what we did to Live Creative, to reach out to our community and to initiate a new civic presence that will revitalize the cultural health and wellness of Akron. Thank you for being a part of the Akron Art Museum in 2014; join us for all that we will do in 2015.

Jamie Burmeister’s Message Matters began a yearlong love affair with Akron. The project’s blinking lights were switched on in the east stairwell of the art museum’s 1899 building on February 14, 2014, sending out the Morse code message LUV U to the community.

La Wilson, Retrospective

La Wilson, Retrospective, 2004–2006, assemblage, 34.875 x 46.25 x 9.125 in

La Wilson: Objects Transformed  was the backdrop for the artist’s 90th birthday and a mini retrospective that assembled works from the art museum’s collection and from private collections throughout Northeast Ohio.  The works in the exhibition spanned her fifty-plus year career and brought together her family, friends and fans to celebrate her art and her life.

Tony Feher’s Buoy brought renewed attention to the museum’s world-class architecture and begged the question, What the heck is that red thing hanging from the museum’s roof?

Édouard Boubat, Lella, Bretagne, 1948,

Édouard Boubat, Lella, Bretagne, 1948, 1948 silver gelatin print, 13.375 x 9.625 in., Exhibited in Invitation to Stare: Photographic Portraits, Feb. 1 – June 1, 2014

Invitation to Stare was also an invitation to share the museum’s renowned photography collection.  The exhibition highlighted recent acquisitions and the museum’s long-standing commitment to photo portraiture that deserved a long hard look.

Installation view, Butch Anthony: Vita Post Mortem, Akron Art Museum 2014

Installation view, Butch Anthony: Vita Post Mortum, Akron Art Museum 2014

Butch Anthony: Vita Post Mortum featured the unconventional mixed media works that revealed the inner life of an unlikely art star.

Community Conversations: Connecting: Arts and Community, May 2014, Akron Art Museum

Community Conversations: Connecting: Arts and Community, May 2014, Akron Art Museum

Community Conversations became the art museum’s rallying cry and provided an opportunity for the art museum to seek public opinion. The conversations also allowed us to explore the nontraditional role of community facilitator and social organizer in an effort to better understand what is uniquely Akron.

Installation view, Diana al-Hadid, Nolli's Orders, steel, polymer gypsum, wood, foam, and paint, 156 x 264 x 228 in., Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, ©Diana al-Hadid, photo: Joe Levack

Installation view, Diana al-Hadid, Nolli’s Orders, steel, polymer gypsum, wood, foam, and paint, 156 x 264 x 228 in., Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, ©Diana al-Hadid, photo: Joe Levack

Diana Al-Hadid: Nolli’s Orders created a new focal point for visitors as they entered the museum’s Sandra L. and Dennis B. Haslinger Family Foundation Galleries. The room-sized sculpture proposed a new form and function for the gallery and offered a memorable art experience.

Cover images the 2014 issues of VIEW magazine

Cover images the 2014 issues of VIEW magazine

VIEW Magazine underwent a cover-to-cover overhaul, aesthetically revitalizing its look, feel and flow through its new design that connects the art museum’s online and digital experience with its seasonal print publication.

Installation view, Trenton Doyle Hancock: Skin and Bones, 20 Years of Drawing, photo: Joe Levack; Trenton Doyle Hancock installing Skin and Bones, photo: Akron Art Museum

Installation view, Trenton Doyle Hancock: Skin and Bones, 20 Years of Drawing, photo: Joe Levack; Trenton Doyle Hancock installing Skin and Bones, photo: Akron Art Museum

Trenton Doyle Hancock: Twenty Years of Drawings exhibition began with a two-week installation process that handed over the museum to Trenton to continue his creative process by re-contextualizing his work by drawing, writing and painting directly on the walls of the art museum.

Live Creative began as a way to brand the art museum’s education program and quickly grew into the art museum’s current mantra. We are not just asking people to be creative, but to find ways every day to live creative. It’s more than just a catchy tagline; it is a way of life. #LiveCreative

Inside|Out Akron installed a high quality reproduction of Raphael Gleitsmann's Winter Evening, c.1932 in downtown Akron, near the spot featured in the point of view in the painting.

Inside|Out Akron installed a high quality reproduction of Raphael Gleitsmann’s Winter Evening, c.1932 in downtown Akron, near the spot featured in the point of view in the painting.

Inside | Out brought Raphael Gleitsmann’s painting Winter Evening out of the art museum’s McDowell gallery and into the community.  Perfectly installed in downtown Akron at the site of its inspiration, the painting brings to light what Akron was in 1932 and what it can be in the future. #InsideOutAkron will bring more art from the art museum collection into Akron neighborhoods in 2015.

Director’s Holiday Message

Raphael Gleitsmann, Winter Evening, c1932

At the Akron Art Museum, we are reflecting on the people who have touched our lives, the accomplishments of 2014 and the excitement we have for 2015 and beyond. We could not have been successful without you. Thank you for continuing to engage in the ongoing conversation with us about the vital role the museum can play in the cultural health and wellness of the city. We believe that the museum can be the catalyst for positive cultural, social and economic change, and with your input we will continue to create opportunities in the community for meaningful, quality art experiences. Art is for everyone. Ideas are for everyone, and whether you are a high-frequency culture seeker or an occasional visitor, the Akron Art Museum can enrich your life and imagination, and in return enrich ours.

On behalf of the Akron Art Museum, I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and a creative New Year.

Mark Masuoka, Executive Director and CEO

Take a Journey to the Past with Inside|Out

Inside | Out Akron Logo

By Roza Maille, Inside|Out Project Coordinator

Picture this: You’re walking down the street and then suddenly…whoa!  Is that the painting I saw at the Akron Art Museum last week?  How did it get out here?

Don’t worry.  It’s not the real painting, but a reproduction so realistic it’ll make you do a double take.  That is just one of the ways the Akron Art Museum will engage the community with its new public project, Inside|Out.

Raphael Gleitsmann, Winter Evening, c1932

Raphael Gleitsmann, Winter Evening, c. 1932, Oil on fiberboard, 39 x 44 in., Collection of the Akron Art Museum, Gift of Joseph M. Erdelac. Photo courtesy of the Akron Art Museum.

We are so excited about this project that we decided to give the city a preview of what’s to come!  We have installed a framed reproduction of Raphael Gleitsmann’s painting “Winter Evening” at an outside location across from the historic Akron Civic Theatre. It will be on view from December through February, accompanying other great downtown winter events such as First Night and ice skating at Lock 3. We would love to see the residents of Akron interact with the art, so we are encouraging visitors to take pictures in front of the new installation and post them on social media using the hashtag #insideoutakron.

Photo of the reproduction of Raphael Gleitsmann's painting "Winter Evening" taken after it was installed in downtown Akron.

Photo taken just after the installation on Dec. 1

“Winter Evening” is a great piece of Akron history! Gleitsmann lived in Akron for most of his life and painted this lively scene of downtown Akron in the early 1930s. It’s hard to tell from the seemingly bustling atmosphere but it was painted during the Great Depression when 60% of Akron residents were unemployed.

The image is positioned so the viewer can get a modern-day perspective from the artist’s vantage point.  Some of the buildings depicted in the painting are still standing today, most notably the city’s first skyscraper, now called the FirstMerit Tower.

The FirstMerit tower, circa 1950s.

Photo from summitmemory.org – created by Howard Studios (Cleveland, Ohio), 1950s

But wait, there’s more!  Inside|Out is a two-year project, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and is set to officially launch in the spring of 2015.  The Akron Art Museum will embark on this community outreach project by taking 30 high-quality reproductions of artwork from the museum’s collection and placing them in the streets and parks of the city of Akron and surrounding areas.

Knight Foundation Logo

About ten framed images will be placed in each of the six individual communities that are being targeted for next year. There are two, three-month installations set for each year: three communities for spring/summer and three different communities for summer/fall.  For the second year of the project, we will extend our reach by adding ten more images and two more communities, installing 40 reproductions in eight communities, total.

The images will often be clustered within bicycling or walking distance, to enable residents to discover art in unexpected places. The communities in which they are placed will be encouraged to take ownership of the art in their neighborhoods by creating activities and events around these temporary exhibitions.  All of the art displayed in the streets will be on view at the museum so residents will be able to visit the “real” artwork.

Are you interested in learning more about Inside|Out?  Please attend the community meeting at the Akron Art Museum on Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.  The meeting is free and open to the public.  Museum admission is FREE every Thursday.  Please email the project coordinator, Roza Maille at rmaille@akronartmuseum.org if you plan on attending.

PARDONING A TURKEY

images
By Mark Masuoka, Executive Director and CEO

The tradition of our government officials pardoning a turkey during the Thanksgiving holiday is a symbolic act of forgiveness by allowing one lucky turkey the chance to see another day. It may not be the most profound reflection of a holiday created to give thanks, but in many ways it suggests that in order to be truly thankful, we must first understand what it means to give.   The Akron Art Museum is thankful for our family of supporters because of what they give to the museum, and even more so, we are thankful for what is allows us to give back to our community.

Over the past year, the museum has provided hundreds families and kids the opportunity to participate in free education programs and gallery admission as a result of support provided by our generous museum sponsors. FREE THURSDAYS at the Akron Art Museum is a substantial gift  to the community and a successful initiative that makes it possible for everyone to have a quality art experience.

In order for the museum to provide these programs and art experiences, it takes a highly dedicated staff that gives their time, energy and creativity far beyond the call of duty. I AM THANKFUL to have the privileged to work with a group of highly creative individuals that understand the value of giving back to our community and helping everyone to not just be creative, but to LIVE CREATIVE.

Thank you for your support and please join me in celebrating our cultural community and thanking those who have dedicated their lives to enrich the lives of others.

A Look Back Into the Archives: Folk Art

By Mandy Tomasik, KSU library and information science practicum student

If you haven’t seen the new Butch Anthony: Vita Post Mortum exhibition yet, you really should. It’s phenomenal, and actually only the latest in a long line of folk, outsider and self-taught artist exhibitions here at the Akron Art Museum.

“But wait,” you say. “Doesn’t the Akron Art Museum have a modern and contemporary focus? What’s with the folk art?” I think Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. says it best: “American folk art both is and has been very much at home with modern art. Serious searching artists of the 20th Century, forced for various reasons to alienate themselves from academic art, or dissatisfied with the rise and fall of the experiments and “movements” of modern art, have been attracted to and strongly influenced by folk art in a search for re-appraisal and basic definitions of expressions and media.” (qtd. in Six Naives: Ashby, Borkowski, Fassanella, Nathaniel, Palladino, Tolson exhibition catalog, 1973, Akron Art Museum Archives)

Here’s Mary Borkowski, part of the December 1973-January 1974 Six Naives exhibition.

Mary Borkowski, from Six Naives: Ashby, Borkowski, Fassanella, Nathaniel, Palladino, Tolson exhibition catalog, 1973, Akron Art Museum Archives

Mary Borkowski, from Six Naives: Ashby, Borkowski, Fassanella, Nathaniel, Palladino, Tolson exhibition catalog, 1973, Akron Art Museum Archives

Just hanging with the cat, the picture of mid-century domesticity. But then in 1965, she began making embroidered thread pictures on felt or velvet backgrounds. These surreal images exude a mood of “melancholy and muted terror” (Six Naives: Ashby, Borkowski, Fassanella, Nathaniel, Palladino, Tolson exhibition catalog, 1973, Akron Art Museum Archives) that one wouldn’t possibly expect to come from that sweet cat lady.

The Whip and A Man’s A Man, from Six Naives: Ashby, Borkowski, Fassanella, Nathaniel, Palladino, Tolson exhibition catalog, 1973, Akron Art Museum Archives

The Whip and A Man’s A Man, from Six Naives: Ashby, Borkowski, Fassanella, Nathaniel, Palladino, Tolson exhibition catalog, 1973, Akron Art Museum Archives

A snake-man whipping a dog-man and a dapper gentleman in his underwear. And that’s what I think is so interesting about folk artists. Viewing their work offers glimpses into seemingly intense personal worlds that are often surprising, refreshing and even unsettling. So on that note, definitely check out Butch Anthony: Vita Post Mortum in the Corbin Gallery through January 25, 2015. If you stop by the museum library as well, you can even make your own skeletonized portrait à la Butch Anthony to go up on display!