From Rattles to Rothko: Art Babes at Akron Art Museum

by Dominic Caruso, Design, Marketing and Communications Coordinator

In a recent online article (“From pacifiers to Picassos: Museums cater to a younger clientele”) for the Washington Post, contributor Vicky Hallett wrote about the growing trend for museums of all kinds to offer programming and specially-designed spaces for children as young as newborns. While some institutions have been at it for some time (the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia has been running a baby-tour program since 2007), others have created programs relatively recently, for number of different reasons. I can tell you about the reasons behind the programs for babies and their caregivers at the Akron Art Museum.

Art Babes: Cardboard Crawl at the Akron Art Museum.

Art Babes: Cardboard Crawl at the Akron Art Museum.

Beyond school tours, which bring upwards of 7000 local students into the museum galleries every year, and programs for children ages 3 through 12, the endlessly creative, skilled educators at the Akron Art Museum have hosted kids from 0 – 18 months old and their grown-ups with a fun monthly program called Art Babes since September 2014. Art Babes is fun, for babies and caregivers. There’s no doubt that the program is beneficial for moms, dads, grandparents, nannies and other caregivers. They experience a fresh adventure with their little ones at each Art Babes. Visiting a space that is exciting, with innovative things to look at and do is exciting for grown-ups and babies alike. Many visitors have shared that witnessing the carefree, unscripted experiences of their children at the museum takes them back to their own childhood, helping them to unplug from the day’s frustrations, recharge and tune in to the present with their kids.

Helen Frankenthaler-inspired Art Babes at the Akron Art Museum

Helen Frankenthaler-inspired Art Babes at the Akron Art Museum.

The program also helps to build an important community between the adults, as they come to develop friendships, a greater sense of trust and a more global approach to their everyday lives. The personal connection with each other and with the museum keeps caregivers coming back. They become a part of the museum family. Like a family relationship, Art Babes has become a collaborative effort: parents are part of the process and what they bring to the group is valued.

You may wonder what the lasting effect a museum visit could have on a baby who likely won’t remember it.  We believe that art is for everyone, even babies—maybe especially babies—given that a child’s brain doubles in size during her/his first year. All that growth is the manifest destiny of being human. The kinds of experiences that caregivers can introduce into the course of that growth help to create their child’s means of processing information later on—the way that they, like all humans, creatively interact with the world. While they may not have a specific memory of Art Babes, babies are still building vital skills that will serve them later on.

Art Babes at the Akron Art Museum

Art Babes at the Akron Art Museum

Art Babes presents experiences for babies that engage a full range of sensory activities, including visually stimulating play with colors and shapes, as well as tactile play, sounds, tastes, even scents. It’s a welcoming environment for a unique learning (and bonding) experience between babies and their grown-ups.

Art Babes

Art Babes: Cardboard Crawl at the Akron Art Museum.

Art Babes is a component of several programs, which we refer to as Live Creative, for kids and families at the museum. These include: Tots Create, for 2 – 3 year-olds; Art Tales, for all ages; Creative Playdates, for 0 – 5 year olds; Kids Studio Classes, for 7 – 12 year olds; and Family Days. In the time that we’ve used Live Creative to refer to programming, we discovered that it grew beyond its use as a title or label. It became a reason for why we do what we do at the museum. To be human is to be creative, regardless of whether you are an artist, an auto mechanic, an accountant, or a months-old newborn. Art can help you to enhance the way you creatively interact with your world to live a more fulfilled life.

Live Creative at the Akron Art Museum.

Live Creative at the Akron Art Museum.

Check out upcoming programs, like Art Babes, for children and families at the Akron Art Museum.


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.

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.

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 – 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 if you plan on attending.

Farewell Buoy


By Mark Masuoka, Executive Director and CEO

In many ways, the de-installation of Tony Feher’s Buoy is a sign of things to come, not what has been accomplished.  Over the past four months, the Akron Art Museum has offered the public the opportunity to re-envision the architecture of the art museum and to re-contextualize our urban surroundings.  Tony Feher’s Buoy had become part of the public conscientiousness and spurred conversation about contemporary art, even for those who did not identify it as art, but an unexpected anomaly hanging from the art museum.  Buoy has become etched in our memory and will soon become part of the urban folklore of Akron.  Farewell Buoy.