A Conversation with Please Touch Artist Jay Croft

Interview conducted by Alison Caplan, Akron Art Museum Director of Education

Inspired by skateboarding and D.I.Y. culture, Jay Croft’s illustrations have donned skateboard decks, his zine Street Canoe, and most recently, a mural at Chill Ice Cream.

Can you talk about being a parent and an artist?

It’s the best thing ever! I love it. My kids are always drawing and making stuff. We definitely encourage them to create. Our house is filled with all types of markers, paint, papers, and glue. I encourage them to help me with some of my projects too. It’s pretty cool that they are so receptive to it.

Jay Croft, Friends, digital rendering, 2016

Jay Croft, Friends, digital rendering, 2016

Do you bring your kids to the museum?

Yes, we bring our kids to the museum for sure. We try to bring our kids to everything that we do. We want them to experience everything that they can growing up. Going to an art museum is something that I didn’t experience until I was much older than they are now. Not that my parents wouldn’t do it. The opportunity never really presented itself. I think the world is way more kid friendly than when I was growing up.

We are always trying to come up with cool things to do with the kids and what better thing to do than go to the art museum.

Jay Croft, Friends, installation view in Please Touch 2017

How did you come up with the idea for this work?

The inspiration actually came from a puzzle that the kids own. I just wanted it to be as fun and hands on as possible. Plus, I always liked the idea of mashing things up and putting things where they might not actually belong.

Jay Croft, installation view, Please Touch 2017

Jay Croft, installation view, Please Touch 2017

How does/has DIY culture influence/d your artmaking?

Besides my grandpa, it’s the one thing that has pushed it the most. As a kid growing up in Ohio, skateboarding and listening to punk rock music was the one thing that made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself. Even though I probably didn’t understand it like I do now. I just couldn’t get enough of it. From looking at skateboard magazines, to the liner notes in punk rock records, it made me feel like I could do it too. It made me realize that there wasn’t much separating me from the people I was checking out. I have always tried to go against the grain. Not in a rebellious way, but in a way that I could make it my own. I never wanted to be like anyone else. Not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of being true to myself.

It seems like all of the artist in show have some connection to childhood games or picture books in their work. Do you have a favorite childhood game or book?

It’s funny, I don’t think I actually do have a favorite book as a child. But, I have always wanted to make my own kids book ever since I can remember. Maybe someday it will happen…

Jay Croft’s artwork is on view and accessible along with artwork by Erin Guido & John Paul Costello and Jordan Elise & Christopher Lees (Horrible Adorables) in Please Touch at the Akron Art Museum through July 16, 2017. Look for interviews with Erin Guido, John Paul Costello, Jordan Elise and Christopher Lees coming soon!

Please Touch shakes off all of the traditional museum-goer behavior and asks visitors to use their sense of touch to experience the exhibition.

For Please Touch, the museum commissioned a group of regional artists to create new works that actively engage audiences of all ages. Erin Guido creates brightly colored dynamic shape and text murals often found in surprising places, like abandoned buildings, offering friendly encouragement as they declare “come over all the time” or “hi.” Jordan Elise and Christopher Lees create mounted animal sculptures they call Horrible Adorables and design patterns for fabric and wallpaper, as well as plastic toys for Kid Robot. Inspired by skateboarding and D.I.Y. culture, Jay Croft’s illustrations have donned skateboard decks, his zine Street Canoe, and most recently, a mural at Chill Ice Cream in downtown Akron.

For Please Touch, each artist has created an interactive work that visitors can touch and manipulate as they make meaning of it in their own ways.

Please Touch is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by a generous gift from The Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation.


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.

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.

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.

Trains on the Brain

by Alison Caplan, Director of Education

Trains are on my brain this fall, from the sound of the historic steam engine chugging through the valley to the powerful black and white images by O. Winston link hanging in the museum’s Bidwell gallery.

My toddler’s obsession with the train table at our local library has led me to embrace amazing picture books like Steam Train Dream Train and Locomotive. Steam Train Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld is a great bedtime story featuring animals loading kid favorites, like ice cream, race cars and bouncy balls, onto a train that choo choos its way along a nighttime landscape. Caldecott award winner Locomotive by Brian Floca takes readers back 150 years to the introduction of the transcontinental railway. Trains Go by Steve Light offers a great alternative for art babes, showing the chunks and clunks of different train types in a refreshing and appropriate horizontal orientation.

Steam Train Dream TrainLocomotivesteam01._V374828783_trains go

The Magnetic Fields classic indie pop record The Charm of the Highway strip is one of my favorite road trip records and Baby I Was Born on a Train is getting some much needed reviving after recently being covered by the Arcade Fire.

Local native Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train is set in Memphis and revolves around a young Elvis obsessed Japanese couple who ride the train into town to pay homage to their favorite country stars. The film features the classic Elvis song and even a visit from the King himself, in ghost form.

There’s also Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, about two men who meet on a train, plot and swap murders. The crisscrossing train tracks are a major reoccurring symbol throughout the film.

Who doesn’t love a good PBS documentary? The American Experience: Riding the Rails explores the role of trains during the Great Depression and the development of hobo culture, which is outlined so knowingly by comedian John Hodgman in his book The Areas of My Expertise, which features many seriously delivered fake facts about hobos. In fact a fan of Hodgman’s took the PBS documentary and mashed it up with the audio version of Hodgman’s book. It’s pretty convincing. Hodgman will be at the Main Library as part of their Main Event Speaker Series on October 22.

O. Winston Link may have documented the last hurrah of train transportation, but Amtrack is aiming to infuse it with creativity by creating a writers in residency program. Who knows what kind of artwork locomotives will inspire in the future.

Looking for a local train fix? Hop on the steam train  Join us at the Akron Art Museum this Thursday, September 11 at 6:00 pm for a reading by Jane Ann Turzillo author of Murder and Mayhem on Ohio’s Rails and the film The Photographer, His Wife, Her Lover, which will screen at 6:30 pm.

How To: Bathtub Snow Graffiti

By Amanda Crowe, Assistant Educator

Follow-up to “Winter Wonderland” Playdate, Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

When ice storms block your children from going outside, you can still give them the opportunity to be spontaneous and creative with nature by bringing the outside in.

Snow.  One of the most elemental, memorable art mediums from your childhood.  Recreate those memories for your little ones by making your bathtub the canvas!  With easy clean up and minimal effort, your child can be the bathtub graffiti artist of your household.

Materials needed:

  • Large empty container for carrying snow
  • Spray bottles filled with water and various colors

Note: Dilute a few drops of food coloring or liquid watercolor into each bottle.  Crayola poster paints watered down will also work. Test surfaces for staining first before painting.

  • If spray bottles are unavailable, use old ketchup or mustard bottles, squeezable jelly containers, a turkey baster or ear and nose syringe
  • Bathtub full of snow
  • Apron and towels
  • Extras: Popsicle or craft sticks, marbles, toy people and animals, sand toys such as small buckets and shovels, stuff from the kitchen such as measuring spoons and rolling pins, essential oils such as lavender or peppermint, and, of course, glitter.
Bathtub Graffiti

Bathtub Snow Graffiti


For starters, I like to mix up three bottles of primary colors: red, yellow and blue.  That way, your child is not only creating, but learning about color mixing and combinations. The more colors, the better.  But even one bottle of colored “paint” will do.

For an educational yet playful experience, try lining up the bottles on the tub’s edge.  Refer to the spray bottles as your child’s “artist tools,” the colored water as the “color palette,” and the white snow as “your canvas.”

Now…start spraying!

Additional Idea Prompts:

Remember, you can adjust the spray nozzle for a lesson about lines – fat, thin, wiggly.  Or create a splatter effect and discuss street artists who use graffiti as a form of expression.  Use the toy animals to make painted animal tracks.  Arrange random toys to make a collage.  Hide items and take turns counting how many your child finds.  Spell words in the snow using magnetic letters or alphabet blocks.  Create a LEGO Arctic landscape. Once the fun starts, there are endless opportunities for spending meaningful time playing in the snow together.

If the snow is too cold for little hands, try an alternative:

Shaving cream and baking soda.  Stir equal amounts of each until the snow becomes a thick, mousse consistency.  This “snow” can also be combined with food coloring or watercolor paint.  Try fingerpainting with it on sturdy paper plates for a snowy masterpiece you can keep – as it will air dry and harden overnight.


Kids Studio: Lego Landscape
Saturday, February 15, 2014

Give your “mini figures” their own mini world by creating a diorama—an entire landscape in a box that you can carry with you.  The imaginative world you design may appear as a freeze frame in history or tell a story about the future, or both!  Build your dream-like diorama using a blend of mediums and materials, including: Lego bricks, acrylic paint, clay, plaster, found and recycled objects and wire.  Key sculptural works in the Museum’s collection as well as the current exhibition of artist Diana Al-Hadid’s “Nolli’s Orders” will be explored.

Studio class is 12-3 pm.  Cost per class $10/member child, $15/non-member child.  Registration is required. Ages 5-7. 

Story Time in the Galleries
Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Quilt, by Ann Jonas: A small African-American girl is overjoyed with the new patchwork quilt her parents have made. As she sleeps, it comes alive, turning into a fantastical dreamscape she must enter in order to find her beloved stuffed dog. Travel to the studio after the story and share stories with local quilters while you make your own “no-sew” story quilt.

No registration required.  

Story Time is 11:15 am – 12:15 pm on the third Thursday of each month, when the museum offers complimentary gallery admission to all visitors. No registration required.  ALL AGES welcome!

Family Day: Printmakingpalooza!
Saturday, February 22, 2014

Have you ever used a rubber stamp or peeled silly putty off newspaper?  If you answered yes, then you’ve created a print.  Experimenting with printmaking allows young artists to try out different techniques and to see cause and effect in action more dramatically than with simply painting or drawing. Your budding master printmaker will enjoy testing unusual mediums like Jell-O and shaving cream at our printmaking “buffet,” which includes: mono-printing on the tabletop, gyotaku, or Japanese fish rubbing, printing with wheels, mirror-image string prints, Styrofoam, bubble wrap, and muffin tin printing, and macaroni collagraphs.

12-4 pm. Admission is free for families. No registration required. ALL AGES welcome!

Lego Landscape

Surrealist Game: The Exquisite Corpse

By: Alison Caplan, Director of Education

Exquisite Corpse in action

The Surrealists didn’t have Apples to Apples or Pictionary in their day, but they did participate in parlor games that helped get their creative juices flowing.

In the 1920’s, surrealist artists played a game based on chance and accident called Exquisite Corpse. The goal of the game was to make a kind of collaborative collage using words or drawings. The name Exquisite Corpse is the result of an early game, where the finished sentence read “The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine.”

In the days leading up to the Real/Surreal opening, museum staffers decided to take a surreal lunch break and attempt some Exquisite Corpse drawings of our own. The game goes like this: one artist starts a drawing, then folds the paper to hide most of the image. The next artist continues the drawing based on the small part she can see. The drawing is passed along to other players until the fantastical, wacky, surprising image is complete.

What do you think of the results? We should probably keep our day jobs right?

Now  try your hand at an Exquisite Corpse drawing! Need inspiration? Check out the Real/Surreal exhibition and create your own collaborative drawing with museum visitors at the show.

One of the finished drawinsg.

One of the finished drawings.

How To: Plantable Art

Making plantable art.

Making plantable art.


Used paper

Warm water



Liquid water colors OR colored tissue paper (bleedable)

Flower seeds (small)

Plastic stitchery canvas


Plastic tracers and/or cookie cutters


1. Rip and tear pieces of paper, do not use scissors because the rough edges are necessary.

2. Place pieces of paper in a warm bucket of water. Once paper has been in the water for a few minutes, tear pieces into smaller shreds.

3. Add liquid water colors or bleedable tissue paper to the water/paper mixture.

4. Drain the water and fill blender half way with the paper mixture. Add one cup of water and blend on low speed. Paper pulp will be created!

5. Take the paper pulp out of the blender and add in flower seeds.

6. The paper pulp can then be molded to create a 3-D form or you can flatten the pulp out, forming it with cookie cutters or plastic tracers.

7. Allow pulp to dry. Then the shapes can be planted to grow flowers or sprouted in a ziplock bag.

Between ArtCamp@Dusk, Story Time, children’s art classes, workshops, tours, lectures and art, there is always something to do at the Akron Art Museum.

How To: Plastic Bag Fabric

Inspired by Untitled by Alvin Demar Loving Jr.

Making fabric out from plastic bags.

Making fabric out from plastic bags.


Plastic bags (variety of colors, patterns)
Parchment paper


Sewing machine


1. Collect plastic shopping bags. Look for interesting colors, patterns and designs.

2. Cut the plastic bags into shapes. Holding the bag taught makes it easier to cut.

3. Layer the cut pieces onto a larger shape of plastic bags. Create at least 6 layers but the more layers there are, the stronger the fabric will be.

4. Sandwich the layers between pieces of parchment paper.

5. Use a dry iron and press the layers together until they melt and fuse.


Make your fabric into a one-of-a-kind envelope with instructions at

Layout of fabric made from plastic bags,

Layout of fabric made from plastic bags.

Between ArtCamp@Dusk, Story Time, children’s art classes, workshops, tours, lectures and art, there is always something to do at the Akron Art Museum.


How To: Plastic Bottle Beads

Making plastic beads at the Akron Art Museum.

Making plastic beads at the Akron Art Museum.

Plastic bottles
Embossing heat guns
Permanent markers
Needle nose pliers (insulated)

String or wire

1. Collect and rinse plastic bottles. Try experimenting with different colored plastics.
2. Carefully cut the bottles into strips, varying the width of the strips will create different size beads.
3. Decorate the strips with permanent markers creating designs, patterns, or even writing a secret message.
4. Roll up the plastic strips and hold firmly with the pliers.
5. Heat the plastic with the heat gun and watch the plastic shrink and harden. When you are finished, let the bead rest on the pliers.

Showing off his plastic beads.

Showing off his plastic beads.

A whole bracelet of plastic beads!

A whole bracelet of plastic beads!


Between ArtCamp@Dusk, Story Time, children’s art classes, workshops, tours, lectures and art, there is always something to do at the Akron Art Museum.