Painting In Space

Polymer Clay works
by James Lehman

Tallmadge Express
Cuyahoga Falls News Press

Published February 16, 2003.
- Tallmadge Express -
- Cuyahogo News Press -

Government joins hands with art in downtown Akron office building
by Chris Miller
Regional Reporter

AKRON - In Summit County, art rubs elbows with government. And some of the featured artists are county employees with a flair for the visual. From the Ohio Building's fourth-floor lobby to County Executive James B. McCarthy's conference room, prominent local leaders and the general bill-paying public can peruse an assortment of artwork while in the downtown Akron building.

For the public, "Art Follows Industry" conveys the idea that local industry dictates prominent accessible materials for artists. The one-year installation officially opened Jan. 30 with a reception in the Ohio Building's fourth floor.

Jill Skapin, spokesperson for McCarthy, said she discussed the idea with Jessie Raynor, from the Akron Art Alliance, and Leanne Heppner of the Summit County Historical Society.

The idea for the exhibit arose from this question, said Skapin: "Isn't it funny how art follow industry?"

What resulted is an exhibit featuring old and new. "We gathered art and information from such a diverse group of people," she said.

Relics from the rubber industry like black and white photographs, gimmick rubber tire ash trays - made around 1915 - and a riveted rubber purse depict the area's famed rubber past. Clay and pottery also were prominent artistic components in Northeast Ohio's history.

According to the display, clay deposits found in Springfield and Tallmadge spawned a flourishing pottery industry. Pipes from E.H. Merrill are featured in the display, as well as a box of marbles from American Marble and Toy Manufacturing Co., an Akron toy manufacturer that thrived in the late 19th century and was reputed to be the largest U.S. toy manufacturer at one time.

The exhibit also features odd sculptures from noted local blacksmith Don Drumm featuring human faces on insectoid bodies. Following the trail of odd is a waffle iron made by Charles and Frank Menches, brothers who claimed to invent the hamburger after serving the patties at the Summit County Fair in the 1890s. The brothers also lay claim to inventing "Kandy Korn" and the rolled ice cream cone. Representing industry's future, vibrant polymer art from James Lehman add a myriad of bright colors to the display. At the Jan. 30 reception, McCarthy noted that rubber dolls made their debut around the time Akron was considered the rubber capital of the world. Drumm's work, he added, employs some of the same techniques used in early metal foundries.

McCarthy also mentioned a September 11 tribute amassed from the thumbprints of 555 county employees using red, white and blue acrylic paint on canvas. An extension to "Art Follows Industry," is another Ohio Building installation, "Room With a View," which adorns the walls of McCarthy's eight-floor conference room. The idea emerged when the "Art Follows Industry" exhibit was put together, Skapin added.

Painter and photographer Marianne Bender, whose photographs appear in the industry exhibit, gave McCarthy a watercolor painting, which he decided to hang in his conference room, said Skapin, who also helped procure work form three other local artists to join Bender's. Every four months, McCarthy's staff will post a new array of artwork. The work now in the conference room is displayed through the end of April. A collage from Dan Cuthbert makes an appearance in the current "Room With a View" installment.

Some of these contributing artists are county employees with an artistic flair. David Kish, whose experimental renditions of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan are on display, is the deputy director of communications for McCarthy; Skapin's daughter, Sarah, includes her avant garde work (such as "Legend of Nori") in the first quarter display. Each "Room With a View" installment will feature a county employee, said Skapin.

Other contributors to "Art Follows Industry" include Hale Farm and Village, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, the University of Akron and the Akron Art Museum. The Ohio Building is located at 175 S. Main St. in downtown Akron. ###