by Noor Hindi
You’re an artist living in a refurbished shipping container for one month and getting paid through a fellowship to do your art all while surrounded by a community of creative individuals. It sounds like a dream, but could soon be your reality. Akron Soul Train is currently working on building an artist residency village in the Northside of Downtown Akron.
The village will include a residency space, galleries and studios, as well as a café and community area.
“We’re working with our community and neighborhoods to make this a really exciting hub,” says Amy Mothersbaugh, cofounder and creative conductor of Akron Soul Train.
A soft opening of the village will take place December 7 – 9. In the meantime, Akron Soul Train is currently supporting artists through fellowships and community engagement projects.
This year, photographer Stephen Tomasko, painter and installation artist Jenniffer Omaitz, collage and installation artist Michelle Droll and socially engaged artist Danny Volk have been chosen as 2017-18 fellows. They will work within their own studios while the village is being built.
Jenniffer teaches at The University of Akron Myers School of Art. She hopes to use the fellowship as a chance to focus solely on her work for the month of October.
“October is art month for me,” says Jenniffer. “The dishes may not be done on time every day, laundry may be a little behind, but for that month, the work comes first and my students come first.”
The project that Jenniffer has planned is called Other Geometries. Jenniffer will be completing 10 pieces of art and then gifting them to local artists. Local artists will then have an opportunity to respond to Jenniffer’s pieces and work collaboratively with her. By the end of October, Jenniffer wants to have 20 completed pieces.
“This will take me out of my comfort zone and allow me to know a new landscape,” says Jenniffer.
Stephen, another fellow, will be working on a project called I’m So Happy I’m Happy! during the month of September. He is planning on photographing people in the Muni Lot outside of the Cleveland Browns Stadium and showcasing their quirky personalities and lives.
He will be cheering for the Browns during the September 10 game between the Browns and the Steelers.
“Being a Browns fan is a mixed blessing but it is what it is,” says Stephen. “You grow up here, you take what you get.”
Aside from I’m So Happy I’m Happy, Stephen will also be working on a series of encaustic paintings featuring Ohio’s autumn trees and leaves. Encaustic paintings are hot wax paintings that involve using heated beeswax on applied surfaces such as wood.
Stephen is looking forward to teaching a workshop at Summit Artspace and giving a video demonstration with The Akronist.
“This fellowship is really about the support and me being part of yet another community,” says Stephen. “It’s about that sense of connection.”
Performance based artist and part time fellow Danny Volk will also be doing exciting projects for the community. As part of his Made Up with Danny Volk video series on YouTube, Danny will be creating three videos. His project series is oftentimes amusing and involves artists talking about their life while they do Danny’s makeup.
“Made Up gets a lot of air time because I think it involves other artists and it has a humorous element,” says Danny.
For his three videos, Danny will be interviewing fellow Jenniffer Omaitz, Akron Soul Train board member Arnold Tunstall and Akron Soul Train manager of development and programming Natalie Grieshammer.
Aside from the videos, Danny will be leading a three-part workshop about socially engaged art practices.
“Just to have the opportunity to do these workshops is really great,” says Danny.
Although Danny was born and raised in Akron, he’s been away for about 11 years. He’s excited to jump back into the community in a meaningful way.
“To come back with the open arms of Akron Soul Train is a really wonderful way for me to be in the community,” says Danny. “To feel embraced and have this space and platform to talk about socially engaged art practices is really just wonderful.”
Look out for projects and shows by Danny, Jenniffer, Stephen and Michelle in the next few months and be sure to check out Akron Soul Train at akronsoultrain.com.
Check out the artist’s work by visiting their websites at:
Attend Stephen’s Encaustic Painting Workshop at Summit Artspace on Wednesday, September 6 from 5:15-6:45. The event is free, but donations are encouraged and appreciated.
(cover photo courtesy of Akron Soul Train)
Noor Hindi is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry at The University of Akron. She is usually very nervous. Check her out at nervouspoodlepoetry.com.