None of them are Don Drumm (not that there’s anything wrong with that)
by Megan Combs & Bronlynn Thurman
Akron is full of artists doing big things and while any number of them could be featured here, we’ve picked eight artists who have consistently put a smile on our faces. Some are better known around the country than they are here because they’ve been worth watching for years. Regardless, if you aren’t already keeping an eye on them, you better get to it in 2016.
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Based in Akron but national in scope, Andy Taray’s company, the Social Dept., clothes proud locals from San Fran to the North Coast down to Atlanta. But he saves his best (we think) for home with killer design work for the CVNP, Crafty Mart, Square Records, The Nightlight, Mr. Zub’s and The Matinee, plus some incredible Akron-proud shirts available at thesocialdept.com. Dude is good, but that makes sense. He was an art director for MTV and has taught at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. He’s even designed books, including the “Dictionary of Sarcasm.” His work for Chip Taylor’s album, “Yonkers, NY,” even led to a 2010 Grammy nomination for Best Album Packaging. Learn more about Andy at OhioBoy.com.
With a style described as “Chillbilly” by humorist David Sedaris, designer Charles Wagers creates commercial art for clients of all kind. He pulls from old printing techniques to create stunning posters and has been featured in CMYK Magazine, Lomography, Print Magazine and more. In addition to design and illustration, Wagers shoots film photography. View more of his work on his Instagram at @charliewagers or on his website at charliewagers.com.
We’re sure you’ve admired the soothing glow of the new Angel Falls coffee shop sign. It was created by Akron native Dominic Falcione, owner of Rubber City Fab. Falcione has big plans for his fabrication shop on Water Street. He wants other metal sculptors to join him to create a collaborative workspace where creators can share tools and ideas. Upstairs, he wants graphic designers to share the office space so that Rubber City Fab becomes more of the name of the building rather than a company of one. Falcione’s work can be found at the Bit Factory and all around Akron in sneaky, colorful places. Check out his work at his company’s website rubbercityfab.com
Those who have visited The Mustard Seed Cafe in Montrose or come across the massive patchwork carpet in the lobby of the Akron Art Museum during their “Beauty Reigns” exhibition have already been introduced to Jessica Lofthus’ work. Raised around Southwestern art and graffiti art, Lofthus explodes cultural and spiritual evolution through bright colors and sharp lines. See more of her work on her website at jessicalofthus.com.
She’s been a contributor to The Devil Strip since the beginning, but Shane Wynn’s work can be found at The Akronist and in Akron Life, among others. About 1400 of her images were used to launch the AkronStock.com website, and some of her work was recently turned into postcards for Unbox Akron (fun fact: Shane actually came up with the name “Unbox Akron” because Chris Horne’s original name for it was awful). One big reason to keep watching Shane in 2016 is that a project she’s working on—a series of portraits of female community leaders in settings of underused public spaces—is a finalist for the Knight Foundation’s Akron Art Challenge Grant. You can see more of her work at shanewynn.com.
Commercial Photographer Tim Fitzwater is everywhere. No, seriously, he’s everywhere. Whether it be at the monthly Akron Bike Party rides, Mighty Soul Night, or Akron2Akron walks, Fitzwater is always ready with his camera. He runs a blog called ZipperCityBlog where he features all of the events he attends. When he’s not doing on location or studio shoots for clients, he’s out photographing landscapes and selling the prints. Check out his work on his website at fitzwater-photography.com.
Woodrow Nash left Akron when he was young because he said there just wasn’t an art scene. But now he’s back and he’s part of that scene with his African Nouveau sculptures and gallery on Copley Road in Akron. His colorful sculptures mimic African men and women painted in vibrant patterns and colors. None of his sculptures include eyes, which he said is his way of drawing his viewers in. His shop, The Rage Gallery, is located at 800 Copley Road, Akron. You can learn more about Nash and his gallery at theragegallery.com
Ed. note – Though she’d never include herself here, I personally believe our Arts Section Editor Bronlynn Thurman is another Akron artist to watch. On top of her duties with The Devil Strip and her day job as a marketing and events professional for the Akron-Summit Library, Bronlynn is an avid blogger, writer, comic strip creator, illustrator and photographer. Those who aren’t watching her in 2016 are going to miss out on something special. – Chris H.