Akron mayor’s office as art gallery: How ‘rotating arts’ gets its start

Artists Megan Shane and Jessica Lofthus are the first to be featured in revolving art installation in the mayor’s office

Words by Noor Hindi; photos by Shane Wynn

If you ask artist Jessica Lofthus to tell you about her childhood, she’ll boldly reply, “Metal shops, machines, guns, racing motorcycles, and making stuff.” It’s not much different for best friend Megan Shane.

On Feb. 8, Jessica and Megan finished their art installation at the Akron Mayor’s Office. Both of them are the first to install their pieces as part of a new revolving art exhibit.

Despite their styles differing aesthetically, Megan’s steel work alongside Jessica’s vibrant paintings work together in unique ways, which is one of the many reasons the two frequently show with each other.

“Our pieces tend to complement each other rather than compete with each other,” says Megan.

Alongside photographer Shane Wynn, I had the opportunity to meet with Jessica and Megan as they were hanging up their pieces. I quickly noticed their humorous, yet thoughtful approach to work.

“We’re very critical of each other’s work, but lovingly so,” says Jessica.

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After hanging up Megan’s “Tree of Life” piece, which is made of 100 percent local, recycled stainless steel, Jessica did her “Get ‘er done” dance while remarking on their long-term friendship and the fact that they “share a brain.”

With both their fathers being welders, both women had interesting childhoods that have contributed to their strong artistic abilities.

“Most young ladies don’t grow up in metal shops. [And] when your father is a fabricator and designer, if [a piece] is not structurally sound, if it’s not aesthetically perfect, it’s not done,” says Jessica. “This is partly why I think we’re different than a lot of artists because we grew up in fabrication, and in many ways, neither of us ever consider a piece done because we secretly think our fathers are always watching.”

While Shane followed me around and took photos of my cat shirt, I marveled at the three-foot “Tree of Life” as Megan described her style.

“I basically get to paint with light using grades of texture,” says Megan.

Alongside Megan’s “Tree of Life” sit two of Jessica’s pieces, which feature vividly painted wood feathers that were meticulously cut out and feature beautiful dimensions. The two artist’s contrasting use of texture and color truly heighten their pieces.

With Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan embracing the arts community and offering local creatives a spot to showcase their work for 90 days, this could be a great opportunity for Akron’s growing and thriving artistic community.

You can check out more of Jessica’s work by visiting www.jessicalofthus.com, and more of Megan’s work at www.facebook.com/MeganShaneArt.