The Devil’s in the details: Our favorite quotes, moments and stories from 2016

What did we miss here? Which stories, which quotes or topics from 2016 stand-out to you? List yours in the comments below!

“Akron has a lot of cool stuff happening internally, and it’s not as apparent on the outside that stuff is happening. I want this to be a vibrant scene externally to attract people and make them want to stay. I want everyone to feel uplifted and inspired by all the art.” — Kristi Wall told Megan Combs about her Knight Art Challenge winning plan for public art domination (June 2016)

“But for Akron, like the rest of the country, it was a peculiar time. Akron’s rubber mills were moving jobs south, an unpopular war was pulling young men into Indochinese jungles and the Watergate scandal had wounded the nation’s psyche. …This was the backdrop against which Akron’s punk scene took shape. It came up from basements and out of garages across the city—Firestone Park, Ellet, Goodyear Heights, Garfield and Central Akron—shaping groups whose sounds were as vivid and unique as their names: Rubber City Rebels, Bizarros, Tin Huey and Hammer Damage.” — from “Art, snot, nasty winters and public irreverence: Exploring Akron’s Early Punk Scene” by Jenny Conn (Jan. 2016)

“West Hill is a mishmash of the kinds of weird, quirky, and incongruous things that people like us (yes, I’m dragging you in as a co-conspirator) cannot get enough of: Old churches and synagogues, old gothic cemeteries, insanely steep brick streets, LeBron James, ancient looking stone steps that go seemingly nowhere, one of the best bike trails in the U.S., Thomas Edison, a gargantuan freeway that carries no traffic, an apartment building with a swastika on it and devil strips (whatever the hell those are).” – Jason Segedy, an excerpt we ran from his blog, “Exploring Akron’s Wonderfully Historic and Weird West Hill Neighborhood” (March 2016) [Devil strip sign photo courtesy of Jason Segedy]

“Art Minson was a man who dedicated his life to helping the east Akron area thrive. For more than 50 years, Minson volunteered his time and gave as much as he could to Akron. Having worked at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. for 40 years, he helped create a credit union for African Americans to help them get home loans after being turned away and became president of the United Rubber Workers. He would often take trips to D.C. to lobby for civil rights and was a lifelong member of the NAACP.” — Bronlynn Thurman, from “Mr. East Akron,” telling the story behind a mural of Art Minson. (Aug. 2016) [photo of Art Minson mural by Bronlynn Thurman]


“Many of us who are born and raised in Akron come from families that either immigrated to the area in search for the ‘American dream’, worked long hours in the rubber factories, or owned a small family business – these are people who know all about hope and loss. They believed, too, that one would ultimately conquer. For Akronites, it’s hope that conquers. But it’s loss that taught us to endure, to lean on one another, to draw strength from a sense of community — a sense that has become so deeply ingrained, that Akron is completely inseparable from who we are.” — Claire Meneer, an Akron ex-pat working in Washington, DC at West Wing Writers (July 2016)

“I am also sure that, in the future, more books about the history of Akron and Summit County will be written. Let me say without a doubt, there are people you know—friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow artists and activists, including some of the people you read about here in The Devil Strip—who will be in those books. Look around our community. We have Entrepreneurs. Artists. Creators. Software Coders. Poets and writers. Community leaders. Above all, we have the thing we need most of all, and that is dreamers.” — Mark Schweitzer, adapted from his PechaKucha talk, “The Next Akron” (Dec. 2016)


“We literally bomb a place that was not expecting it, has not asked for it, and we call them up and say, ‘How would you like to have your business overtaken with awesomeness?’” — Elisa Gargarella, Art Bomb Brigade director and UA arts education professor in Michelle DeShon’s story, “Clean & Bright” (Aug. 2016) [photo of students painting by Michelle DeShon]

“To be able to show the kids, be able to show our community that you can do other things besides get in trouble – you can do positive things to help your community out – that’s a real big thing to me. I’m a hometown guy. I love Akron.” — Austin Clopton, owner of Developing Student Athletes Academy, from Grace Ebner’s “Better Together: Akron BMe Community Celebrates Black Men” (July 2016) [photo of BMe Leaders by Svetla Morrison]

“Given the turmoil, the former Summit Co. Clerk of Courts is a sensible candidate, one who can promise to calm the waters. But he’s passionate about the city and its potential. As such, he doesn’t plan on being anyone’s bridge mayor, simply to right the ship and sail away.” — from “Dinner with Dan & the Fam”, a profile of Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, by Chris Horne (March 2016)

“In school, we learn problem solving, but this is problem solving we can use in real life,” said Allan Thomas, a sophomore from Akron’s NIHF STEM High School, told Andrew Leask in a story about an alternative spring break at UA’s EXL Center. Thomas’s group donated $1250 to the County of Summit Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board to combat prescription painkiller addiction. (May 2016)

“I thought it was a moral problem. I thought, ‘I am just a shitty person. How could you possibly stick a needle in your arm when you’re carrying twins?’” – Jennifer Sullivan, quoted in M. Sophie Franchi’s story, “Recovery is what ‘the other side’ of addiction really looks like” (Nov. 2016) [Photo of Jennifer Sullivan and family by Ilenia Pezzaniti]

“I tell people I’m stoned on happiness,” Don Matis says, sporting a yellow, red and blue jester hat. “We’re all flawed. We’re all sinners. That’s why we have to help each other, bring joy to one another.” – from Denise Henry’s “Beard Art and a Bar Ministry” (Feb. 2016)

“He told me to meet him at his private club — no friends and no photographer, ‘Just you and your cellphone, man.’ I have to admit I was nervous as I entered what other people have called ‘The Tinfoil Palace’. The music was loud and I was struck by the glare of Mylar, mirrors and string lights that covered most of the interior, so I didn’t catch the welcome he offered when I walked inside. E-Z sat in a high back, wicker chair in his full regalia. He looked like a king on his throne. A throne near the stripper pole where he sometimes practices his exotic dances.” — TJ Masterson, from “Shooting hoops with E-Z in the Tinfoil Palace” (Oct. 2016) [photo of E-Z, courtesy of Tim Fitzwater]

“The Romans celebrated the pagan Feast of Lupercalia each February 13-15. And by ‘celebrated’ I mean that they got drunk and naked, sacrificed a goat and a dog and then whipped women in the streets with the hides of the slain animals. That’s right. And women actually lined up to receive this treatment, believing it increased their chances of fertility. How romantic.” – from Katie Jackson’s “The Kinky Origins of Valentine’s Day” (Feb. 2016)

“Rich, but buoyant; airy, but profound, Aimée’s voice lilts along to the rhythm of her four-piece backing band in a way that makes you just want to get into the groove, man. Before you know it, your head is bobbing and your fingers are snapping along to the music. It helps that Aimée’s attitude, like her music, is infectious. It’s cute, but not cloyingly so — a difficult needle to thread, but she does it with ease.” — Andrew Leask, from “Vive le Jazz!” about French singer Cyrille Aimée’s encore performance at Blu Jazz+ [Cyrille Aimée performing, photo by Svelta Morrison]

“Women in Ohio deserve to have full access to all their healthcare needs, including reproductive services. This includes the freedom to make decisions for themselves and their families without first seeking the approval of Ohio legislature.” – State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) in an op-ed about Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio. (March 2016)

“Dad wanted to know why I was in such a bad mood all the time, why I was never home, and I was going to have to tell him the truth. Abe told me I should, that it would make me feel better. My dad, he said, loved me no matter what, and there was no reason to be afraid. I wanted to believe him, but I didn’t want to explain to my dad how I had become so weak, how I had been lying to him for five years. I wanted compassion where I assumed there would be none. …Dad thought I was moving back to Ohio to escape depression. I let him believe that. Really, though, I wanted to come back for two reasons: I didn’t know anyone here who sold heroin, and I knew a lot of people in Akron who cared about me.” – M. Sophie Franchi, from “Together and Alone” about kicking her heroin addiction nine years ago. (Sept. 2016) [photo courtesy of Sophie Franchi]

“At that time, I became very violent. I was always in fights and I was in special schools. I learned that the most violent person had all the power, and I definitely wanted the power. I was thirsty for it.” – “Red” Birchfield, from “Put the Shovel Down When You Hit Rock Bottom” (Dec. 2016)

“‘That was another life,’ he says. One far from being the ‘Mr. Harrell’ his students at UA would come to know, the bald head and a semi-permanent big smile — the kind of guy who makes a bowtie work because its cheerful exuberance seems to match his own.” — from “Never count the cost” about Brian Harrell’s rollercoaster life and how tragedy changed him. (Sept. 2016)

“The journey of finding herself and her voice quite literally saved her from driving her van off of a bridge. At that time, Martin was living a double life — one as Chris, the name she was given when assigned male at birth, and one as Natalie, the woman she knew she had been all along.” — Brittany Nader, from “Natalie Grace Martin’s Evolutionary Debut” (Feb. 2016) [photo of Natalie teaching music lessons by Ilenia Pezzaniti]

“And so, people used to get together during the long dark hours of winter to create their white and red spring promises to their close ones for the first day of March. …The white color symbolizes purity and honesty, and the red one – life and passion. From its very origins, the gift of Martenitsa was used as a reminder of the constant cycle between life and death, which today has translated as a wish for good health for its recipient. The balance of the red and white colors are also associated with the male and female beginnings and the need for balance.” – from Svetla Morrison’s story, “Martenitsa, a Bulgarian spring tradition” (Feb. 2016)

“As the roaring strum of an electric guitar cuts through the chatter and a beat explodes from the drums, the singer’s voice reaches across the expanse of this crowded room to wrangle up the last lingering strands of attention from those who hadn’t already surrendered at the alter of this makeshift stage. In this literal underground setting, the audience’s energy aligns with the band’s, as the thumping bass reverberates through the floor to merge individual heartbeats with the rhythm of the music.” – from Kristina Aiad-Toss’ story, “Akron DIY: Fans connect firsthand with musicians in the Rubber City underground music scene” (Nov. 2016) [photo of Nic Adkins show at Fool Mansion by Kristina Aiad-Toss]

“Everywhere I went, Bowie was playing, and everyone wanted to talk about Bowie. Everyone was collectively mourning. I remember my editor telling me, ‘You have a Bowie chapter in every book you write. Whether the book has anything to do with Bowie or not, you always find a way to sneak in a Bowie chapter.’” – Rob Sheffield in Brittany Nader’s story, “Mixtapes, Bowie, Karaoke and the Beatles: Rob Sheffield talks about the Power of Fandom” (Sept. 2016)

“After a recent community meal, trouble started to escalate in a group of mostly teenage boys who had gathered near the street mural intersection. A couple of punches connected. Leonardi waded into the crowd, persuading groups of boys to go separate ways. The incident demonstrated the virtue of Leonardi’s choice. By becoming part of the neighborhood and forging real relationships, she had the moral authority to defuse what could have been an ugly situation.” from Scott Piepho’s story, “How to Repair a Neighborhood” (Nov. 2016) [photo of street mural courtesy of Stephanie Leonardi]