UA Myers School of Art graduate Nathan Prebonick’s “Conduit”
Nathan Prebonick loves Akron. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from The University of Akron, Mary Schiller Myers School of Art with a BFA in Painting and Drawing, he got into graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he’s currently pursuing his MFA in Painting. But Nathan’s not gone for long. When he graduates from RISD in two years, he plans to move back to Akron. We asked him a few questions about why he loves our city so much and what he plans to do when he gets back.
The Devil Strip: Were you born and raised in Akron? What do you love about Akron?
Nathan Prebonick: I’ve been in Akron my whole life before moving to Providence for grad school. I grew up in Firestone Park. I love the history and Akron’s ability to reinvent itself time after time. I’m fond of many of the historical structures, but also appreciate the fact that there are great Metro Parks here. In other cities it’s often one or the other. Akron, in many ways, has the best of both worlds.
TDS: Before you left for RISD, you had a show at Quaker Square. Can you talk a little about that show and about what you meant when you said that you want to “keep Quaker Square in the conversation?” You’ve also mentioned previously that you have big plans for downtown Akron when you return after your time at RISD. Can you tell us a little more about those plans?
NP: It has always been a dream of mine to better utilize the Quaker Oats facility. That complex makes Akron’s skyline unique and serves as site that could meld the gaps in downtown Akron ideology. More specifically, it could be a site that reconciles the past with the present, and could help with the University-City disconnect. I see Quaker as a microcosm for Akron itself being reinvented and changing meaning. The power in a place like Quaker isn’t in going back to what it was but implementing a plan that can adapt with the future. Are we all nostalgic about Quaker? Yes. However, the beauty lies in what it could be for the future of Akron.
My show “Interface,” was all about the University-City social connection. I split the show between University owned Quaker Square and Summit ArtSpace. My paintings are about time and space. The show was a way to bring the University and downtown public together to have a conversation about history and space during Akron’s current transitional period. Given permission for a one night opening, very short notice, and no budget we were able to get nearly 350 people to show up and unanimously agree that they supported the idea of the arts in Quaker Square.
Quaker has the potential to be the most unique art center anywhere. I want to get together a team of artists, architects, engineers, etc. to rethink and curate the space. The old silos could make great artists studio/living spaces for artists in residency and working space for the Myers School of Art and school of music as well. (Myers has outgrown Folk hall and is in need of more space and what could be better than being right by the museum? I am not the first one to suggest Quaker for this. The University has made it clear that there won’t be a new art building anytime soon.) The main areas, like the hotel lobby and ballrooms could easily be converted into gallery space to show contemporary national and international art. We could team with Myers, Summit ArtSpace and the Akron Art Museum to help make it happen. I like the idea of work being produced and shown all in the same space. There is also room to display work from storage at the Art Museum and Myers collection. While these projects take form, we could begin to take care of the necessary repairs to the older factory buildings, add a place to eat, gift shop, etc. With time, the factories can become more interesting, less traditional exhibition spaces. There is a lot more space than people realize. The great thing about art is that it encourages constant reinvention and adaptation, which is part of the fabric of Akron.
TDS: Tell us about your time at Myers School of Art. How did Myers prepare you for grad school? Why are you glad you chose Myers over KSU or CIA?
NP: I basically grew up at the Myers School of Art. That’s where I began to find my voice and lens on life. I learned that my interests didn’t have to be separate from my “job,” and that I’d be able to accomplish more if I brought them together. Aside from working with my mentors in painting, I was able to take the interdisciplinary classes that led to these ideas collaborative reinvention. Myers, aside from having larger undergrad studios than Kent, and cheaper tuition than CIA, provided me scholarship and grant money making my ambitious goals possible by freeing me from financial burdens. With this freedom, work ethic came naturally and as a result I couldn’t be more prepared for RISD. Myers brings in serious artists to lecture, exhibit and visit studios even with their limited space. (imagine what they could do at a space like Quaker!) We discuss a lot of these artists here at RISD and it’s great to have met and spoken to them personally. The teachers at Myers are diverse in approach and do not force their ideas on you. My teachers have written countless recommendations for me and have even gone as far as purchasing my work. They’ve truly went above and beyond and I couldn’t be more grateful. I hope to give back upon my return, and work with them to continue to make Akron a better place.
To contact Nathan, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. See more of his work at nathanprebonick.weebly.com.