“Clean & Bright” stops traffic at Downtown Laundromat

Art Bomb Brigade completes its first mural

by Michelle DeShon


Art Bomb Brigade completed its first project, a vivid mural that spans over 3,000 square feet on the Downtown Laundromat on South Main Street. Elisa Gargarella, Art Bomb Brigade director and arts education professor at The University of Akron, was awarded $45,000 as one of the winners of the Knight Arts Challenge.

Gargarella says the Art Bomb Brigade’s mission is to “implement murals in a very, very warp-speed fashion in neighborhoods that we identify as really in need of a facelift and some rejuvenation. 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?’”

The creative team consists of fine art students from The University of Akron, high school students from Akron Public Schools, and an artist that serves as a guide for the students. Art Bomb Brigade has joined forces with Arts LIFT, another public arts program created by Gargarella about 15 years ago that uses the work of high school students and a lead artist. The program is funded from the Lola Isroff Foundation through The University of Akron.

Gargarella hopes the art Art Bomb Brigade creates will encourage other campaigns for more public art projects. When choosing an artist to lead the group, Gargarella looks for someone whose work will inspire the students and whose personality is positive, upbeat and energetic. For this project, she chose Matt Miller, local artist and alumni of The University of Akron’s Myers School of Art.

After much discussion between Gargarella, Miller and the business owner, the chosen design stemmed from the concept laid out by the business owner, and then they worked together to fine tune it. Miller says he put a lot of “Akron-centric imagery” into the design, including local species of plants and animals and cogs and gears to represent the industrial days of Akron. The creative team also wanted a color palette that “stopped traffic,” Miller says.

Their work has been stopping traffic, says Wilma Levengood, a student in The University of Akron’s Arts Administration Graduate Program.

“I see joy in their eyes whenever they are just looking at this and are just either amazed by just how massive it is or how much color it brings in the area,” Levengood says. This project revolves around her thesis which is about arts in the public sector and she hopes that this mural brings a “glimmer of joy” to people’s day.

“I only work with local businesses so I do hope to infuse some energy and culture into the local business, so it goes back into the city,” Gargarella says. She hopes that residents can appreciate an original piece of artwork right in their city and that her students carry on the responsibility to engage their communities in creative ways and that “they understand how a little creative spark can create a massive change.”

Gargarella has almost met her match for her $45,000 grant. At the unveiling party, Art Bomb Brigade sold t-shirts, tote bags, handmade books and temporary tattoos of Matt’s artwork. All proceeds went back to Art Bomb Brigade.

Each of Art Bomb Brigade’s projects will be uniquely different, Gargarella added. The projects will always be different because they will be based on the needs of the local business owner, the artist that they partner with, and the team of students that will “mural bomb” Akron.

The biggest challenge that Gargarella has faced is not having a sustainable income to support what she is trying to accomplish with her non-profit program. She suggests future grant winners find partnerships within the community and use existing assets in the community, such as using buildings as canvases, to create a bigger impact.

One of her favorite parts of creating public art is witnessing the “staying power” of the art. She loves when it blows up on social media and how they become a place of gathering. She says people still come to Akron to take pictures in front of the Angel Falls mural and that was completed about four years ago by her Arts LIFT program.

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To donate to Art Bomb Brigade, text artbomb to 71777 and click the link to a secure website where you can choose how much to donate. Gargarella’s goal is to raise $2,016 in 2016.


Michelle DeShon is an aspiring journalist with an unhealthy obsession with antique cameras, french fries and vinyl records.


//CUTLINES: Unveiling Party


  1. Unveiling-TattoosButtons01: Students from the Art Bomb Brigade stand behind a table selling tattoos and pins to raise money for the program. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  2. Unveiling-TattoosButtons02:  Students from the Art Bomb Brigade stand behind a table selling tattoos and pins to raise money for the program. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  3. Unveiling-MattMillerArt01: Hand-made coloring books, made by students in the Art Bomb Brigade, and prints of Matt Miller’s art were for sale at the unveiling party. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  4. Unveiling-LittleChicagoClothing01: Little Chicago Clothing Company selling Akron and Ohio themed t-shirts with profits going to Art Bomb Brigade. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  5. Unveiling-Signatures01: The Art Bomb Brigade left their signatures on the mural as a final touch. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  6. Unveiling-TheDreemers01: The Dreemers, who performed live at the unveiling party, have a box of cds for sale. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  7. Unveiling-TheDreemers02: After program director, Elisa Gargarella, and others involved in the project spoke, the mic was passed to The Dreemers who ended the night with a live performance. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  8. Unveiling-TheDreemers03: The Dreemers performing live at the unveiling party. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  9. Unveiling-Speech01: Marissa McClellan, Art Bomb Brigade Assistant Director, and Daniel Coffield, visual arts teacher at Firestone High School and Arts LIFT Assistant (wearing green Art Bomb Brigade t-shirt), speak about their experiences with Art Bomb Brigade. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  10. Unveiling-Speech02: Elisa Gargarella, program director, passes the mic to Matt Miller, who served as the lead artist for Art Bomb Brigade’s first project. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  11. Unveiling-Speech03: Wilma Levengood, a student in The University of Akron’s Arts Administration Graduate Program, and an artist in the Art Bomb Brigade, gives Elisa Gargarella, program director, flowers and a hug. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  12. Unveiling-Speech04:Firestone High School student, Brina Jeffries, speaks about her hopes that art will make a positive impact on the predominantly minority neighborhood given current events in the world. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  13. Unveiling-Speech05: Adele Roth, Deputy Planning Director for Economic Development, spoke at the unveiling party. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)
  14. Unveiling-Party01: A different view of the unveiling party from behind some of the booths with the “Clean & Bright” mural as a colorful backdrop. (Michelle DeShon / The Devil Strip)