Akron Soul Train’s Inaugural Winter Soulstice Event Celebrates Fall Fellows

words and photos by Taylor Patterson


If you were awarded one month to indulge in a passion of your choice and get paid for your work, how would you spend that month? On Saturday, December 9, Akron Soul Train’s full-time fellows Stephen Tomasko (pictured left), Jenniffer Omaitz and Michelle Droll answered that question by revealing their vivacious new works to the public at Summit Art Space.

The event celebrated Akron Soul Train’s fall fellows. Through AST, the artists have been hard at work focusing on their craft thanks to Akron Soul Train’s funding and support. The fellowship also allowed them to connect with the community through workshops and artist talks.

“The fellowship reverses the starving artist stigma,” said Natalie Grieshammer, AST’s Arts and Programming Manager.

It’s easy to take advantage of artists and not realize how much time and money goes into honing their craft. This opportunity supports the role of being an artist and engages the community with art on a deeper level, she said.

“Industry left this area and the arts are becoming a new industry for Akron,” Grieshammer said.

After the rise and fall of the rubber industry, the growing arts and culture scene is reviving Akron, she said. AST hopes to grow into a global organization that will put Akron on the map.

“I feel as though I have my own legacy, my name will be associated with something that will continue to go on,” said Michelle Droll, a fellow with the program (pictured right)

Droll is a collage artist who uses recycled materials from past works and things she collects to create paintings and installations. The fellowship has been a transformative experience for her, as finding time for art in the past has been difficult because of her day job. Telling her employer she wanted to take off a month for art “wasn’t going to fly” in the past, she said, but the fellowship gave her a sense of legitimacy.

“This is your community saying we would like to see you grow, you are a good investment,” Droll said.

Droll was now able to work on her art during daylight hours, making it the top priority in her life. She had always asked herself “What would I do if I wasn’t so tired? What if I could start my morning with my art?” She began creating things unlike she had before, solidifying her craft.

“It has given me a chance to see myself if a different way,” she said.

AST’s job is to let the community know who you are as an artist and what projects you’re working on, said Jenniffer Omatiz, another fellow (pictured left) During October, she did collaborative work with other Akron artists, creating reactive paintings and installations from their studio space.

“They [AST] work hard at trying to build an artist’s career,” she said.

AST’s 2018 fellowship applications will be released in early spring, inviting artists of all mediums to apply. AST is currently building shipping containers to house artists during their fellowship as well. The intent of the program, organizers said, is to lend legitimacy and financial support to Akron’s emerging artist class.

“You can call yourself an artist and not apologize,” said Droll.

For additional information about Akron Soul Train visit: www.akronsoultrain.org

(featured image of Michelle Droll)

Taylor Patterson is a journalism student at Kent State, you can find her reading poetry and drinking a Yuletide Reaper at Angel Falls.