Michael Marras’ new Cascade Park sculpture honors local philanthropist Judith A. Read
words and photos by Claude Christensen
On a steel pedestal in Cascade Park, near the corner of North Howard Street and West North Street by the Towpath Mustill Store, a cluster of steel fans imitating ginkgo tree leaves undulates, green and inviting. Dedicated the the recently passed Dr. Judith A. Read, who passed away in May of 2016, this is the new sculpture by Akron artist Michael Marras, “Together We Grow.”
The work is intended to inspire future generations of Akron leaders.
Dr. Read was an active and influential member of the Akron community. She was the chair or president of an impressive number of organizations, including, but not limited to: the United Disability Services of Akron, the Women’s Committee at the University of Akron, the Akron Area League of Women Voters, and the Akron Blind Center. A University of Akron alum, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Akron, along with many other awards from the institutions and organizations she served.
Along with her husband, Roger Read, former CEO of the Hartwick Chemical Corporation (now the Hartwick Standard Distribution Corporation), Dr. Read was also responsible for a number of grants to local organizations and scholarships for financially needy students. Her work had a profound effect on the lives of many Akronites.
Nicole Mullet of ArtsNow suggested that Marras design the sculpture. He is known for his “Akron Tree Project” sculpture, the life-size tree made of recycled metals that adorns the side of Hazel Tree Interiors on West Market Street.
While researching this project, Marras spoke with close friends, family members and others in the community who had known and worked with Dr. Read. He learned how generous she was and how much she cared about Akron.
“It made sense to make this sculpture less about her and more about the community,” Marras says.
Instead of recycling metal as he usually does, Michael crafted “Together We Grow” from new industrial steel. He then had Kathy and Mike Bartley of KaMBar Coating electrostatically apply a powder coating which, once baked onto the piece, gave it a coloring similar to ginkgo leaves. This powder coating, which is often used to coat bicycle frames and cars, will withstand the elements far longer than traditional paint. Michael wants the sculpture to last as long as it can.
In an unveiling ceremony on November 13, community leaders and the Read family, including husband Roger Read, son Scott Read, and two grandsons Garrett and Brandon Read, spoke of the great impact Dr. Read had on the community, and how her devotion to Akron would continue.
ArtsNow, the Cascade Locks Park Association, the City of Akron, the Environmental Design Group, the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, and the Summit Metro Parks all were essential in the creation of the “Together We Grow” site.
In the spirit of continuing Read’s dedication to Akron, the “Read Family Difference Maker Award” will be presented annually to individuals who further Leadership Akron’s goals. Every year a new ginkgo tree will also be planted around the “Together We Grow” sculpture to commemorate the Reads and Akron leaders. Over time, Cascade Park will become a small forest of ginkgo trees.
“In fifty years, we’ll have close to fifty ginko trees around the statue,” hopes Marras.
Claude Christensen really, really loves snow. The more snow, the better.