by Claude Christensen
Children romping around in a makeshift water-slide in the summertime? A barely recognizable Highland Square submerged in a nighttime fog? A forlorn and crumbling house about to be demolished?
These are just some of the images of Akron’s 24 neighborhoods in “24,” the new photography exhibit showing now until May 12 at the Summit Artspace.
Juried by award-winning Akron photojournalist and fine art photographer Shane Wynn, the show invites artists and visitors alike to explore an unfiltered view of Akron.
Filling the gallery space on the first floor of the Summit Artspace, the show covers a range of subject matter. A number of pieces lovingly document some of Akron’s most iconic landmarks and venues, like Joshua Fitzgerald’s “Blimp Hangar in Akron, Ohio” or Dan Rowland’s “Akron Civic Theatre”.
Others revel in Akron’s vibrant city life and artistic spirit, as Debra-Lynn Hook does in “Punch Drunk in Highland Square”, a photo of a band rocking out during PorchRokr, or as Dan Rowland documents in his photo of busy evening traffic in “Kenmore Boulevard”.
Some photos meditate on more somber or powerful subject matter. Charlotte Gintert’s images of forlorn buildings in the Sherbondy and Middlebury neighborhoods evoke a sense of worn fragility that paints a deeply compelling portrait of Akron’s identity as a rust-belt city. In her photo “Sitting on the dock of the…?”, photographer L e o (Stephanie Leonardi) juxtaposes the image of two African-American children with an image of a trash heap in their neighborhood.
For anyone familiar with the city, these photos are familiar, not just for the recognizable landmarks, but for the prevailing mood within them, a mood that combines nostalgia and regret with a measured sense of hope for the city’s future.
That is intentional.
“I wanted to make a show that was accessible to the community,” Shane says, “One that would make Akronites proud of forging their own identity in here but wouldn’t shy from pictures of blight or loss.”
That attitude guided Shane in her selection of photos for the show. She put a premium on images that could provoke an emotional response. For Shane, it is really important that the photos in the show reflect an Akron that Akronites can recognize.
Not coincidentally, the title of the show, “24,” also references the 24 years Shane has been a photographer.
Raised in Canton, Shane began her lifelong obsession with photography when she was 13, when her junior high school art teacher John Hoyt gave Shane her first camera and encouraged her to use her time after school going on photo excursions.
“He was really supportive,” Shane said. “He’d look at my photos and tell me ‘You’re a rockstar!’ He still does that.”
Twenty-four years later, Shane is still shooting with her camera. A graduate of The University of Akron’s Myers School of Art, Shane works for numerous local publications, and is usually busy working on multiple projects at a time.
But it’s her fine art photography that Shane really enjoys being able to do. A collection of that work is on display in a small space adjoining the “24” show. You can tell from the images, some of recent marches, local figures, residents and nearby places, that Shane loves it here. Akron is her town.
On the day of the opening, Friday, April 13, the gallery filled quickly.
Attendees gleefully pointed out the places they recognized. They pondered others, like Samantha Hier’s “US Asian Market”, a photo of a woman leaving an Asian market plastered with advertisements.
Everyone enjoyed Shane’s collection of work in the adjoining space. Many took goofy selfies in front of a giant printout of Akron’s downtown skyline.
One of the photographers in the show, Charlotte Gintert, was caught perusing through the exhibit. (Disclaimer: Charlotte, like Shane, shoots for The Devil Strip.)
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be in the show. It’s so cool to have photos in the Summit Artspace.”
She was immediately drawn to Thomas Riederman’s “Southport Building – 88 S. Portage Path”, a powerful shot of a residential house about to be torn down.
“I have a thing for abandoned houses,” Charlotte admits.
As the evening grew late, gallery visitors kept coming. There was a sense of playful camaraderie in the crowd that wandered the show. After a long winter, Akronites were beginning to remember that the sun also shines in Akron.
24 Neighborhoods Photo Exhibition
with 24 Years of Photographing Akron by Shane Wynn (FREE)
Thursdays & Fridays, 12-7pm / Saturdays, 12-5pm
Summit Artspace Gallery
140 East Market Street
For more information, visit the Summit Artspace’s website, summitartspace.org
Claude prefers snow and cold weather to endless sun and heat, but even he was beginning to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Please, Akron weather god, let May be warm and sunny.