Blue Sky Studio is tucked away on a little street just outside of Highland Square in a modest building that was the local grocery many years ago. Today, this is where Donna Webb and Joseph Blue Sky can be found hosting experimental film screenings, or, sleeves rolled, laboring in their art: mostly figure sculpting and ceramic work, sometimes painting and drawing, always telling a story. Donna was born in Michigan and moved to Akron for teaching work.
“When I came to Akron, it just seemed more real. There were a lot of different kinds of people and I liked that. I really wanted to live in a place where there was a broader sense of what the world was.” She laughs, “Everyone in Akron looks like a graduate student.” Joseph Blue Sky is a fantasy artist from Ohio. He has a subtle intensity and a gruff voice that might have been cured in a cask of bourbon, though when you converse with him you soon realize, more than anything he is a free spirit.
“Well, Donna kept me here,” he quips, truth in jest. “I don’t really have a great deal of ties. I’m an odd fellow and I’ve always kind of made my life up as I went along. It’s more what I’m doing than where I am.” Partners in life, and frequent collaborators, Donna and Joe have contributed to public art works and installations in Central and Northeast Ohio for over two decades. Their team created the wonderful “King Triton and the Little Mermaid” wall at Children’s Hospital and the “Magic Fountain” at Metro Health Hospital in Cleveland. They have created or contributed to several glazed tile installations, such as the “Nothing Great is Ever Achieved Without Much Enduring” water wall at the Student Union, University of Akron, and the “Four Seasons Floor” at Central Psychiatric Hospital in Columbus. More recently they completed the “Angel Falls Tile Facade” at Angel Falls Coffee Shop in Highland Square. Creating and installing hundreds, if not thousands, of glazed tiles in a mosaic piece can be a tedious, even grueling process.
“Each of those tiles are numbered and they all go in a specific location,” Donna says. “It feels really simple when you look at it, but it can be a very complicated process.”
Joe shares the sentiment, “We had a lot of people working in our crew, but then gradually they got smaller when they saw how hard this stuff was.” Donna and Joe also host Rubicon Cinema, a monthly film series founded in 2015 to screen experimental film and video at Blue Sky. Cinephiles Tim Peyton and Gediminas Gasparavicius show these films in their original format through digital and authentic film projectors. Rubicon also frequently hosts filmmakers to present their work.
The atmosphere at a recent March 31 screening of “SPEAK TO ME: WOMEN’S VOICES IN EXPERIMENTAL FILM” had a surreal, almost time capsule vibe with the wow and flutter of the projector and the art studio setting. The audience was eclectic and diverse.
And you know what? Many could indeed have passed as graduate students.