Dominic Moore-Dunson, right, and Kevin Parker perform a selection from "The Black Card Project" at the Signal Tree Festival in August 2018. (Photo: Nathan Rogers)

Akronites who had a breakout year in 2018

by Noor Hindi and Rosalie Murphy

2018 was a big year for many of the folks we’ve covered.

A few highlights include:

Dominic Moore-Dunson. This dancer and choreographer is in his eighth season with Cleveland-based Inlet Dance Theater. He’s performed nationwide and studied the impact of the arts on youth, and in 2016, was a National Arts Strategies Creative Community Fellow. But this year, he staged his own show: The subtle, comedic and powerful “The Black Card Project,” in collaboration with Kevin Parker.

Josy Jones wrote about “The Black Card Project” in August:

“The Black Card Project” is the story of a young Black kid named Artie whose mother sends him to Booker-T Malcolm Luther Parks Academy of Absolute Blackness to connect to his cultural identity. There, Artie has an entire school day to get all of the pieces of the puzzle that complete his Black Card. He takes classes like “How to Dance on Beat” and “Thuggin’ 101” in order to accomplish this goal….

The term “Black Card,” according to Dominic’s elegant definition, is “an African American metaphor for one’s Black identity, authenticity and belonging.” In use, many African Americans use it with one another and will take away a person’s imaginary Black Card for doing things that they perceive to be less Black. In Dominic’s case, this offense came young. Many of his friends wanted to be great athletes, like LeBron. Dominic, however, wanted to dance in Paris or play professional soccer in England and was quickly told by his childhood friends that those things “ain’t Black.”

Dominic and Kevin premiered the full show in September. In October, “The Black Card Project” won a matching grant from the Knight Arts Challenge, which will fund more performances and collaborations with local businesses.


Gretchen Pleuss performs at Signal Tree Festival in August 2018. (Photo: Nathan Rogers)

Gretchen Pleuss. Akron-based songstress Gretchen Pleuss signed with Sun Pedal Recordings this year and released her first single, “Everybody’s Pretty,” shortly after they announced their deal. Gretchen spoke to The Jam Company and The Devil Strip in October about stepping onto ever-larger stages and remaining vulnerable. Catch up here.


(Photo provided by Nim Tamang)

Nim Tamang. This year, Nim participated in Rebranding the City: A Humanizing Tour of Akron, a play written by Katie Beck, Exchange House Manager, and actor, director and playwright Josy Jones. Rebranding the City is part of Mac Love’s @PLAY project and was made up of direct quotes from Akronites in all 24 Akron neighborhoods.

Aside from Nim’s work as the Community Outreach Vista at The Exchange House, Nim also started school at The University of Akron and is currently majoring in theater. Nim was cast in the play Big Love and is looking forward to participating in The Lower Depths this Spring.


(Photo: The Devil Strip file.)

Vigeo Gardens. We wrote about Vigeo Gardens, the hydroponic greens-growing startup inside Bounce Innovation Hub, in late 2016. CEO and co-founder Vincent Peterson told us, “Vigeo Gardens’ 5-year goal is to have a multi-acre, very diversified greenhouse pumping the best produce into the local economy.”

Two years later, they’re well on their way. Vigeo Gardens says its greens, grown in an old B.F. Goodrich plant, are available for sale at Buehler’s, Heinen’s and The Farmer’s Rail. The company also boasts partnerships with a host of fine-dining restaurants in Akron and Cleveland. 


The owners of the Northside Cellar, Wendy Geonis and Jodie Oates, outside their consignment boutique. The shop opened in summer 2018. (Photo: Tessa Skovira)

Northside. Let’s start with the Northside Marketplace, an indoor shopping concept from local developer Joel Testa. The space opened in late 2017 and spent all of 2018 building momentum. Vendors have filled up most of the available space. Nomz and a Stray Dog outpost began selling food upstairs, and Countryside Conservancy started weekly markets in an industrial space downstairs. Rubber City Clothing, Dirty River Bikes and the Akron Honey Company all call the Marketplace home.

Elsewhere in Northside, the Northside Cellar’s friendly ownership duo opened their doors. Rumor has it there’s now a book shop below them. April Couch of Totally Tangled Creations designed a mural for the path up the parking lot, and the Downtown Akron Partnership funded its installation.

Down the hill on Howard Street, at the intersection with North Street, @PLAY covered a few more sidewalks with paint. Lock 15 Brewing Company opened, along with the adjacent Trailhead Event Space, behind developer Tony Troppe’s Cascade Lofts.

We’d be remiss not to shout out Jilly’s Music Room and Luigi’s, two Akron staples that put roots down in Northside long ago. 


A bench built for the @PLAY project, on display at Signal Tree Festival in August 2018. (Photo: Ashley Kouri)

Mac Love, Art x Love and the @PLAY project. The 18-month marathon of a civic engagement project, @PLAY, was completed in December.

We spoke to Art x Love Chief Catalyst Mac Love, Interactive Manager Josy Jones, and Creative Manager Chris Harvey in detail about the project here.

Noor Hindi is The Devil Strip’s Senior Reporter and Rosalie Murphy is its Editor-in-Chief.