Kai Wick with Wearable Works Mini Show. (Photo: Josy Jones)

Project Three Gallery: Tradition meets innovation in Kenmore

words and photos by Josy Jones

If you haven’t been keeping up with Kenmore, allow me to provide you a brief synopsis. Once a city of its own, now a part of Akron, Kenmore’s strong neighborhood identity has led it to take ownership of its revitalization. In recent years, new amenities have graced the Kenmore Boulevard business corridor, including murals, music venues and bike lanes.

Tucked neatly next to the Rialto Theatre, and born out of the creative revitalization renaissance of Kenmore, is the boulevard’s newest attraction, Project Three Gallery.

Project Three Gallery opened in December and is the brainchild of builder and community development devotee, Kai Wick. This is Wick’s third big project in the Kenmore neighborhood, following a part in Kenmore’s Better Block project and a presence with Live Music Now, hence the name Project Three. Wick chuckles, clarifying, “It’s supposed to be funny.”

Kenmore needs much more than an art gallery, and Project Three Gallery looks to fulfill some of those needs. With experience in community development, Wick understands the importance of spaces that meet the needs of the community. The gallery will focus on being modular, or able to be split up into parts, and movable. She hopes it can be a “third space” in Kenmore, or a space that is not work and is not home, but rather a space to relax and gather.

The gallery’s current programming includes “Coffee and Coworking” on select Saturdays from 11 am to 2 pm, where people can gather, talk, work and find inspiration.

Project Three Gallery also intends to be a hub for artist development and a unique exhibition experience for visitors.

“Galleries are often known as quiet spaces,” Wick says. “How do we make things more exciting?”

Project Three Gallery features four distinct types of shows: mini shows, created specifically for window display only; traditional shows; online shows, where work is displayed exclusively online; and finally, what I call “Live Window Shopping” shows, where passersby get to observe artists’ work in progress as if window shopping. All artists who exhibit through the gallery will have their work permanently archived for purchase on the Project Three Gallery website.

I had the pleasure of experiencing two versions of exhibition at Project 3 Gallery. The first was a mini show titled “Wearable Works,” which included a collar made of hair by artist Amanda Stumpf and an interesting miscellaneous materials backpack made of a basketball hoop and other seemingly random items made by Erica Hoosic.

I also attended a traditional exhibition, “I Speak in Idioms,” by Akron Soul Train artist-in-residence Christi Birchfield. Very different from the mini show, Birchfield’s work explored the literal explorations of idioms and required deeper examination, both literally and figuratively. Specifically, the sculptures ⎯— much smaller than her previous work — really require getting face-to-face with each piece to pick out their intricacies.

“Last Leg” resembles a figure struggling to the finish line, but also makes its audience consider the possibility that this piece may be one of the last pieces she worked on for the exhibition. Birchfield’s use of fabrics, dyes and experimentation made for an enjoyable, colorful, contemplative exhibition.

By providing Akron Soul Train artists like Birchfield a space to display their work, Project Three Gallery is already responding to the needs of the Akron arts community. The space is set for a revamp in March, when new furniture will make it more comfortable, again fulfilling its third space use. Next is a video series called “Behind the Brush” to help educate the community about the artistic process of the exhibiting artists.

Project Three has strong partnerships with Akron Soul Train, Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance, Rialto Theatre, ArtsNow, DAWN and Akron Coffee Roasters, but Wick is looking to expand its connectivity even more. Wick has visions of the gallery becoming an artists’ incubator and a bridge between businesses and artists. This could include an internship/pairing program to introduce student artists to established artists for collaboration. Wick also wants to give corporate sponsors the opportunity to sponsor artists to create art inspired by their goals, missions and work.

Imagine a hospital partnering with an artist to create an exhibition in response to the experiences they have watching families go through treatment together, observing the day-to-day operations of a facility, or reflecting on current research of a certain disease. These are just a few of many ways the gallery will develop artists as well as engage the broader community, taking art out of the gallery and into the public.

Kenmore continues to thrive and evolve into a hip Akron corridor. With a determined and forever curious creative community, that evolution is not far from complete. Project Three Gallery’s presence on the boulevard marks the next chapter in Kenmore’s journey. Keep an eye out for what’s to come.

Interested in learning more about Project Three Gallery or looking to reach out?

Missed an exhibition? No problem! All of the work that comes through the gallery is online to view and purchase.

Check out Project Three Gallery’s February show:

Akron Soul Train artist Eva Kwong exhibits “Beauty is Where We Look – Digital Explorations 2D & 3D.”
Opening Reception: Feb. 9 from 1 pm – 4 pm.
Show runs Feb. 9 – Feb. 27.

Gallery hours:

Wednesday: 11 am – 5 pm
Friday: 11 am – 5 pm
Saturday: 11 am – 5 pm
Other days by appointment only.

Josy Jones is a theatre artist with a background in international relations.