Akron Art Library expands to Odom Boulevard Branch Library

words and photos by Noor Hindi

Hui-Chu Ying creates vibrant art pieces inspired by American dancer Merce Cunningham. Each piece is printed on a round canvas and embodies movement and bright colors. Hui-Chu has created 100 of these pieces, and together they represent the freedom of dance and spontaneity.

Hui-Chu is one of 10 new artists recently added to Akron Art Library, a collaboration between the Akron Art Museum and the Akron-Summit County Public Library. Over the last year, Summit County residents have been able to visit the Main Library and check out an original piece of art created by local and international artists.

The program has garnered so much success that it’s now expanding and bringing art to patrons of the Odom Boulevard Branch Library. On Dec. 9, the program’s growth was celebrated with a launch party featuring 10 new art pieces created by Amy Casey, Joan Colbert, Jay Croft, Kwamé Gomez, Chris Harvey, Micah Kraus, Donald Miller, John Sokol, Maria Zanetta and Hui-Chu Ying.

“Often, we think of original art as something that’s hung in a museum. You can’t touch it. And you have to stand a certain distance away from it. And it’s inscrutable — you don’t understand the message,” says Akron Summit-County Public Library Director Pamela Hickson-Stevenson. “But I think making it accessible in people’s living rooms and family rooms or kitchens brings it down to a level where it’s a thing of beauty, it’s original, but it’s in my home and I can enjoy it. It breaks down those barriers of this elitist perception that people may have of original art.”

“Shero” by Chris Harvey.

Illustrator Chris Harvey is excited to have his piece, “Shero,” added to the collection. Chris’s work celebrates women, people of color and marginalized identities. Chris is a graduate of Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts. He says he’s excited to have his piece featured at Odom because he made frequent trips to the library as a child.

“I’m super excited,” Chris says. “It’s a good way to get people into art. People think you have to be high-brow and very eccentric but honestly, I look at art like I look at music. There’s music I love, there’s music I’m not a fan of, but it’s all music.”

Kwamé Gomez’s work is also part of the newest collection. Kwamé’s art uses mixed media to create fantasy worlds and environments where, “Black people can be themselves and be free.” She’s inspired by Afrofuturism, and her work pulls from her Caribbean heritage and uses a lot of glitter.

Anyone with a library card can either go to the Main Library or Odom Boulevard Branch Library and check out a piece of art for four weeks. The art pieces are popular and are constantly being checked out, so patrons are encouraged to place their name on a waiting list.

To browse the collection or place a hold on a piece, visit: AkronLibrary.org/locations/main-library/culture-av-division/akron-art-library.

Noor Hindi is The Devil Strip’s Senior Reporter. Email her at noor@thedevilstrip.com.

Photo at top: Illustrator Chris Harvey.