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Arts Expo enjoyed by art lovers, artists

7/18/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Jim and MaryAnn McGowan, of Firestone Park, are shown as they work as volunteers at a booth at last year’s Akron Arts Expo at Hardesty Park. This year’s event features activities July 25-28.
Photo: Scott Horstman
WEST AKRON — For 34 years, the Akron Arts Expo has been known as an arts festival that brings the best in fine arts and crafts to local shoppers and admirers.

But Brittany Schmoekel, community event coordinator for the city of Akron, said the expo at Hardesty Park, 1615 W. Market St., has also become a favorite of artisans because of how the event’s staff and volunteers go out of their way to accommodate them. 

“We realize they are the heart of our show,” said Schmoekel, who added she makes an effort to talk with every artist during the show. “We treat our artists better than any other show. We take the extra steps to make sure they are taken care of.”

That includes providing them with a dinner on Saturday night and full buffet breakfasts on the two show mornings.

This year’s expo features artists from the Akron area, throughout Ohio and about a dozen states. Many of them return to the juried event annually, Schmoekel said.

Among the new artists this year is West Akron resident Rebecca McElfresh, who creates glass-beaded jewelry as Sand Run Studio.

McElfresh, who said she’s always been artistic, took up beading in 2009. She learned how to make the beads and she also does her own sterling silver work.

She’s enjoyed the Arts Expo over the years and said she looks forward to being a participant this year.

“It’s a good show with quality artisans, and there’s a very nice atmosphere at the event,” she said.

As an artist, she said she finds the event to be inspirational.

“Looking at art is always an opportunity to start those wheels turning,” McElfresh said.

The four-day event kicks off July 25 with Taste of Akron, a restaurant sampling event from 6 to 10 p.m. This year, about 20 restaurants will participate. New this year is the addition of five food trucks that will be parked near the event tent. Admission is free, and food samples are available at the cost of one, two or three tickets, which cost $2 each. Cash, Visa and MasterCard will be accepted.

On July 26, the annual Wine Tasting and Silent Auction, which helps raise funds for the expo’s artists awards, children’s area and entertainment, will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Attendees can sample from more than 150 wines and beers at the event while they enjoy hors d’oeuvres and music.

The auction will include about 100 items donated by local businesses and artists in the Arts Expo. Tickets are $40 for one or $75 for two and are available in advance by calling 330-375-2836 or at the door. The event is for adults 21 and older.

Following the wine tasting and again the following night, July 27, will be a performance by Verb Ballets at 8:45 p.m. A children’s program presented by The University of Akron Dance Institute will take place at 7:45 p.m.

The performance is the first of four weekends of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, which brings professional dance troupes to Akron parks free of charge. [See related story on Page 26.]

The juried art show and sale that makes up the heart of the Arts Expo will take place July 27 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and July 28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Schmoekel said 160 artists’ booths will be set up this year with creations such as jewelry, paintings, sculpture, garden art and photography. Admission is free.

Throughout the two days, visitors are encouraged to stop by the silent auction area, which will feature items from the Expo’s artists. Schmoekel said the auction helps support the Expo and the children’s activities and also allows those who bid the chance to get a unique item at a good price. Auction closing times are every hour from noon to 4 p.m. both days. Cash, Visa and MasterCard will be accepted.

The Akron Arts Expo will conclude with a free performance by the Akron Symphony Orchestra July 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Throughout the weekend, some free parking will be available at the park. On July 27 and 28, a free trolley shuttle will be available to those who park in lots at Firestone High School, located at 333 Rampart Ave., and the Akron Radio Center, located at 1795 W. Market St.

For additional information, go to www.akronartsexpo.org or call 330-375-2836.

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