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MyAkron project dresses up Downtown Akron

1/9/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Photo art by David Lile, of Cuyahoga Falls, is on display in the vacant storefronts along South Main Street as part of a project proposed by former resident Phil Dickson for the Downtown Akron Partnership’s MyAkron effort.
Downtown Akron Partnership President and CEO Suzie Graham is shown at left with David Lile, whose Photoshop-manipulated photos of Akron sites are on display along South Main Street north of the Akron Civic Theatre.
The doors of the John S. Knight Center are the subject of the photo shown above
An Akron cityscape scene created by Lile is shown above, and a building piece is shown below.
Photos and images courtesy of David Bryan Lile — David B Design
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Artist David Lile sees beauty in urban settings. Now his enhanced photographs of Akron are gracing storefronts downtown in an effort to beautify vacant spaces.

“Cities have a lot of life in them,” said Lile, a Cuyahoga Falls resident. “The cities have a vibrancy to them and each city has its own personality.”

The display, installed just before First Night® Akron took place Dec. 31, is the first of Downtown Akron Partnership’s (DAP) MyAkron projects, which seek to empower citizens to present new and progressive ideas that will continue Downtown Akron’s progress toward becoming a thriving, urban atmosphere. Submitted project ideas are presented to attendees at MyAkron events to vote for their favorite project. The project is implemented through DAP’s Emerging Leaders, a group of young professionals working to assist in the efforts of retaining young professionals and enhancing DAP’s mission of building and promoting a vibrant Downtown.

DAP officials said former Akron resident Phil Dickson proposed the project, of which the goal is to work with a local artist to enhance vacant spaces by adding public art and color to properties on Main Street directly north of the Akron Civic Theatre.

“A valuable tool for helping revitalize downtowns large and small is showcasing local artists’ work in public realms,” Dickson said. “I hope the idea can spread to other blocks in our urban core.”

Dickson is currently a Washington, D.C., resident who has kept his ties to the city and said he hopes to return someday.

“I have always thought Akron has so much more to offer than empty storefronts,” Dickson said. “It’s something that I see when I visit. So I thought it would be great to showcase art along Main Street. I’m just lucky that Akron has a lot of artistic talent to make that possible.”

Dickson reached out to the Akron Area Arts Alliance to find artists who might be interested in the project.

Lile, who by day works as an IT professional for Pastoral Counseling Service in Akron, said photography is something that’s always been important to him. His father made films and commercials for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., and his daughter is a professional photographer.

“I had always taken pictures, but five years ago I picked up a camera again and started shooting,” he said. “I had an epiphany of my love for cities. I started shooting cities wherever I went.”

His work has been at Summit Artspace in a plein air exhibit, even though they aren’t paintings.

“I deeply respect those who paint, but I am not a painter,” he said. “I am a creator. They’re not paintings; they are photos that look like paintings.”

He takes photos and then uses Photoshop to create layers of color in the pieces. Some of his works have taken 10 minutes, while others he returns to over a period of days, he said.

DAP officials said Power Media provided the printing of the pieces, which Lile said numbers about 50.

Lile installed the prints along with DAP President and CEO Suzie Graham at the end of December.

Graham said the project was only possible through collaboration, and she said she appreciates that the owner of the properties was willing to allow the display. The vacant buildings are owned by a private developer who is waiting for financing for a project there, she added.

The art will be up indefinitely, Graham said. The next MyAkron project is expected to be announced soon, she said.

In the meantime, Lile hopes his work will brighten up downtown and inspire onlookers to see the city in a new light.

“My goal is to capture a motion, energy and excitement and engage people and energize the community,” Lile said. “That’s been my vision for five years now. I feel like with my work I engage people to take a new look at the city. Every city I’ve done, including Akron and others, has a personality. I attempt to capture that personality and transfer it to the viewer to engage people with my work.”

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