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‘Streetscapes’ artists capture essence of city in summer

7/24/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Roger Durbin

Thomas Bagiackas’ “Three Days in June” won first place in the Streetscapes: AKRON in Plein Air exhibit at Summit Artspace
Photo: Brian Shellito/courtesy of Summit Artspace

DOWNTOWN AKRON — The results are in and hanging on the walls of Summit Artspace.

The Akron Area Arts Alliance announced the awards for local artists who participated in this year’s Streetscapes: AKRON in Plein Air exhibit, which is on view through Aug. 16 at Summit Artspace.

It’s the fourth year of the Downtown Akron art contest where artists gathered together over a weekend and captured the local scene on those particular days.

Artist Brian Shellito came up with the idea, according to Summit Artspace officials. Most events focus on the rural outdoors and he thought it would be interesting to focus on the urban scene. Although Shellito contributes to the event with his own work, he never allows his work to be judged. Maybe he should reconsider since the annual event has taken on a life of its own and his work is always noteworthy.

This year the judge of the event was Laurence Channing, a Cleveland artist and arts prize winner.

Channing had a lot of decision-making among 23 artists and 48 works that were submitted.

When all was said and done, Channing chose Thomas Bagiackas’ “Three Days in June” as the first place winner.

The genre calls for artistic response to the scene before the artist, taking in the subject of the work, but also the atmosphere, clarity of day, subtle changes in lighting and the like to capture the essence of a place at that moment in time. Bagiackas changed the artistic rules — and that caught the judge’s attention.

His “Three Days in June” scene is based on one basic work but as seen on three separate occasions. Bagiackas returned to the same spot at a different time and captured the variations in light and atmosphere.

Through his use of colored-pencil technique, you can see in certain sections of the scene at another time were much sharper and lighter, and, on another, more cloud cover and a darker atmosphere. As Channing noted, Bagiackas added a dimension to plein air work and that makes a big difference.

His idea makes the work one a viewer ponders over, for it makes clear the idea of plein air as a time- and place-specific genre.

As Channing also noted in his juror’s statement, plein air must necessarily deal with a place’s past, capturing scenes of bygone days. That comes up repeatedly in some of the other award winners.

Second-place winner Ann Emmitt in her “Akron Art Museum I” shows the new building spanning the old structure, depicting the change from the old to the new in one broad symbolic take on the place.

Also honoring the sort of approach to the genre that Channing used are: third-place winner Julie Holman in her “City Birds”; and honorable mention winners Larry Churski with his “Self-Portrait” showing the artist reflected in a window on a bright day with a worn out building around the corner, Michele Knapper’s “Electric Tatto” revealing the re-use of an old building, Susan Cone Porges in her “Industrial Revolution” that kind of says it all in the title and Tiffany South’s “Day’s Knight.”

All these works were notable but still others stood out in their own way. Kathleen Gray Farthing had a couple of compelling pieces: “Crouse Street Sherbet Houses” and “Barley’s: Waiting for Customers.” The first is a close-up of a couple of houses along the West Hill area with their bright multicolored corners complementing one another, making the whole scene no doubt prettier than the reality.

“Barley’s” refers to the Barley House, a local sports bar on South Main Street, decidedly empty when the artist was standing there. Yet, she captures the sense of anticipation before the onslaught of happy hour customers or sports lovers piling in to have a good time.

According to Summit Artspace officials, the sponsor of this year’s exhibit is the Greater Akron Chamber and it will travel there after it closes at Summit Artspace and be on view through the fall.

Having the exhibit travel launches Summit Artspace OFFSITE where the Akron Area Arts Alliance will partner with businesses, schools and community organizations to bring arts experiences and artists into the community, according to Summit Artspace officials.

The gallery at Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St., is open Thursdays from noon to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. The exhibit also will be open for the monthly Artwalk Aug. 2 from 5 to 9 p.m. For more information, call 330-387-8480 or visit www.akronareaarts.org. Admission is free.


Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and an avid art enthusiast. To contact him, email r.durbin@sbcglobal.net.

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