Arts & Culture Patron: Karen Starr

Karen Starr is an interior designer and co-owner of Hazel Tree Design Studio. Co-founded in 2010, Hazel Tree has grown from a home-based custom picture framing and interior design business, to a showroom and gallery that features the works of local artists and home decor artisans, as well as a design studio that creates unique designs for both interior and exterior spaces. Hazel Tree also produces art installations/experiences and offers art curation services for the corporate and non-profit community.

For non-work fun, Karen is a co-founder of The Highland Square PorchRokr Festival and Free Akron Outdoor Movies; she loves working on projects with West Hill Neighborhood Organization; and she sings in the local band, Roxxymoron.

What is your earliest memory of the arts (attending a function, organization, or art-making)?

When I was very young my family went to see a performance by Mummenschanz, the Swiss theater troupe founded in the 70’s. They performed the most interesting feats…I’m not even sure how to describe it other than it was fascinating! It was all non-verbal, totally out there performance art, with masks and huge costumes and props. It blew my little-kid mind! It definitely kick-started my fascination with theatre, dance and other non-traditional performance experiences, and that eventually shaped my first career in the theatre world.

What was your first introduction to the arts/culture scene in Summit County?

I worked on the production side of things for many years at The Carousel Dinner Theatre so there was a little bit of introduction there, but it really wasn’t until I got involved with Art in The Square Festival (that later morphed into PorchRokr!) that I got heavily involved in the arts/culture scene. Working with those fellow AiTS organizers in the late 2000’s really got me excited about what I could contribute to the community from within the arts world.

How do arts/culture/environment in Summit County impact your life?

It impacts my life because my work world revolves around supporting local artists! I have made it my mission to support local artists and makers by incorporating their work into our interior design and art curation projects and also to encourage the community to buy local by using our Hazel Tree showroom to sell the work of the incredible artists and makers we call neighbors.

What is a “can’t miss” Summit County arts/culture/environment experience?

CATAC! It stands for Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture. The works they are bringing to life have moved me deeply. It is truly incredible, “can’t miss” theatre.