“I Went on Vacation in Summit County”

Written by Mary Kay Palazzo, ArtsNow Intern and Kent State University Student

This past Wednesday, I took a day-long vacation in Summit County! Well, not exactly, but it felt a bit that way. I am not a native Summit County resident, and although I’ve lived in Kent for school for the past two and a half years, I rarely made time for exploring the surrounding area. Now that I am working at ArtsNow, it is part of my job to be informed about various arts and culture happenings in Summit County, so I took a day to familiarize myself with art in the area. To do that, my supervisor and I made a list of places to visit and people to meet with. That list, though incomplete, spanned eight places and involved meetings with several people at a few of those locations.

The first place on my list was The Village Gardens, an inconspicuous restaurant situated in a strip-mall in Cuyahoga Falls. There, I met Molly from Collide: Cuyahoga Falls, and talked over coffee and super tasty blueberry muffins. She told me about some of the work that Collide is doing to form a more connected arts and culture sector in Cuyahoga Falls. She also told me about some of the art events Cuyahoga Falls has had, including the previous All City Art Walk. I was glad to start my day with an insightful conversation in a cozy restaurant space.

My next stop was Kave Coffee Bar in Barberton, because I can’t get through the day without a ton of caffeine, and I’m all about checking out new coffee shops! It also happens that Kave is connected to Nine Muses Gallery, where Summit Artspace artists can display their art on the walls for people to enjoy. The two artists that had work displayed were Nikki Bartel and Miriam Daniel, whose distinct art styles I found really intriguing and exciting! I loved being able to browse their work while sipping my red velvet latte.

Next, I made a stop at the Akron-Summit County Public Library. Not only is it a beautiful building with more books than you could ever read, but it has a huge array of public art! The library has 38 pieces of art, 29 of which are accessible to the public. I made sure to check out as many as I could find, but a couple of my favorites are Untitled by David Muck and Sun Over a City by Will H. Collins. For most people, the library probably doesn’t come to mind as a hub of public art, but it proved to be just that!

After the library, I walked across the street to the Akron Art Museum. I recently became a member when the museum gave out free memberships on Giving Tuesday, but hadn’t yet taken time to visit it. I’m glad that I visited when I did, because I was able to see some really great temporary exhibitions, two of my favorites being Heavy Metal and Ed Emberley: Better You Than Me. These exhibitions along with the Akron Art Museum’s amazing permanent collection of diverse artwork made this a memorable destination.

Next, I drove to the Avant Garden within Bounce Innovation Hub and met with Courtney, who works on Akron’s The Curated Storefront and is an artist herself! She generously offered to show me around her studio space and tell me more about The Curated Storefront, as well as other arts and culture events happening in Akron. She told me that each storefront features the work of different artists, many of them local, to bring energy into unused areas. For my next “vacation,” I’d love to visit some of them!

My day was already quite eventful, and it was barely 1:00! So I decided it was time for lunch, and drove back to Cuyahoga Falls to eat at Flury’s Cafe on a recommendation. I’m definitely glad I did because I had the best, crispiest mushroom sandwich and a cherry coke to satisfy my recent pop craving. This was a great place to take a break and have a quick bite to eat; I’d definitely recommend Flury’s to a friend like it was recommended to me!

Once I finished my lunch, I walked down the block to the Cuyahoga Valley Art Center. There, I saw the work of current AP Studio Art students from the local high school. Their work was all incredible! Not only was their work wonderful, but the CVAC gives students an opportunity to showcase their work in a public setting, which I know I would have appreciated as a high-schooler!

My last stop was Uncommon Art in Hudson. When I arrived, I expected to walk into an art store or a gallery space, but this was so much more than that. The main area of the space has an extensive array of art for sale, all handmade by the artists who work there. Off to the side are several different rooms which are the studio spaces for individual artists. One artist is a jeweler, another is a painter and portrait artist, and the third is a mixed-media artist. I was lucky enough to arrive just as a class was ending (did I mention they also have workshops?), so I was able to check out the class work. This particular class was on basic printmaking, but they have workshops in many other areas. This was such a lovely place to end my journey, and I’ll definitely be back!

When reflecting on my day, I thought of how lucky I was to be able to have all of these experiences and engage with so many unique people who do incredible work within Summit County. What’s even more exciting is that anyone can have the same experiences as mine! Most of the places I visited were open to the public, and even if you don’t have a whole day to spend exploring, you can swing by one of these places on your lunch break or after school!