Illuminating Akron: Curated Storefront

Published by CAN Journal, Collective Arts Network | Cleveland
Author: Annette Yoho-Feltes

For a city to be considered alive, a certain number of lights must be shining at night. I am sure there is an equation that factors in the size and population and spits out the number of watts necessary to achieve the appropriate lumens required for an “Alive” rating.

Two years ago, Downtown Akron began shifting into that category when recently retired businessman Rick Rogers and his mighty crew founded the project known as Curated Storefront. With the help of designer Courtney Cable and installers Casey Vogt and Steve Levey, Rogers is adding life to Akron’s Downtown.

On March 15, 2016, Rogers was awarded a matching $100,000 Knight Foundation grant for his proposal to curate art into numerous empty storefronts in the city. Rogers’s team has arrangements with building owners to use their vacant or underused front spaces.

To date, they have curated a total of 78 hand-selected artists into these storefronts. The artists’ installations are for 4-6-month intervals usually, but the timelines vary per building. They currently have arrangements with more than 30 building owners, but the team is continuously exploring the urban campus for new spaces.

I took a walk with Courtney Cable on a brisk October morning and toured current installations. We met at the O’Neil’s building where Rita Montlack or Rita Rock Star as Cable called her, installed The Importance of Being Windows. Montlack’s Artist statement reiterates the necessity of the Curated Storefront Project. It is large printed collaged documentation of Montlack’s lifelong fascination with storefronts. She chose 48 local and international archival digital prints that she computer manipulated. Collaged together, they become beautiful flowing watercolor-like images. In front of her pictures, near the glass, Montlack has small pedestals with spray bottles of Windex. It is like a brief commercial interruption, as if to say “These 48 storefronts brought to you today by Windex. Windex, for a streak-free shine.” Her windows were clean and shiny. In Montlack’s homage to storefronts everywhere she recalls the excitement of going downtown Cleveland to window shop especially during the holidays as a child. Historically storefronts have been a means for city centers to draw foot traffic, which gives more validation for this project.

Click the title to link to the full article with pictures.

Pick up a copy of CAN Journal at the University of Akron Myers School of Art's Emily Davis Gallery or Summit Artspace.

Photo: Displacement, by Drew Ippoliti and Charlie O’Geen, with assistance from Morgan Jones and Kayla Weinman.

Lonley Planet Features Downtown Akron's 'Under the radar' Arts and Culture Scene

Under the radar USA: music, murals and museums in Akron, Ohio

“You’re never far from a live performance, art gallery or public art installation in Akron, Ohio. Over the past decade, this Great Lakes city – home to artists like Devo and the Black Keys – has transformed from a rundown former industrial town into a vibrant hub for artists of all kinds (and a wallet-friendly tourist paradise).

Take a colorful walking tour

Begin your cultural tour of Akron in the heart of downtown to enjoy some open-air art. In its heyday, Akron was the Rubber Capital of the World, a manufacturing hub supplying the trucking and automobile sectors. The industry’s decline in the late 20th century brought with it empty storefronts and a steep decline in population. The Curated Storefront Project has found a way to repurpose some of those storefronts around Main St by turning them into an ongoing, rotating exhibition of multimedia artworks. Consider checking it out both day and night to take advantage of some of the lighted displays. You can pop into the Akron-Summit County Public Library downtown for a Curated Storefront illuminated walk-through exhibit.”

by Heather Kerrigan, Lonley Planet Writer

*Click the title to read the entire article.

Gamers find Pokemon and artwork in downtown Akron

On Saturday afternoon, the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau hoped to entice at least some of those gamers to experience the public art covering walls and storefronts downtown and perhaps catch a shiny Squirtle or secure a coveted mythical Celebi.

The event, dubbed Good Art Hunting, is one of three planned here over the next few months and is being spearheaded by Roger Riddle, the visitors bureau’s marketing and social media manager, in collaboration with the game’s creator. It came about from a Niantic/Knight Fellowship designed to enhance community programs and is among similar events in cities like Philadelphia; Macon, Ga.; and Charlotte, N.C.

Halfway through Akron’s event on Saturday, more than 50 people were wandering the streets looking for the digital monster and, planners hoped, absorbing the public art.

People turn out

Akronites Jennifer Homan and her 6-year-old daughter, Alaina Showden, were walking near the Akron Civic Theatre hoping to sneak up on a Shiny Pikachu but also enjoying the nondigital visuals.

“I actually like the art,” Homan said. “We come down at least once a week and see the different paintings that are on the streets anyways. Gives her a bit of culture.”

Homan has been playing traditional Pokemon for more than a decade and has spread her love of the game to her little one over the past year.

“I found a Pikachu!” Alaina said proudly.

While the mother and daughter team often walk downtown to check out the various art offerings, Homan does think the event will achieve its other goal.

“It does actually bring people out,” Homan said. “I never see this many people down here just Pokemon-ing. It’s not what you see a lot, so that’s good. Gives them a little bit of a workout.”

“The art’s my thing. Most are just here for the Pokemon, but I like them both,” she said. …

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Artwork pictured on left: Paper Plane IX by Nuno Viegas
Artwork pictured on right: Polsky Pattern by Brian Peters of Building Bytes, LLC

GAR Foundation awards more than $1.7 million in grants to Akron-area nonprofits

GAR Foundation offered a competitive granting fund to Knight Arts Challenge winners to support 12 projects. Some of the grantees include:

  • Akron Soul Train: $25,000 will fund Artist Fellowships.

  • Bechdel Fest: $18,000 will fund Bechdel Fest, a female-centric film festival that celebrates women both in front of and behind the camera. Fiscal sponsor: Crafty Mart.

  • Crafty Mart: $10,000 will be put toward operations

  • Curated Storefront: $10,000 will fund Curated Storefront, a series of ongoing exhibitions activating unused storefronts with multimedia art installations. Fiscal sponsor: Miami Foundation.

  • Downtown Akron Partnership: $85,000 will be put toward operations.

  • Urban Troubadour: $8,000 will fund an interactive, roving chamber concert that highlights Akron's hidden gems. Fiscal sponsor: Chamber Music Society of Ohio.

For a full list of grantees in this cycle, click on the title link above.

Art review: Curated Storefront makes downtown windows vibrant

Cities are living organisms that change from day to day and year to year. As time passes, some parts of a city can get left behind. This happens for a variety of reasons, because of lack of money, or because the pressure to make a substantive change is too great, and people just can’t comprehend it.

Akron is no different than countless cities throughout North America. Parts of Akron highlight the robust, diverse and quality community we know it to be and other parts seemingly limp along. While we would all love for them to become more vibrant, and of course we would support that type of growth, how to start that ball rolling might be out of our grasp.

One area of Akron that has struggled in the past is its downtown. A group called the Curated Storefront is working to bring it new energy.

Click the title to navigate to the full review.

Pictured: Reverie by Ian Brill.
Photograph by

Curated Storefront works to attract investment to downtown Akron through public art displays

AKRON, Ohio - Akronites will want to navigate the orange barrels downtown this month and check out new art installations in storefronts on Main and Mill streets, and in the Northside Arts District.

Curated Storefront is a 2016 $100,000 Knight Arts Challenge winner that aims to showcase buildings that are abandoned, with a few under renovation, through ongoing, curated exhibitions. The current multimedia work ranges from brilliantly lit LED displays to digitally printed, cut and folded paper houses.

The idea is to draw people into downtown and activate the properties, some of which sat empty for years but sold or were rented within months of being highlighted through the project, said Executive Director Rick Rogers.

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ACF funds distribute $2.2 million in quarterly grants, Curated Storefront a recipient

AKRON, Ohio (June 8, 2018) – Today, Akron Community Foundation’s board of directors approved grants totaling $2,217,890, including $588,500 in competitive arts and culture grants chosen by the foundation’s Community Investment Committee.

This quarter’s arts and culture funding included a $5,000 grant to The Curated Storefront to bring vibrancy to downtown Akron through window art displays in vacant street-level buildings.

The Curated Storefront is a series of ongoing exhibitions that will revitalize unused storefronts in downtown Akron with multimedia art installations along Main, Market and Exchange streets. To date, the project has transformed more than 40 spaces in prominent locations like Cascade Plaza and the United Building.

Curated Storefront Director Richard Rogers said the exhibitions are attracting new businesses to Akron.

“My idea is to use art in these empty storefronts to attract more commercial development downtown and bring people here to live and re-energize Akron,” Rogers said. “We’ve heard a lot of good feedback from the community. We’ve had some storefronts that have been empty for a number of years, including where Akronym Brewing is now located. That space was empty for eight years, and we programmed it for about six months before it was rented.”

... read more of the article by clicking the headline text and watch the video segment detailing many of this quarter's recipients.

To find the current Curated Storefront exhibitions around town, click

Western Reserve PBS show, Around Akron with Blue Green, Features Curated Storefront and Other Downtown Family Fun Destinations

This episode of Around Akron with Blue Green is all about family fun, education and culture. Blue Green visits the Curated Storefront project, Akron-Summit County Public Library, Lock 3 Akron and Akron Zoo.


Spoils of Akron Podcast: Episode 116 Highlights Curated Storefronts and a Unique Vantage Point of Akron's Landscape

Episode 116 - Curated Storefronts, Paw-Paw Trees and Don Drumm Casserole Dishes 

(Click the title above to listen.)

This week, we welcome the multi-talented Courtney Cable, Creative Director of the Curated Storefront program, which manages multimedia public art installations in some of downtown Akron's vacant buildings, helping to beautify these spaces as they await development. Courtney, who’s also a jewelry maker and musician, shares a unique vantage point of Akron’s arts landscape, along with leading Shane and Chris in a singalong, featuring commercial jingles for Tootsie Rolls and Ms. Pac Man Cereal. We also talk about local paw-paw harvests and getting buried in a Don Drumm casserole dish. For info about Curated Storefront, visit


WKSU Reports: Curated Storefront Puts Art at Downtown Akron's Street Level

"Passing through downtown Akron will now be a little more colorful thanks to a project called Curated Storefront. The project puts art installations in buildings at street-level, including vacant spaces, in an effort to make urban areas more welcoming. There are 13 installations in all."

Click the title link to experience the full segment by WKSU Producer, Andrew Atkins.

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Artist Ron White Featured in Western Reserve PBS TV Show Around Akron with Blue Green

Curated Storefront artist Ron White is one of three artists featured in the Western Reserve PBS TV show Around Akron with Blue Green. Click the title to navigate to the 30 minute broadcast and learn about some of the Movers and Shakers that make this city great.

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Hip-hop dancers, graffiti artists collide in Neos Dance Theatre’s latest work

Fenn also explores relationships between classical and urban artists by integrating art curator Courtney Cable into the dance. The arts administrator is program coordinator for the Akron Art Museum’s Inside| Out project, which places art reproductions around town in public spaces, and also runs Curated Storefront, a Knight Arts Challenge project that installs artwork in vacant or under utilized storefronts in downtown Akron.

For dance.r.evolution, videographer Trowbridge has captured Cable organizing the Storefront. She also interacts live with Neos dancers Matt Roberts, Kassie Lee and Katherine Tackett, “curating” their dance by handing them each numbers that represent different music phrases. At each rehearsal, the dancers execute the phrases in different sequences each time she gives them different numbers.

“Every time we do a rehearsal, it’s different,” Cable said. “We all need to be flexible with one another and listen.”

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The Curated Storefront Awarded Knight Arts Challenge Grant

On March 15, 2016, Richard Rogers was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to realize The Curated Storefront in downtown Akron. Rogers was named as one of 27 grantees whose projects will "engage and enrich the city through the arts." The winning proposals were selected from a pool of over 500 applications. “Art can help define and lift the soul, helping to create a sense of place and binding us to each other and to our community,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation. “Here in Akron, where Knight Foundation was founded, our hope is that the arts will continue to build community, in neighborhoods all across the city.”