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.