Akron artist Ron White was recently awarded the inaugural Akron Art Prize, the result of more than a thousand votes, but he’s not one to take a moment off and celebrate. He finished and delivered a piece to Leandra Drumm for the Light-UP Lantern Festival, which took place this past weekend in University Park. And in his studio on a recent Friday afternoon, he was working on a large charcoal drawing. This is in additional to his full-time job as art teacher at Barberton High School and part-time job as yoga instructor.
Highly active seems to be White's natural state. For the last 10 years he has worked aggressively at his art. In the last five, he has kept a working space at Redlight Galleries on North Main Street in Akron. There, he works on and shows his drawings and sculpture. Much of the work is surprisingly large considering the modest space.
Visitors view his art, watch him work, and if White has his way, spend a long time talking with him. White has a strong desire to connect with people and that has made him change his art in the last few years.
“What I used to do was classical realism," he said. "It was almost like a three-dimensional snapshot. People would come into the studio and say, ‘Wow Ron, you really captured that.’ And then leave. I had them for five seconds. So it must not be that culturally important anymore.”
So about two years ago, White made a “change from darkness to light.” While he still employs the classical techniques he was schooled in, he allows himself to have a lot of fun. And since doing so, he finds that people spend much more time looking and hang around to talk about the art. The art is strong and bold. Many of his strongest pieces are sculpture.
White works extensively in sculpture. He uses clay and other material, traditional and otherwise. He also sculpts ice for special events in Barberton. His interest in sculpture started early.
"In my youth, my dad had a construction company," said White. "I got to see things built and deconstructed. From that I was able to see the reason for form. That followed me through my studies in the arts.” He studied art and education at Wright State University and then earned a master's degree from Kent State in sculpting and education.
White's winning Art Prize entry is titled, "Contemplative or Multitasker...Which one are you," and is a cold glazed clay/ceramic piece. He said the inspiration for this piece came from a student. White found a student at the end of class texting and listening to music. “After a few seconds she was in tears, and then just sniffles, to deep breath, a grin, and a smile,” he said. He asked her what happened and she said that her boyfriend broke up with her, her girlfriends consoled her, and her boyfriend made up with her -- all in 3 to 5 minutes and all by text.
The competition sponsor, The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation, awarded $5,000 to White and five runners up received $1,000 prizes.
The five Art Prize runners up include Kevin Smalley of Stow, Lisa Demagall of Twinsburg, Bernadette Glorioso of Akron, Michael Marras of Akron and Elise Gaffney of Akron. Winners were announced by Rick Kellar, president of The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation.
So is White the reflective contemplative person, or the overstimulated multitasker? He said he’s both, but added, “Right now technology enables us to have the ability to be either. But I think in the next five years, as soon as you leave your house you'll have to be technology-man. If you're any kind of professional who must organize, [the multitasker] is what you're going to have to be. As a school teacher I wouldn't be as effective if I didn't have technology.” Sounds like a man contemplating the issues of multitasking.
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