For decades a favorite spot for illegal tagging and graffiti, the 2,000 square-foot brick wall shared by Land of Plenty and West Hill Hardware is getting a facelift through Arts LIFT, an award-winning summer arts apprenticeship program offered by the Myers School of Art at The University of Akron. Drivers and pedestrians heading west on Market Street will be able to easily see the painted mural and relief sculpture on the side of the 100-year-old landmark building.
The mural is the ninth and largest public art project created by UA’s Arts LIFT. Guided by Arts LIFT coordinator Elisa Gargarella, professional street artist Steve Ehret, and Land of Plenty owner and artist Kristi Wall, 10 high school students from the Akron Public Schools will collaborate with UA art education students to design, draw and paint the mural.
The project runs through June 26, with work happening at UA’s Myers School of Art in Folk Hall and on-site at Land of Plenty. Rubber City Fab metalworkers and Sherwin Williams are also involved as project supporters.
The Arts LIFT artists will unveil the completed mural during a free public celebration on July 9, 7 to 9 p.m., at Land of Plenty, 339 W. Market St. Local bands Shivering Timbers and Tall Tales will perform, followed by DJ Jay Soiree. Hollyhock Catering will provide refreshments.
Founded in 2002 with support from the Lola K. Isroff Arts Assistance Endowed Fund, The University of Akron’s Arts LIFT program enables students to work with professional artists while participating in collaborations that engage the community, assist underserved populations and invigorate local culture and economy.
Elisa Gargarella, a UA associate professor of art education, originated and directs Arts LIFT. “Arts LIFT has developed a reputation for bringing together urban students, teachers, artists and community organizations to create positive change in our city,” explains Gargarella. “The public art contributions from Arts LIFT have paved the way for many small enterprises and nonprofits to invest in the creative assets of our region’s young people and local artists and to building a more interesting, culturally and economically rich city.”
Past UA Arts LIFT community partners include the Akron Zoological Park, Crown Point Ecology Center, Corbin Conservatory at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center, Keep Akron Beautiful, Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association and the Feed My Sheep community garden project at First Congregational Church, and Highland Square’s first public mural on Angel Falls Coffee Company.
In 2013, Gargarella and Arts LIFT received the Best Business District Beautification Award for the Angel Falls Coffee Company Mural from West Hill Neighborhood Association. In 2009, they received the Charley Harper Award for contributions to Ohio’s eco arts from the Environmental Education Council of Ohio. In 2005, they received the Collaborative Project Award from the Akron Area Arts Alliance.
For more information about Arts LIFT, call the UA Myers School of Art at (330) 972-8325 or find the group on Facebook.