Cultural Shift: Rust Never Sleeps

Knight Foundation recently awarded the Akron Art Museum $1 million to engage the public with a series of groundbreaking exhibitions.  Executive Director and CEO Mark Masuoka writes about the museum’s new efforts and approach to community building.

As the title of Neil Young’s 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps suggests, time stands still for no one and only action can deter obsolescence.  In a constantly shifting cultural landscape, art organizations can choose to adapt and potentially survive in current economic conditions, or forge ahead and develop innovative ideas that will drive our creative economy.  How can cultural institutions move beyond survival mode by redefining cultural habits and re-imagining art museums as the new civic commons?

In many ways, the Akron Art Museum is no different that any other mid-sized, mid-western, post-industrial, contemporary art museum in the country.   Nationally, art museums face similar challenges in developing and executing creative strategies to retain their dedicated members and supporters while reaching new audiences, including the next generation of culture seekers.
Or just maybe, the Akron Art Museum is very different, because it is perfectly positioned to embrace Akron, a city, which is working to differentiate itself from other “rust belt” communities, and struggling to discover a new identity. Cracking the culture code means seizing this moment to be the provocateur, to stir up latent feelings of cultural discontent and expose the hyper-indulgence that often accompanies complacency.
Can an art museum be the cultural change agent that navigates complex social systems to ignite social, cultural and economic change?
With a firm belief that apathy is the enemy of change, the Akron Art Museum has begun the process of awakening minds and engaging hearts by stimulating risk taking and presenting a new value proposition: we are not just seeking the rewards of being creative, but encouraging everyone in the city to LIVE CREATIVE.
This new direction reflects the museum’s efforts to engage new audiences and building stronger communities. We are transitioning from a traditionally closed social ecosystem to a progressively open environment that focuses on reaching a broader spectrum of users, makers and supporters.
The challenge that we face cannot be met with a single one-step solution. The old formula used by art museums no longer works. It’s not only about the art.  Art museums need to take into consideration the importance of engagement and the transformation that takes while lives are enriched. Culture seekers expect to be directly engaged and audiences want to understand how their investment in arts and culture will be valued, delivered and ultimately consumed.  The development of new exhibitions and programs are carefully linked to how the Akron Art Museum captures the imagination of the high frequency users and the culturally disengaged.
The path to success is a non-linear sequence of events that requires a sense of urgency, adventure and introspection.  Civic engagement becomes the conduit to which we both receive and deliver visual content and information resulting in community-inspired art projects and relevant public programs that bring people together in a meaning exchange of ideas and inspired enthusiasm.
Over the past year, we have begun the process of working directly with artists to create temporary interventions within the museum’s public spaces and beyond our front doors extending out into Downtown Akron.
In April 2014, Tony Feher installed three 54-inch tall red marine buoys from the cantilevers that reach out from the roof of the museum, as part of his 25-year survey exhibition featured more than 50 of the artist’s works.  His exhibition included a two-week residency at the museum, which incorporated the architecture of our Coop Himmelb(l)au designed Knight Building into the exhibition.   Buoy exemplifies Feher’s creative process by bringing attention to everyday objects and materials and presenting them in new and unpredictable ways.  In dangling the buoys upside down, Feher subverts their intended function and offers viewers an element of surprise, delight and curiosity. These qualities are enhanced by the attention the buoys bring to museum and by suspending the unfamiliar with the recognizable.
With each and every exhibit, program and event, we have the opportunity to reach out to Akron, and  propose a new civic strategy that ensures the cultural health and wellness for our entire community.


Read More

Trains on the Brain

by Alison Caplan, Director of Education
Trains are on my brain this fall, from the sound of the historic steam engine chugging through the valley to the powerful black and white images by O. Winston link hanging in the museum’s Bidwell gallery.
My toddler’s obsession with the train table at our local library has led me to embrace amazing picture books like Steam Train Dream Train and Locomotive. Steam Train Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld is a great bedtime story featuring animals loading kid favorites, like ice cream, race cars and bouncy balls, onto a train that choo choos its way along a nighttime landscape. Caldecott award winner Locomotive by Brian Floca takes readers back 150 years to the introduction of the transcontinental railway. Trains Go by Steve Light offers a great alternative for art babes, showing the chunks and clunks of different train types in a refreshing and appropriate horizontal orientation.
Steam Train Dream TrainLocomotivesteam01._V374828783_trains go
The Magnetic Fields classic indie pop record The Charm of the Highway strip is one of my favorite road trip records and Baby I Was Born on a Train is getting some much needed reviving after recently being covered by the Arcade Fire.
Local native Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train is set in Memphis and revolves around a young Elvis obsessed Japanese couple who ride the train into town to pay homage to their favorite country stars. The film features the classic Elvis song and even a visit from the King himself, in ghost form. [youtube]
There’s also Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, about two men who meet on a train, plot and swap murders. The crisscrossing train tracks are a major reoccurring symbol throughout the film. [youtube]
Who doesn’t love a good PBS documentary? The American Experience: Riding the Rails explores the role of trains during the Great Depression and the development of hobo culture, which is outlined so knowingly by comedian John Hodgman in his book The Areas of My Expertise, which features many seriously delivered fake facts about hobos. In fact a fan of Hodgman’s took the PBS documentary and mashed it up with the audio version of Hodgman’s book. It’s pretty convincing. Hodgman will be at the Main Library as part of their Main Event Speaker Series on October 22. [youtube]
O. Winston Link may have documented the last hurrah of train transportation, but Amtrack is aiming to infuse it with creativity by creating a writers in residency program. Who knows what kind of artwork locomotives will inspire in the future.
Looking for a local train fix? Hop on the steam train  Join us at the Akron Art Museum this Thursday, September 11 at 6:00 pm for a reading by Jane Ann Turzillo author of Murder and Mayhem on Ohio’s Rails and the film The Photographer, His Wife, Her Lover, which will screen at 6:30 pm.

Read More

O. Winston Link: A Look Back Into the Archives

By: Kent State University Practicum Student, Alexandra Lynch
O. Winston Link was born in Brooklyn in 1914. Link’s love of trains began when he was just a young boy. “I’ve loved trains since I was 4 years old,” he said. “I got started in photography photographing trains.” During World War II, when “it was against the law to photograph trains,” he said he would take his camera and lie in wait for them around the Mineola, Long Island Railroad (Art People, Michael Brenson). Link photographed the Norfolk and Western steam division from 1955 until the line was closed in 1961. During this time, he produced 2,500 images of the N&W and traveled through six states and countless counties of the “Land of Plenty Places”, named by the lines veterans. This work would have seemed taxing to most, but for Link it was the closest thing to heaven. Ogle Winston Link passed away of a hear attack outside of a railway station on January 30, 2001 at the age of 83.

Poster from Link’s first exhibition Railroad Photographs of the 1950s

O. Winston Link is being featured in a solo exhibition for the second time in the Akron Art Museum galleries. Link’s first exhibition, Railroad Photographs of the 1950’s, was on view June 4th through July 3rd, 1983, and was the museum’s first major exhibition of railroad photography. The exhibition featured over 40 photographs captured with Link’s unique, homemade lights and flash equipment that he used to illuminate the scenes he was trying to record. 10 images from this show can be seen in the Akron Art Museum current exhibition, Along the Tracks: O. Winston Link, located in the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery until November 9, 2014.
Be sure to check out the upcoming O. Winston Link film, The Photographer, His Wife, Her Lover in the museum auditorium on September 11, 2014, 6:30 pm.

Read More

Fall 2014 Director's Message


By Mark Masuoka, Executive Director and CEO

A is for the Akron (Art Museum)

With the recent publication of three Akron-centric books, A is for Akron by Karen Starr and Joanna Wilson, The Hardway on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt, by David Giffels and Dave Lieberth’s history of Akron, Inventive. Industrious. Inspired., I feel it is only appropriate that the focus my attention is on my new home.

Over the past year, I’ve been listening and learning about what it means to be from Akron and the impact the Akron Art Museum has had on the community. To that end, the art museum has celebrated the seventh anniversary of its John S. and James L. Knight Building and has taken full advantage of the forward thinking design and architecture of Coop Himmelb(l)au and as the building continues to attract visitors from all over the world as well as throughout Northeast Ohio. The expansion of the museum’s galleries and public spaces has also proven to be a great addition to the museum and a significant cultural asset to Akron; producing a substantial increase in our public programming and our ability to engage with the community.

So why does this matter to Akron? It matters because the expansion of the Akron Art Museum has been the catalyst for a cultural shift, not only for the museum, but also for our entire Akron community. It has set in motion a new set of possibilities about what it means to be an art museum, our role in the community and most of all, it has raised expectations. We no longer have the option to only live within our means, but to live up to our full potential.

As part of the original vision of the expansion of the museum, the development of an outdoor space-directly to the south-currently our member’s parking lot, will focus of our attention on creating a public space that will serve as an urban oasis and provide a place where people can gather to enjoy art. It will also be a space that can offer tranquility and encourage users to slow down and take a moment to just sit still and unwind from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The premise is that an outdoor space could be more that just additional programming space, but should offer the opportunity to be an active participant in the life of the city and to be a connection point to visitors that seek a way to live creative. Join us on November 11 for our forth Community Conversation: Shifting the Cultural Landscape, Public Place | Public Space. This series of community forums are generously sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and are intended to expand our ability to facilitate conversations on a broad range of topics including art, entrepreneurship, innovation and placemaking.

Inside the museum, our expanded galleries also provide additional space to showcase new acquisitions to our ever-expanding collection including Tony Feher’s Untitled, sculpture, acquired through the generosity of The Mary S and Louis S. Meyer Endowment Fund for Painting and Sculpture and currently installed in our Sandra L. and Dennis B. Haslinger Foundation Galleries.   Our current exhibition, Skin and Bones: 20 Years of Drawing features over 300 works by Houston-based artist, Trenton Doyle Hancock in our Karl and Bertl Arnstein Galleries. Hancock’s work provides viewers with an insight into the artist’s inner life through his drawings and paintings and is inspired by comic books, superheroes, cartoons and graphic novels, which is filtered through his personal experiences and fueled by his creative spirit. Recent changes in our galleries also include interactive activities connected with each new major exhibition in our Jerry and Patsy Shaw Video Box and an expanded exhibition schedule in our Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation Gallery, featuring photographs from the Akron Beacon Journal archives celebrating their 175th anniversary.

Over the past year, we have launched three public projects outside of the museum’s walls including Jamie Burmeister’s Message Matters, Tony Feher’s Buoy and Jesse Strother’s Make Your Mark wall drawing at the Knight Center. This year, the museum will be announcing more projects intended to bring art directly into the community and to increase our effort to communicate our increased level of activity. As a member of the Akron Art Museum, you will receive an invitation to our upcoming Annual Meeting on September 23. The event will offer a recap of the past year of activities; programs and events as well as offer an inside look into the upcoming exhibition season and to hear about the future direction of the museum’s strategic initiatives and public programs. If you’re not a museum member, here is your chance to sign up today, get plugged and join us at the event. To become an Akron Art Museum member, please give us a call at 330.376-9186 ext. 225 and speak to one our membership associates today. You’ll be glad to know that your contribution allows us to accomplish our goal of enriching lives through modern and contemporary art. 

A is for the Akron (Art Museum) and as a 21st century art museum, we are dedicated to promoting the understanding that creativity is an essential component to the development of a vibrant and engaged community. As a community leader, I have the responsibility to stay on the leading edge of innovation, civic engagement and cultural advancement to lead the museum into the future.   With your support, we can make great things happen together, in this city we call home.  







Read More


AK_247x392_Shop_no bleed
The Akron Art Museum is a member supported non-profit organization.  All proceeds generated from sales in the Museum Shop provides operational funds in order for us to present engaging exhibitions and programs. Become a member of the Akron Art Museum and join us in making a difference in the creative life of our community.

Read More



 By Mark Masuoka, Executive Director and CEO

As children, we were all told to be cautious of the deep end of the pool.  That is where the risky people gathered, the thrill seekers, individuals who wanted more than just the shallow end experience.  In many ways, our lives haven’t really changed from those Stand By Me years.  The idea of risk taking still means to go where few decide to venture, to purposely challenge yourself to take on a new task, a different role at work or even a new career, because deep down you know it will be a lot more fun, exciting and scary.
When was the last time you jumped in the deep end of the pool?  Stood on the edge of the unknown and just said go for it.   My guess is …that if it has been recently, you are still benefiting from the experience and can’t wait for another one.  If it’s been awhile, it’s time to get wet.

Read More

Community Conversations: Art and Entrepreneurship

Mouse trapBy Mark Masuoka, Executive Director and CEO

Art and Entrepreneurship are typically two subjects that occupy polar opposite positions in society. What is the role of innovation in the non-profit sector?

Art (creative process) and business (entrepreneurial spirit) are forever linked by the fact that there is no innovation without creativity.  Both industries thrive when the focus is on fulfilling a mission, not the bottomline.  Employees want to be inspired, customers want to know that their investment is making a difference and as a result, the outcome for both profit and not-for-profit systems can be  a both symbiotic and successful. 

The process of creating a new sculpture, painting, photograph, financial strategy, manufacturing system or business model is congruent with creativity. At this point, the perceived differences between art and entrepreneurship are blurred and each new discovery follows a convergent path. 

So the next time you are thinking about starting a new business or inventing a new mousetrap, watch out, you might just be stepping into the creativity zone.

Read More

Back to School!

School is right around the corner, so be sure to take a look at the great items we have in our shop that can help make this school year fun and exciting!

Get a BIG start to this school year!

  • Giant Pencil from Toysmith $7.95
  • Really Big Eraser from Toysmith $4.95

2Giant Pencil and Realy Big Eraser

Create a unique study space!

  • BTW Dry Erase Board from Decor Craft International $14.95
  • Squadron Pushpins from Design Ideas $4.95
  • Tell Tale Pushpins from Design Ideas $4.95
  • Cloud Cork Board Mini-Set of 4 from Design Ideas $19.95

School Blog Collage 2

Have fun and stay organized!

  • Hidden Pencil Notebook $15.95
  • Boogie Board Original 8.5 e-writer from Kent Displays $36.95


Prepare for a bright future!

  • Chroma Magnet Board from Design Ideas $24.95
  • Chirp Magnets from Design ideas $6.95


Meet the perfect study buddy!

  • Adam the Doodles Man from Design Ideas $26.95

To view more items offered in the shop and for shop hours, click here>

Read More

A Look Back Into the Archives: View

By: Kent State University Library Science Practicum Student, Alexandra Lynch
The Akron Art Institute Bulletin started off as a monthly, publishing information related to current exhibitions and art happenings in the city of Akron. Volume 1 Number 1of the bulletin was made available October 1929 and included the articles, Art for Children, Great Art for Little Purses, Hand Wrought Silverware and Thirty Paintings by Cleveland Artists. The Akron Art Institute Bulletin has taken many names throughout the years. It took its current name the View, in July of 2007 in conjunction with the opening of the new building.
The summer 2014 edition of the View is now available in the Akron Art Museum Library, at the information desk and online: You can read articles on exhibitions such as, Tony Feher Akron Installations, Along the Tracks: O. Winston Link, and Butch Anthony: Vita Post Mortum. You can also find out about the fun and exciting programs and collaborations going on at the museum this summer.
View AAI Bulletin001

Read More

Community Conversations: Shifiting the Cultural Landscape


By Mark Masuoka, Executive Director and CEO

What happens when a message doesn’t matter?  When all your marketing, promotions and campaigns just don’t work.  When the only thing that really matters is to take action, set things in motion, create chaos and watch what happens.
This is what artists experience, encounter and explore everyday.  The creative process  brings together our  intentions and initiative in order to make change happen.  It’s not about what you talk about; it’s not even what you think about; it’s only about how you live your life.
How do you LIVE Creative?

Read More