New Exhibitions for a New Year at Akron Art Museum

AAM InterPlay artwork, Small Town, Big Impressions, by Adana Tillman

The new year brings several new projects and exhibitions to the Akron Art Museum. While the museum hopes to reopen safely in the near future, staff members have been working hard to provide engaging content to be enjoyed both inside and outside the museum. The newest project, InterPlay: Art Play for All, is an augmented reality (AR) experience that enables anyone to interact with art from the comfort of their own home. With this project, free posters, distributed by the museum and a variety of local partners, become interactive and changeable when a QR code is scanned with a tablet or smartphone. The museum partnered with Akron-born artist Adana Tillman and Bluecadet, a digital design firm in Philadelphia, to bring this project to life. Tillman drew on her Akron roots to create the poster, and Bluecadet made the artwork interactive so that users can learn about the artist’s local connections, discover the inspirations behind her imagery, and make changes to create their own digital designs.

InterPlay: Art Play for All blends creativity and community with art and technology in an experience suitable for all ages. In addition to the fun and playful AR experience, users get a print of a work of art to display wherever they like. Adana Tillman conceived the work as a love letter to the city of Akron, and the artwork includes recognizable imagery from the city: from the Goodyear Blimp to local sights seen from her perspective. Anyone outside of the Akron area can enjoy InterPlay: Art for All posters, too. Copies ordered through the Museum Shop online will go out for free—recipients will only pay the cost of shipping.

As part of the museum’s video series On Process, Adana Tillman and Bluecadet recently sat down with the museum’s curator of community engagement to discuss InterPlay: Art Play for All and the work they each completed for the project in detail. Their interview can be seen on the museum’s YouTube channel. The On Process series features interviews with artists, many of them connected to the Akron area, who share details about themselves and each of their unique, creative processes. A new artist is featured on social media each week, and a full archive of past interviews can be found on the museum’s website. This series helps to inspire others and connect them to artists during these uncertain times.

Continuing with a focus on local artists, Making Your Mark aims to showcase Northeast Ohio creators in a way that highlights their diligent, skillful work. The purpose of the show is to help audiences get to know different artistic processes, such as printmaking and sculpting. In addition to labels, in the gallery viewers will see quotes from the artists and even displays of some of the tools they use. All of the artists have created audio tours using sounds from their studios to give an intimate sense of their craft. Making Your Mark can be viewed on the museum’s website.

Beginning March 4, two new exhibitions, Totally Rad: Bold Color in the 1980s and Totally Radical: Art and Politics in the 1980s will go up in the galleries. Scheduled for adjoining galleries, these shows are meant to be seen as a pair. Built out of the Akron Art Museum’s permanent collection, the works of art in Totally Radical span the decade’s flashpoints. Prints from the Guerrilla Girls’ insurgent poster campaign use the bold strategies of advertising to press the issue of gender equality. Dawoud Bey and Ken Heyman’s photographs portray the rich inner lives of Black and gay people, respectively. Daniel Mainzer’s pictures highlight the strength and dedication of factory workers in Akron. Also drawn from the permanent collection, Totally Rad offers a dazzling dive into the vibrancy of the ‘80s. In Peter Dean’s hyper-colored landscape, every flower, field, and tree are a vivid burst of energy. Nam June Paik and Jack Goldstein play with the glossy appearance of color TVs and digital screens, with their capacity to turn far-flung signals into luminous displays. In both a sculpture and a print, Nancy Graves leaves any familiar sense of order behind and makes whimsical poetry out of colors and shapes. Totally Rad and Totally Radical will be on view until August 1.

Lastly, in May, Jordan Wong’s The 10,000 Things will be added to the museum’s garden. Wong, an artist from Cleveland, whose work draws on his cultural heritage and interest in Asian toys, has created playful works for visitors of all ages to enjoy. The 10,000 Things combines themes of perseverance, triumph, belonging, and growth with inspirations from Asian art, video games, comic books, and more. The summer’s garden installation is just the start of Jordan Wong’s work with the museum, which will expand to also include an exhibition in the galleries opening in September.