Akron Art Mail
The Akron Art Museum’s mission is to enrich lives through modern and contemporary art, and 2020 has brought both challenges and opportunities for that goal. While the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated physical distancing, Akron Art Mail is intended to be a way to reconnect and reflect on the current moment.
The project, a joint venture between the Akron Art Museum and Akron-Summit County Public Library, aims to put art and writing into people’s hands. Akron Art Mail has three main components: commissioned art cards offered free for patrons; a community exhibition of art cards; and an e-book catalog of the project.
How does it work?
Members of the community were invited to create their own postcard art and mail it back to the Museum for inclusion in an exhibition in the Judith Bear Isroff Gallery.
Share your experiences with postcard art on social media and tag @akronartmuseum
Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His work has been published in The New Yorker and The New York Times, among others. His collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in 2017 and was named a book of the year by multiple publications including Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, and The Chicago Tribune. He released Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest in February 2019 and it became a New York Times Bestseller. His second collection of poems, A Fortune For Your Disaster, was released in 2019 by Tin House.
My mother would tell me that even the worst loneliness still felt like good luck. A chance for the self to determine its own destiny. Even though that feels like a myth now, with the wind and rain beating against the humidity beating against the doorstep for what feels like the hundredth Ohio day in a row. Still, I convince myself that I am happy to be here, crawling towards a future that I cannot see but feel certain is better than the present that I am immersed in now. I hope that, wherever you are, you can join me.
Mary Biddinger is a writer, editor, and professor who lives in Akron, Ohio. She teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Akron, where she is on the faculty of the NEOMFA creative writing program. Her poems have recently appeared in Court Green, The Laurel Review, Poetry, Southern Indiana Review, and Sugar House Review, and her prose is forthcoming in On the Seawall. Her most recent book is Partial Genius (Black Lawrence Press, 2019).
We’re not sure what it’s asking, but electricity travels every plane connected to another plane. Trees are just math until we need them as cover. Sky a cone tinted gold then spun. The landscape drops like a carnival ride, rain in our mouths something taught then forgotten. These daffodils beg as shorebirds seeking bread. Every reed aspires to harden like a fence. Air so angry it sings itself into shut rooms. Can we trust the pond that displays us in haunted reverse? We were built as trees then settled under eaves, hands over ears.
INSPIRED BY Charles Burchfield, (Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio, 1893 – 1967,
Buffalo, New York). Spring Thunderstorm, 1955. Gift various donors 1964.11
Theron Brown currently resides in Akron, Ohio, where he is a professor of Jazz Piano at Kent State University, and he is immensely involved in promoting jazz music and the arts. He takes pride in teaching musicians of all ages and uplifting the Northeast Ohio region with his sound. Theron is the founder of the Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival, which takes place in Akron, Ohio’s downtown historic district. He has played internationally at venues in New York, Mumbai, Montreal, Toronto, Tokyo,and many more. Theron stringently continues to dedicate his life to the infinite pursuit of musical knowledge.
You don’t know how much you miss it until it’s gone. This is a place where you spend time with family and friends, take your emotions and imagination on a roller coaster ride, and also how some make a LIVING. You don’t know how much you miss it until it’s gone. We all yearn for “normality”. When we are blessed to have a glimpse of “normality”, one should promise to properly embrace every part of it. You’re either an entertainer, or a consumer of entertainment, yet we all need an entertainment district.
Holly Christensen is an award-winning columnist at the Akron Beacon Journal and teaches writing at the University of Akron. She’s currently working on her memoir, Becoming the Mother I Wanted. Her columns can be found at Ohio.com and whoopsiepiggle.com.
We once wore busy like a badge
claiming we wanted quieter times
a false request granted
in a moment
the old ways became
Gardens cultivated with care
ignore our crises
wild flowers riotous with color and odor
ignore our crises
It is not like them to borrow trouble
See our beauty see
your beauty we are
alive we are
alive you are
David Hassler directs the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University. He is the author or editor of nine books of poetry and nonfiction, including Growing Season: The Life of a Migrant Community; Speak a Powerful Magic: Ten Years of the Traveling Stanzas Poetry Project; and Red Kimono, Yellow Barn, for which he was awarded Ohio Poet of the Year 2006. His play, May 4th Voices: Kent State, 1970, was produced in 2020 as a national radio play by the WKSU NPR station.
Beneath a thin layer of soil, along vast fungal networks, trees talk to one another, warning of insect attacks. They have evolved as allies. We, too, are relational beings, what trees breathe out, we breathe in. The earth is a vast lung of which we are a part.
When George Floyd gasped, “I can’t breathe,” his dying words became a rallying cry, another distress signal to wake up and activate a seedbed in our bodies to dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy. Can white America learn from the trees to work as allies and honor the breath of George Floyd?
Philip Metres is the author of ten books, including Shrapnel Maps (2020) and The Sound of Listening: Poetry as Refuge and Resistance (2018). His work has garnered fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ohio Arts Council. He has won the Adrienne Rich Award, three Arab American Book Awards, the Cleveland Arts Prize, and the Hunt Prize. He is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University.
Thrity Umrigar is the best-selling author of the novels Bombay Time, The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, The Weight of Heaven, The World We Found, and The Story Hour. She is also the author of the memoir First Darling of the Morning. Her books have been translated into several languages and published in over fifteen countries. She is a Distinguished University Professor of English at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
That’s the theme of 2020.
We are boxed in by a virus—countries locked inside borders; old people trapped in nursing homes; the rest of us isolated in the boxes of our homes. We live behind masks, without touch, without embrace, all the things that make us human.
But with the multiracial Black Lives Matter protests, we are also stepping out of the boxes that have long imprisoned us—boxes of racism and fear and prejudice. We are learning to crack the shell, peek out, and take the first, tentative steps toward a freshly imagined world. Toward the sky.
Brad Warner is the author of Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen, Hardcore Zen, and several other books. He was ordained a Zen Buddhist monk by Gudo Nishijima Roshi. He grew up in Akron, Ohio and Nairobi, Kenya. He has practiced Zen for over 30 years. He plays bass in the hardcore punk band Zero Defex. For 11 years, he worked in Japan for the company founded by creator of Godzilla.
Zen values silence. Silent spaces. Silent meditation. A silent mind. But perfect silence is nowhere to be found. There’s the sound of the wind, of insects buzzing and chirping, distant sounds of human activity. Still, beneath even the loudest sounds, silence is always there. It’s the bedrock of every sound. When the noise of traffic, or people, or the chattering of my own mind become too much, I remember that silence is always there. These days even brief human contact is precious and I sometimes long to hear voices. Yet it’s also been a wonderful time to settle into silence.
Dr. Mary E. Weems is an accomplished author, poet, playwright, and social and cultural foundations scholar. Her work is inspired by the human condition and by what is happening to Black people in America around issues of race, gender, and class. To date, Weems has authored thirteen books and her plays and excerpts have been published or produced for nearly two decades.
Help! I’m afraid of po-lice.
I freeze when I see them on streets, I say silent prayers,
I try not to stare
or be seen.
Last week my friend Jay
got stopped with her mama and sister, cops walked up with guns
said car was not hers
then made them face down
in the dirt.
Her auntie said “Check my ID,” but cops still handcuffed her and Jay, while his little sister cried,
she thought they might die.
They never asked for car’s registration. They never said “Sorry, mistake,” now when Jay sees police,
her body right away
starts to quake.
INSPIRED BY the recent Aurora, Colorado incident and the look on the face of the figure in Carrie Mae Weems, (Portland, Oregon, 1953 – ). Red Bone Boy from the Colored People Series, 1990. Knight Purchase Fund for Photographic Media 1996.2
Joanna Wilson draws upon her academic background in film history and philosophy to create insightful commentary on television, movies, and popular culture. She is the author of four books on Christmas entertainment including Tis the Season TV: The Encyclopedia of Christmas-Themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies (coming 2021) and Triple Dog Dare: Watching–& Surviving–the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story(2016).
Each morning I get up just before dawn. At the trailhead, the beams of the summer sun reveal a morning mist that hangs in the cool air just above the adjacent ball fields. We like to be alone on the hiking trail in the morning; it means we won’t have to wear the masks we carry with us. We can breathe as freely and deeply as we want without fear of contagion from others. The footprints in the clay reveal crowds have passed in the time between our daily hikes. My acts of rebellion used to look much different.
Featured Visual Artists
Jordan Perme and Christopher Lees are a wife and husband artist team and the duo behind Horrible Adorables. Their work overlaps several categories in the arts including craft, toy design, public art, and fine art. Their art typically takes the form of fantastical “scale” patterned creatures that are placed in vignette environments to convey subtle stories. It is the artists’ intention that the colorful creatures evoke a sense of joy and playfulness in the viewer.
April (Ape) graduated from Kent State University in 2008 with a BFA in Fine Arts, Printmaking and a BA in History. After working in youth development in the nonprofit sector after college, she officially launched her creative business, APE MADE, in 2011. The APE MADE brand is Cleveland-proud and specializes in eco-friendly hand screen printing, featuring original designs on quality clothing and handmade goods. April has worked as a self-employed artist since 2011, primarily as a screen printer, but is versed in a variety of other media. She believes in purpose-driven printmaking and strives to engage the community through the arts.
Sequoia Bostick is an illustrator, maker, and designer living in Cleveland, Ohio. After earning her BFA in Illustration from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2014, she pursued a career as a resident teaching artist, working with local youth to grow their visual art skills all while growing her own artistic practice as a multi-disciplinary freelancer. Bright colors, dream-like figures, and cute and playful characters inhabit the stories she brings to life with both traditional and digital media. Sequoia’s work has been featured in Cleveland Scene Magazine, Vagabond Comics, Ideastream, The CAN Journal, and The Plain Dealer. You can also find her work in the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Maelstrom Collaborative Arts.
Claire Bowman is a contemporary printmaker specializing in relief printing and how the medium can express interpersonal connections and female body image. She is a current graduate student at Kent State University, earning her MFA in Photography and Print Media. Claire has lived in Ohio for all of her life, growing up in Cincinnati and then earning her BFA from the University of Dayton.
Akron artist Joan Colbert works in mixed media with an emphasis on printmaking, mainly relief prints and monotypes. Inspired by literature and influenced by her environs, her artwork is often thematic, frequently including references to her favorite motifs: blackbirds and bare trees. She strives to reach a balance between design and idea, and hopes that in each piece there is just enough left unstated to evoke more personal interpretations. In 2019 Joan was honored with the Arts Alive Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Summit Artspace. She was gallery coordinator for the Summit Artspace Gallery from 2007 to 2013, is a member of Artists of Rubber City, and is a longtime Highland Square resident.
April Couch is a self-taught Zentangle-inspired artist and the owner of Totally Tanged Creations. She combines simple tangles, or patterns, in an unplanned process so that they grow and change in surprising and amazing ways. Every piece, whether on paper, wood, metal, stones, ceramics, or the beach, is fantastically detailed and unique. She believes that there are absolutely no creative boundaries and that anything is possible, one line at a time. Couch has won many awards, including 1st Place Best of Show at the 2019 Mount Union Art Fest, the 2015 Akron Art Prize, and Artist Choice and 5th Runner Up at First Night Akron 2017.
Lifelong residents of Cleveland, Ohio, Gary and Laura married in 1971, combining their very different creative talents. Whether collaborating or working independently, these two artists have created a large body of work. Their diverse works range from comic books to graphic novels, prints to paintings, pen and ink to digital art, and public art, including a 60-foot mural. In other words, they say “yes” to every challenge that comes their way or that they can imagine. They have tackled political, social, and environmental issues in both comic books and large pop-surrealist paintings, telling their artistic truth, usually with a touch of humor.
Erin Guido is an artist working in Cleveland, Ohio. She incorporates text, bright colors, shapes, and illustration to create joyful and lighthearted artwork. Her murals and public art can be found in urban places where she aims to bring joy and surprise to the everyday. She co-founded So Fun Studio, a design collaborative that creates interactive and kinetic public art and products.
Dinara Mirtalipova is a self-taught illustrator and designer. Raised in Soviet-Uzbek culture, Dinara inhabited Uzbek and Russian folklore that still influences her work. Currently, Dinara works from her home studio in Sagamore Hills, Ohio. She uses a wide range of materials and techniques, like carving linoleum blocks, gouache, acrylics, and many others. She has been working with many great brands, publishing companies, and ad agencies and she is continuously looking forward to making new friends.
Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and bred in Southern California, Arabella Proffer is a painter and author based in Cleveland, Ohio. Her loose, narrative themes revolve around the history of medicine, psychedelic visions, and biomorphic organisms. Arabella’s work is in over 100 private collections, and she participates in solo and group exhibitions globally. She has authored several art books, including The National Portrait Gallery of Kessa: The Art of Arabella Proffer (2011), Gurls (2016–17), and The Restrooms of Cleveland (2019). She was awarded an Ohio Arts Council grant in 2016, an Akron Soul Train Fellowship in 2019, and a Satellite Award from the Andy Warhol Foundation and SPACES in 2020. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Plain Dealer, Hi-Fructose, and Juxtapoz.
Nicole Schneider received her BFA in Printmaking from Kent State University in 2007 and a Masters of Fine Art in Printmaking from Kent State University in 2012. While in graduate school, she was awarded an assistantship with the School of Art Galleries and worked as the Assistant to the Director of the School of Art Galleries. From 2008–2015 she worked in various capacities for Zygote Press, including serving as Gallery Director, instructing classes, and printing editions with Ink House. She also served on the installation crews at MOCA Cleveland, the Akron Art Museum, and the Transformer Station. Nicole currently makes work out of her home studio in Lakewood, Ohio.
Dave Szalay is an award-winning illustrator and designer, writer, and professor with a creative career spanning over three decades. He teaches illustration, visual storytelling, and design. Past clients include notable global corporations, institutions, healthcare providers, museums, technology companies, and many others. Dave lives with his wife Krista and their cats in Richfield near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Forests and wildlife that surround their home serve as major inspiration, as do folktales and travel destinations with adventurous landscapes and environments.
Justin Michael Will likes to draw every day. He has worked with all types of professional artist’s tools and mediums for over ten years at his day job. He’s exhibited paintings and drawings that range from illustration, to fine art, to just plain silly. With several murals, band flyers, and fake menus hanging in coffee shops and gas stations, and a slew of colorful works installed at local favorites like Vero Pizza Napoletana in Cleveland Heights, you can find him all over the Cleveland area. Embracing humor and never getting too serious, he’d like everyone to simply enjoy themselves and laugh and reflect with him on his journey.
Maria Alejandra Zanetta was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she studied Fine Arts at the National School for the Arts. After receiving her doctorate in comparative literature and art at the Ohio State University, she joined the University of Akron, where she currently teaches a wide range of courses in Hispanic literature, language, and culture. She is represented by the Brandt-Roberts Galleries in Columbus and by the Harris Stanton Gallery in Cleveland. As an artist, her printmaking and collage work reflect her interest in experimenting with texture and color. Zanetta is also a part of the Akron Art Museum and Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Akron Art Library program.
Thank you to our Partners
- Akron-Summit County Public Library
- Choices: a Community Social Center
- Mustard Seed Market and Café – Highland Square
- The Ronald McDonald House
- Downtown Akron Partnership
- Chameleon Café
- IBH Addiction Recovery Center
- The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Western Reserve
- Hower House
- North Akron CDC
- The Summit
- Rockynol Nursing Home
- Mac’s Backs Bookstore
- Karamu House
- KidsFirst Daycare
- St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School
- Akron Summit Community Action Inc.
- National Collage Society
Guidelines for submitting your postcard:
By following these guidelines for postcard creation, you’ll help keep the Museum’s exhibition community-focused, family-friendly, and—most importantly—creative!
We’ll include postcards that we receive on or before February 1st, but if you’d like to be one of the first on display, please return your card by October 1st.
Most importantly, have fun! Show us what you’ve been seeing, missing, or creating. Feel free to share your written thoughts, too, and add your own crafty spin on them with colors, lines, and shapes to match your words.
Some community-made postcards will be featured on social media. If you’d like to be identified in a post, tell us who you are and feel free to include social media handles if you’d like to be tagged.
By returning your postcard to the Museum, you agree to allow your postcard imagery to be used on social media and in an e-book to be published in 2021.
For the exhibition, the Akron Art Museum will strive to display as many submitted cards as possible, but reserves the right to refrain from displaying a card for reasons including but not limited to use of:
• Advertisements for businesses or services
• Profanity, including racial slurs
• Threats, harassment, hate speech, or any related language or imagery
• Explicit imagery or language
Akron Art Mail is made possible with the generous support from the Huntington-Akron Foundation with additional support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Kenneth L. Calhoun Charitable Trust, KeyBank, Trustee.