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LAST DAY! Crooked River Contrasts: Cuyahoga River Exhibit

May 18, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm

cuyahoga river

The impact of the Cuyahoga River fire 50 years ago that awakened awareness for the environment can be seen in a traveling photography exhibit about the waterway for the last day, May 18, in the main gallery of Summit Artspace on East Market from 12 to 5 p.m.

Summit Artspace is located at 140 East Market St., Akron. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Crooked River Contrasts is just one of many public events built around the Cuyahoga River’s celebration. The river was reported to be one of the most polluted in the country by the 1960s due to industrial waste. Although it had caught fire throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the fire on June 22, 1969 was the most intensely covered by media. It spurred the passage of the Clean Water Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.


The photo exhibition is part of the Xtinguish celebration, a regional commemoration of the rejuvenation of the river. West Creek Conservancy is the sponsoring organization. Xtinguish and West Creek are the cornerstones of the effort and are funding and coordinating the exhibit. More information about West Creek Conservancy can be found at https://westcreek.org/.

The show is also supported in part by Ohio Humanities, Akron-Summit Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and the Summit Soil & Water Conservation District.

Cuyahoga River shipping channel, Cleveland, 1969” by Mitchael J. Zaremba / The Plain Dealer, Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection
Cuyahoga River shipping channel, Cleveland, 1969 by Mitchael J. Zaremba / The Plain Dealer, Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection

The 1969 fire was caused by a railroad worker who dropped a flare onto oily debris floating in the river. This was at least the thirteenth time that the river burned. Fire fighters put out the blaze before reporters arrived. Five weeks later, Time magazine ran a story about urban water pollution with an undated image of the more impressive 1952 Cuyahoga River fire.

Crooked River Contrasts will travel through communities along the Cuyahoga River in 2019. It will connect the public to the complex history of the river, centered on its rebirth in past 50 years.


The exhibit features the work of 8 renowned and emerging Northeast Ohio photographers of the Cuyahoga and Lake Erie watersheds: Ian Adams, Jennie Jones, William Rieter, Jim Roetzel, Christina Sadowski, Jeffrey Gibson, Rick McMeechan and D.J. Reiser.

Photographer for Cuyahoga River Constrasts
Jennie Jones by Jaimie Janos
Photographer for Cuyahoga River Constrasts
Ian Adams
Photographer for Cuyahoga River Constrasts
Christina Sadowski
Jim Roetzel Photographer for Cuyahoga River Constrasts
Jim Roetzel
Photographer for Crooked River Contrasts
Jeffrey Gibson
Denny Reiser Crooked River Contrasts
Denny Reiser


Contrasting their contemporary views are images, video and text from the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries. The exhibit will also feature an opportunity through the Wick Poetry Center of Kent State University that allows gallery visitors to share their thoughts, stories and memories about the river in writing.

In addition, video monitors will present little-known clips dating back 50 years, including interviews and river montages in its polluted, improving and current state.

Crooked River Contrasts details an extraordinary story of resilience by both the natural world and the citizens of Northern Ohio. The story of the evolving partnership between industry, citizens and the civic landscape is rich and visually arresting. Themes address a major environmental event in U.S. history that led directly to urgent action nationwide to curb unrestrained land, water and air pollution.

Visitors will explore topics of community identity; making connections across several eras; community interdependence on natural areas; and shaping new dialogues and realities.


Historical images and video are courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland Memory, NE OH Broadcast Archives, Kent Historical Society, Peninsula Historical Society and Western Reserve Historical Society.

Summit Artspace’s main gallery is open Thursdays and Fridays, 12-7 p.m., and Saturdays, 12-5 p.m.

Summit Artspace is a non-profit community art center organization that provides studio, exhibit and programming spaces in Summit County and the surrounding area for local artists and arts organizations; and is a center for art education open to all residents. Contact Summit Artspace at 330-376-8480. On the Web at www.summitartspace.org. Find us on: Facebook, Twitter at AkronAreaArts, Instagram and Snapchat.

Gorge Metro Park_Jim Roetzel
Gorge Metro Park by Jim Roetzel

High above the Cuyahoga’s deep gorge, a bridge connects Cuyahoga Falls and Akron. The area’s complex geology caused the southbound river to U-turn north here. In 1913 the 57-foot tall Gorge Dam was built to generate electricity. Today plans are moving ahead to remove this obsolete structure and restore the river’s natural flow. Underneath lies one of Ohio’s greatest natural attractions—the Great Falls—hidden for over a century.


See the Summit Artspace exhibit calendar for directions.
Plan your visit by clicking here.
Have questions? Here is our Frequently Asked Questions page.

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