The Ohio Arts Council (OAC) awarded Summit Artspace an Arts Resilience Initiative grant that will be used to restore and document the mural in the building’s parking lot. Internationally-acclaimed ceramic artist and Kent State faculty member Kirk Mangus (1952–2013) and 25 Summit County teens painted the mural in 2006. The 200’ long by 9’ high mural, titled Kings and Queens, depicts faces representing various ethnic groups living in Akron. Through the grant, Summit Artspace will expand upon the mural’s original concept through a new community-based project called Faces of Akron.
Kent-based artist and internationally-acclaimed ceramicist Eva Kwong, Mangus’ widow, will spearhead the restoration of the mural. Student artists in the Akron Public Schools’ School of the Arts and Academy of Design will aid Kwong with the restoration, mirroring the student engagement that helped produce the original work.
“I am delighted to be part of this project. I assisted my late husband, Kirk Mangus, with the original mural and worked with some of the students,” said Kwong. “This new segment will revitalize and extend Kirk’s original vision. The mural reflects the multiplicity of faces within our community. Kirk would say, ‘They/we are all beautiful people.’”
In collaboration with the Kent State School of Art’s art history department, Summit Artspace will create physical and online didactics for the mural, including recorded interviews with Kwong and the students who helped to make the mural in 2006. “Two Kent State art history students, Ariana Parry and Sarah Tomasko, will bring their formal training in the history of art and help preserve the cultural history of iconic Kirk Mangus mural, Kings and Queens. This will include documenting Mangus’ legacy and educating the northern Ohio public about the mural,” said Professor John-Michael Warner, who will mentor the students alongside Summit Artspace’s Director of Artist Resources, Natalie Grieshammer Patrick, and Gallery and Programs Assistant Sam Imrie.
A new community-based digital mural initiative led by local artist Alexandria Couch, titled Faces of Akron, will pay homage to the 2006 mural and will represent the many ethnic groups and nationalities living in greater Akron today. Faces of Akron will commission five local artists, selected by Couch through an open call, who will use their creative processes to highlight diversity in the community. Community members can submit their portraits for selection by the artistic team for the new artworks, which will be digitized into a virtual mural and exhibited at Summit Artspace in June 2022.
This project is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically.
“The Ohio Arts Council’s Arts Resiliency Initiative supports Ohio artists engaged in projects driven and planned by their communities. Summit Artspace’s preservation of the Kings and Queens mural will restore a piece of the city’s history and vibrance, while also providing insight into its bright future through the mural’s expansion. The project is an excellent, thoughtful example of how to empower creative professionals to work and contribute toward community revitalization,” remarked Donna S. Collins, executive director of OAC.
For more information about the Kings and Queens mural project and Faces of Akron, visit https://www.summitartspace.org/faces-of-akron/.