Summit Artspace Champion

Michelle Ward Ciancio

The Summit Artspace Champion award recognizes an individual, group, or organization that has been a true champion for Summit Artspace; who has provided extraordinary and ongoing support for its mission to help artists thrive professionally, creatively, and financially. 

To purchase tickets to the Arts Alive Awards gala on June 23 or watch the pre-recorded virtual ceremony broadcast, click here.

Michelle Ward Ciancio is an Appalachian artist, born and raised in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She now resides in Hudson, Ohio with her husband, Brady, and their two children, Vera and Landon.  

Ciancio has always enjoyed art, but it wasn’t until 2016 that she began taking her own artwork seriously. After the birth of her daughter, Ciancio struggled with severe postpartum depression, and painting became her means of catharsis. Predominantly known for her expressionistic, stylized portrait work and the Learned Ladies of Literature series, Ciancio uses layers of texture and bold colors to shape her portraits. Ciancio believes that there is an emotional response to texture, layers, and detail. Her work reveals the stories hidden within her muse. With all our different perspectives—our biology, our culture, our physical location in the world, and the relationships we forge with those around us—one’s individual understanding of the human experience can vary drastically from person to person. But when we look closer, taking time to inspect the layers and folds of experience and appreciating how alternating viewpoints texture our subjective realities, we become one beautiful people. With each portrait, Ciancio aims to capture that beauty, relying on striking, bold colors to celebrate and define each unique individual.  

Since 2020, Ciancio has been featured in multiple exhibitions, including Summit Artspace, the 2021 and 2022 Bryn Du Art Show, the 2021 Women of Appalachia Art Exhibition, and most recently, at the 2022 Art Show International Gallery where she was named a finalist in the Figurative Exhibition and received an Honorable Mention in the Portrait Exhibition.  

Perhaps most importantly, she has been featured in multiple local and regional publications due to her benevolent art initiatives. Ciancio defines herself as a Benevolent Artist. Raising over $18,000 since 2016, proceeds from her work and arts-related activities benefit various causes that Ciancio finds important and meaningful. She believes that art has value and artists have value, and she has chosen to direct that value to charitable causes including Summit Artspace, Akron Urban League, Victims Assistance Program, The Battered Women’s Shelter and Rape Crisis Center, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, ArtsNow, Twinsburg Scholarship Foundation, Legacies for Success, March of Dimes, American Heart Association, The Progeria Research Foundation, and more. In addition to these activities, she has been known to buy kerosene heaters, food, and other supplies for families in need back home in Kentucky and near Akron, Ohio. Ciancio often says that art has helped her through her toughest times, and she chooses to use her work to continue helping others. 

Grace Carter

Grace Carter

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