Kent puts local art on display during first Friday Art Walk

One of the flowers made at Red Letter Days during the First Friday Art Walk Friday, April 5.

Jorden Shevel

The first Friday Art Walk of 2019 was full of people participating in hands-on activities, enjoying art and meeting the artists. Downtown Kent businesses and galleries helped artists showcase their work and also bring other projects to life.

Some stops along the way had pieces of artwork from featured artists. Businesses like Handcrafted, Last Exit Books, Kent State Hotel, Troppus Projects, McKay Bricker Framing, and Standing Rock Cultural Arts all had displays of different artwork set up for people to enjoy.

Last Exit Books, even while under construction, created a small gallery in the cafe area of the bookstore. People in the art walk could grab some coffee, sit around a table, and observe the pieces created by local painters Jason Merlene and Eddie Harris. Merlene, who is also the owner of Last Exit Books, said he is a big fan of “New York abstract expressionism” where the artist starts with a blank canvas and creates the vision as they go. Creating something from a blank canvas is exactly what Merlene did when he opened his store in downtown Kent.

“Being a coffee shop bookstore, mainly a bookstore we have always been connected with art and literature,” Merlene said. “When I first opened the store is was dedicated completely to art and literature and so now we have the space to show art it just fits in with the way we view ourselves.”

The event also offered some hands-on activities such as creating a LED light up flower at Red Letter Days, painting a planter at Each+Every, and a sewing class at Kent Fabrics. All the activities along the walk were free and gave people a chance to try their hand at different types of art.

Inside of Red Letter Days, Lysa Anderson was demonstrating how to create the LED flashy flowers craft when a little boy ran into the craft room. She handed him the flower which he clipped on his shirt with an ear to ear grin. The boy quickly said “Thank you” and darted out of the room, accompanied by his mother to visit the rest of the art walk.

“It’s a big deal to get it out there and it’s almost like an affirmation, someone else’s likes what I’m doing,” Anderson said, “which is a big deal for me it’s kinda like when you apply for college and you get that acceptance letter back. You’re just like, yeah! All that work was worth it, look at me getting into this.”

The art walk also gave artists a chance to get some exposure for the work they have spent a lot of time creating. Mikayla McCall, a full-time art teacher, and part-time artist, was able to display her embroidered home decor inside of Handcrafted. Her business Hoop There It Is creates what her website calls  “Not your grandmother’s embroidery.”

“Art is obviously a huge part of my life and I think it’s important to be a part of a community that supports local makers,” McCall said. “So I think not just the opportunity for me but for all the makers that sell at the stores to be able to have a platform for people from different communities to come in and see your work. There is something special about supporting someone’s passion.”

Jorden Shevel covers business. Contact him at [email protected]