A Plein Air View of a City Newly Presented
Bart Sullivan, 10-09-2018

Front Street and the Clocktower, as seen by beginning painter, 10-year-old Greta Parsons.
Stephen Mulé
When people describe Cuyahoga Falls to those outside the city, there are certain attributes that always stand out: the river, the downtown shopping district, the clock tower, and the closeness of the community. All of these are found especially in the historic district of Cuyahoga Falls, which is the theme of Cuyahoga Valley Art Center’s August presentation, the Crooked River Plein Air Exhibition & Art Sale.

“Plein Air” is a French term for an impressionistic painting style. The Cuyahoga Valley Art Center (CVAC) has used this theme to focus on the Downtown Cuyahoga Falls Historic District and the Cuyahoga River. Artists from five counties and 11 cities participated in the competition, ranging from beginners, like 10-year-old Cuyahoga Falls resident Greta Parsons, to more established painters, such as Sally Heston from Broadview Heights.

Gathering a variety of artists, CVAC provided space to paint and “paint-out” opportunities for participants to work together. Doing so, entrants explored the new changes to the historic district, such as the new businesses and re-opening of Front Street to traffic. According to CVAC Director Danielle Dieterich, several artists from prior plein air competitions have passed away since the downtown construction began. As a result, Dieterich noted, this year’s plein air exhibition featured some younger artists, and the competition allowed them to grow as artists. A younger perspective on the historic district also leaves a lasting impression of this generation’s historic Cuyahoga Falls.

Wandering through downtown scenery through the artists’ eyes, as well as discussing their own histories of the city at the opening reception on August 10th, it was easy to see what is most memorable and appreciated about the area. Various takes on the clock tower can be see throughout, with other specific looks at new and established businesses on the street, such as The Hidden Pearl and Yum Yum Sweet Shop. Akron artist Annette Thorson takes an off-the-cuff look at several historic buildings via mixed media on paper torn from a notebook. Each piece is a unique look at the city we live in, but which we may sometimes forget to appreciate.

Other artists show lesser-known structures in the area that may have been forgotten. Best of Show winner Bob Maurer, for instance, painted the Victorian house on Broad Boulevard, which Jessica Loftus, a juror of the competition, explains has allowed the artist to create “an emotion ... that creates a versatility for the viewer ... This is a great example of how choice use of tone and hue can go a long way toward a story unable to be depicted in a short time frame.” This judgement was easily seen in artists’ and patrons’ eyes as they viewed the painting, realizing the story of a house as seen by a resident of Canton who may have found these concepts by chance.

Winners of the Crooked River Plein Air Competition include Bob Maurer’s Victorian House on Broad as Best of Show, Sally Heston’s Yum Yum Shop in second place, Kathy Sabbath Oravecz’s Rivercolors in third place, with Honorable Mention to Mary Anne ‘Mo’ Mosyjowski’s Cuyahoga River.

In drawing artists from across Ohio for this and other competitions, as well as regular classes on different styles and uses of art, CVAC hopes to continue expanding its stance as the place to find art in Ohio. As these exhibits and classes draw artists and patrons to Cuyahoga Falls, the goal is to be known for art nationwide, bringing business to the city and maintaining its creative history. CVAC envisions a sustainable and supportive environment for artistic excellence, creativity, and collaborative community engagement to enhance quality of life in Northeast Ohio. The first step for this goal is September’s Landscapes exhibition, which will hold its artist reception September 7th.

Cuyahoga Valley Art Center is located at 2131 Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls. For more information on upcoming shows visit www.cvart.org.

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