From Firestone's Akron School for the Arts

Our Students to Aid Mural Restoration
Posted on 04/11/2022
Image of Kings and Queens mural(Joyleah Odom for kentwired.com)

Art history majors Ariana Parry and Sarah Tomasko will be taking the lead in providing the oral history for the restoration of one of Akron’s most iconic murals.

Created in 2006, the mural titled “Kings and Queens” was a collaborative art piece between 25 Summit County teens and Kirk Mangus, an internationally-acclaimed ceramic artist and former Kent State faculty member. The artists painted faces that represented the various ethnic groups living in Akron.

Parry and Tomasko will research the creation of the mural in order to provide context for its restoration. The mural will be led in part by Kent-based and internationally-acclaimed ceramicist Eva Kwong. The project will also be aided by Mangus’ widow and students in Akron Public Schools’ School for the Arts and KSU Design in collaboration with Summit Artspace.

“I’m excited about just preserving Kirk and learning more about who he was as a person and preserving that aspect of the community,” Parry said.

Information on the original artist is very limited, so Parry and Tomasko’s job is to collect as much information as they can–-everything from Mangus’ familial history to his artwork. Finding this information is a priority as they prepare to create a resource center for the restored mural.

“We found a bunch of pictures of his work. He was head of semantics at Kent State. The couple worked alongside each other and I found a lot of his pottery,” Tomasko said. “I feel like he has to do with a lot of abstraction and diverting from traditional forms of beauty, and I found that to be really interesting about him. He seemed to really have a hands-out approach.”

As Parry and Tomasko continue their research, they will be mentored by Professor John-Michael Warner alongside Summit Artspace’s director of artist resources Natalie Grieshammer Patrick and gallery and programs assistant Sam Imrie.

Eventually, Parry and Tomasko will work with Kwong on the creation of an oral history.

“The display or ‘resource center’ as Ariana was mentioning would be inside of the Summit Artspace in Akron,” said Warner. “It would be a resource or history station, if you will, for what is the art history of that particular mural–past and since restoration.”

For Parry and Tomasko, working on the restored mural, “Faces of Akron,” will be a rare opportunity to put into practice the histories, cultures and theories they’ve studied at Kent State.

“One of the really cool things about this project is both Ariana and Sarah are gaining really basic necessary skills for an art historian,” Warner said. “To be able to do archival research and to be able to do primary subject research is really valuable for both of the directions Sarah and Ariana are going in.”

“I think I’m most excited about preserving local culture,” Parry said. That’s something I’ve personally have an invested interest in. Being able to do that, I think, is really special and meaningful for Northeast Ohio.”

Image of Kings and Queens Mural
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