Four things you should know about the Art Bomb Brigade's latest project


By Erica Cantrell, member of the Art Bomb Brigade and a junior studying communication

Maybe you’ve heard about the art class that is painting a mural downtown this semester. Maybe you’ve even seen it on your drive to school. Maybe you haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about. Well don’t fret! No matter how much you know (or don’t know) we have a list for you, including why there is such a hubbub!


The brigade is a community arts program directed by associate professor Elisa Gargarella of the Myers School of Art. With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knights Arts Challenge, the Art Bomb Brigade breathes new life into Akron neighborhoods through public art. This is the brigade’s fourth mural.

“Marrying the ideals of accountability, teamwork, entrepreneurialism, communication, professionalism and respect, Art Bomb is committed to fostering these values in UA students,” says Marissa McClellan, assistant director. Dave Szalay, associate professor of design and illustration, served as the creative director and co-faculty for this mural challenge.

1. The mural reflects Akron’s past and future

Our fourth mural has gone up at Echogen Power Systems at 365 Water St. in Akron. The mural incorporates a representation of what Akron already is (an industrial city with a diverse population), and blends with it images of what Art Bomb believes it can become: a flourishing community that promotes a blending of cultures, green industry and the arts.

The mural depicts multiple layers of images, with each shape having a significant role in conveying a message about Akron. Figures dance in and out of the foreground, each representing individuals that make Akron the city it is. The background is a cityscape becoming a naturescape, symbolizing both growth and green industry. It is the hope of Art Bomb that this work will inspire others in the community to get involved in reimagining Akron by attracting new businesses to stimulate the economy, generating community interest and involvement in artistic spaces, and spurring more creative movements. Plus, it is “a perfect opportunity to add some color to the city”, said Elizabeth Dallas, one of the students involved in the project.

Art Bomb Brigade designers

The mural design team, Becky Govern, Erica Cantrell, Summer Ellis, and Lindsey Mitchell, pose with the final draft of the mural.

2. For the first time, the mural is part of an experiential course called ‘Mastering the Mural’

The Art Bomb Brigade is an organization in Akron that transforms high-visibility areas through art, with the hope that these movements will further revitalize the community.

Previous brigade projects started with a professional artist who created the design and then volunteers completed the hands-on work.

This time, for the first time, the design and painting fell on members of the Mastering the Mural class. It allowed upper level students to experience real-world creative problem solving by placing them in a realistic situation where they are expected to produce work of the same quality as professional artists. This experiential class was offered as a 400 or 500 level elective, open to both graduate and undergraduate students of any major, and it is anticipated to be offered annually in the future.

There will also be an intense two-week project this summer, made up of volunteers completing a mural for the Summit Metro Park Freedom Trail (Phase III), which is more than a quarter mile long!

3. The creative process involved cartoon smoke stacks and more

The entire class put work into creating the piece. Brainstorming sessions were common in the classroom, and ideas and designs changed and evolved daily, up until the very last minute. The original mural designs were very basic, with sketches of cartoon smoke stacks, trees, and generic Akron-like icons. However, the more the group got to brainstorming, the more abstract the designs became. Eventually the hundreds of ideas were boiled down to three main concepts, and teams took over each individual design. Each team spent hours creating masterpieces worthy of a wall with such high visibility.

Once a design was chosen, the PR team was able to get to work publicizing, creating merchandise, finding vendors and wrangling entertainment for the May 11 reveal party.

All that was left to do was to get painting. Each student was expected to put in about six hours a week creating the masterpiece; some greatly exceeding this expectation. Whether on the ground, at the top of a ladder, or somewhere in between, the students worked hard to make a beautiful recreational space.

Students painting the mural

Students began work in early April to complete the mural for the unveiling party in May.

4. Look for the mural’s ‘Easter egg,’ or hidden message

Student designers used a creative solution to incorporate the word “Akron” using only abstract shapes. See if you have a creative eye and search the mural for it!

A few students in the class have spent their semester on videography, documenting the brainstorming process and the progression of ideas that led to the final piece. Follow us on Facebook to see it.