By Dorothy Shinn
Beacon Journal art and architecture writer
There are new lights in Akron, and they’re sending out a message.
It’s a message that’s been coming from the Akron Art Museum since Valentine’s Day, only nobody noticed.
Not, that is, until former Beacon Journal food writer Lisa Abraham’s goodbye party at Crave this month, after which someone commented on the blinking lights coming from the museum’s historic building.
Pretty soon, the message was out of the bottle — or stairwell, as it were.
It turns out that the blinking lights are part of a project initiated by the museum’s new executive director, Mark Masuoka.
“The project, or the installation, is called Message Matters,” Masuoka revealed. “And we hope it’s the beginnings of or the first iteration of what we can do in the community.”
The lights blink in the west stairwell of the museum’s 1899 building, facing High Street. They blink in Morse code, spelling out: “LUV U.”
It’s best viewed at night, Masuoka concedes. “Probably most people don’t even notice it as they pass by the building. But maybe now they will.”
The installation is by Jamie Burmeister, an artist Masuoka knows from his former directorial stint in Omaha, Neb.
“I wanted to do something for Valentine’s,” Masuoka said. “So I brought Jamie in to look at our facility and give us his recommendation, and he came up with this idea. It’s an idea similar to one I actually pursued with him in Omaha. The goal of the project is this serious thing, but it’s also intended to make people question what it is — even as an art project — from the way it’s created.”
At first, Message Matters was intended to be on for only one night — Valentine’s.
“That’s why we didn’t do any publicity on it,” Masuoka explained. “We started with one day with no expectations of any response, with only one message — of unconditional love — but then we had to decide whether to keep it up.
“Then I said, ‘Should we stop telling Akron that we love them?’ So we’ve kept it going, kind of as a social experiment. “We wanted it to be haunting in a way, but also intentional.
“We thought, because of the repeats of the blinking lights you could presume that it wasn’t a fire alarm or something like that. However, I do think we got one phone call from someone asking if our alarms were going off.
“It’s been on now for more than 30 days, and we’ve finally gotten our first public response, even though it’s been lighting up online and in social media and people have been seeing it on our blog.”
It’s a simple message with only four letters, and Masuoka got curious to see how long it would take for people to notice it.
“So that’s why we decided to keep it on. What better way, even though it’s a small project, to put the message out that the museum loves this community?”
To read more about the project and find a link to the museum’s video of Message Matters on YouTube, go to the akronartmuseum.org/calendar/party-event/5108/ then look under “Related Links,” or go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBMe-5VR85w.
Day+Knight in Akron — Cleveland International Film Festival returns to the Akron Art Museum with screenings of four films in the Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium beginning at 1:30 p.m. First to be screened will be two compilations of short films ranging from 5 to 45 minutes telling a wide range of stories. Two full-length features follow at 6 p.m. with Doug Pray’s Levitated Mass and Robert Douglass Lemon’s Transfusion. Purchase tickets through www.clevelandfilm.org.
Hands-On Workshop at Akron Glassworks — Akron Art Museum members can learn about glass as art and take home their own piece of crafted glass in a special paperweights class at Akron Glassworks at 6 p.m. Although for members, friends can be invited to come along to the class. The deadline to sign up is Monday. Cost is $50, $45 for members. For more information, call 330-376-9185 or go to akronartmuseum.org.
Symposium on Research, Creativity — The public is invited to attend the Undergraduate Symposium on Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity. View more than 100 innovative student research projects from a variety of areas, such as architecture, biology, psychology and visual communication design, and find out which students win cash awards. View student displays and enjoy refreshments at 1 p.m. with the awards ceremony at 4 p.m. The symposium will take place in the University Library on the Kent Campus. For more information, go to www.kent.edu/undergradstudies/ugresearch/.
Dorothy Shinn writes about art for the Akron Beacon Journal. Send information to her at the Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.