Release Date: February 18,2021

Artwork Taking to the Akron Skies

A massive art exhibit has lit up the sky in downtown Akron

February 17, 2021, Akron, Ohio – In conjunction with Curated Storefront, Pennsylvanian artist Ian Brill has installed over 2,250 square feet of LED panels in the 19th floor of the former Akron City Center Hotel to create Band, a programmatic and immersive light installation.

Overlooking Cascade Plaza at 20 West Mill Street, the former Akron City Center Hotel has stood vacant for years. The top floors, with its 360 degree view of Downtown Akron, were left in what seems to have been a hurry with discarded wine glasses, books and Christmas decorations littering the floor. The once lively building has been left as a time capsule waiting to be reborn and now that Ian Brill has installed Band, Curated Storefront believes it will no longer be a building long forgotten in Akron.

The 19th floor is now filled with 3,300 10"x10"x10" light boxes, made with 207 pairs of diffusive, acrylic panels and corrugated plastic. Each light box is illuminated with a module of 6 identical RGB LEDs. Arguably, that means 19,800 RGB LEDs or 59,400 discrete diodes. The system is run using 14 Raspberry Pi computers over a closed network and a single Mac Mini personal computer. Ian Brill's work focuses on the accumulation of form through process. Through the creation of interactive, performative and multi-sensorial environments, he considers boundaries of becoming (versus being) and our immersive relationship with technology.

“It was my goal to balance the extremes of something simultaneously imposing / heavy and beautiful / light. Band is intended to reflect our unified concerns regarding things beyond our control, while also encouraging us to celebrate the beauty and freedoms that are both present and within reach,” says Ian Brill, artist of Band. “This is the largest work I have done. It took a lot of organization and coordination. Logistics were tricky. A lot of research went into making a work that is both the highest attainable quality while also being sustainable and reusable. It required making hard decisions and a few unusually expensive purchases. Ultimately, I made some mature decisions and they immediately paid off. My work won't continue to evolve if I'm not growing myself. I'm trying.”

The installation will light up the sky every night until construction begins to renovate the former hotel into residential space by Testa Companies. “I’ve always had a strong connection with The Akron City Center Hotel,” says Joel Testa of Testa Companies. “Maybe it was because we were born the same year and only a few blocks apart from each other. For some time my parents' offices were downtown and as a child I would walk by and imagine what it would be like to swim in the pool on the 20th floor in what was the crown jewel of hospitality in Akron. The 19th floor always held a special panache as it was home to the private Akron City Club and where if you were lucky you would celebrate special occasions. For me it was the destination for several dinners before high school dances. Years later, my wife and I would admire the structure on our runs through downtown. One fateful day, we stopped in for a tour at the time when the building was almost completely shut down. On that day I made it my mission to breathe new life into this tower and the idea for Ascend was born.”

Testa Companies is planning to begin renovations on the former Akron City Center Hotel, renaming it Ascend, later this year. Plans for the building include 146 modern units, a rooftop container bar where the old helipad once sat, amenities throughout including that 20th floor pool and luxury lofts on the 19th floor in the space currently occupied by Curated Storefront.

“We are very proud to partner with Rick and his organization,” says Testa, referring to Rick Rogers, Executive Director of Curated Storefront. “We are proud supporters of the arts in Akron and this project not only adds vibrancy to downtown at a time when it is needed most, it also acts like a beacon of what’s to come. The bat symbol for our Bruce Wayne development team and those lucky enough to call Ascend home.”

Brill hopes the community will experience a sense of wonderment when they see Band. “As my works increase in scale, they assure me of their infinite potential for growth, which makes me feel both confident and small in comparison. I believe this headspace– that of being both inspired to pursue beauty and greatness, while also being critically aware of how small each of us actually are– is healthy and responsible, and I hope that this work communicates that symbolism to the people of Akron. It also alludes to our relationship with technology and the emergence of A.I., but I will save that for my Heidegger book club meetings.”

Brill’s installations, performances and writing have been presented internationally, at conferences, festivals and galleries. Brill’s last installation in Akron, titled Reverie, was a programmatic light installation covering the entire facade of the then vacant County of Summit office downtown, Building #2. Reverie was honored by Americans for the Arts as one of 50 outstanding public arts projects created in 2018 through the Public Art Network Year in Review program, the only national program that specifically recognizes the most compelling public art. Currently, Brill teaches at Penn State University’s World Campus/Digital Arts programs and resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Curated Storefront, with Downtown Akron Partnership, is working on a virtual and socially distanced event in April to officially unveil and celebrate the project in Cascade Plaza. Those who are interested in sharing their personal view of Band can do so on social media using the hashtag #BandAkron. This Curated Storefront exhibit was supported by Downtown Akron Partnership, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Testa Companies.

About Curated Storefront

Curated Storefront activates storefronts by transforming an unoccupied and uninteresting street edge into vibrant art displays in an effort to combat blight and create an engaging, safe and attractive environment. For the past four years, Curated Storefront has presented engaging artwork in multiple unused spaces, commissioned and employed artists, offered educational outreach programs to better engage the public, and stimulated commercial development. More information about Curated Storefront and its other exhibits on display throughout the city can be found at www.curatedstorefront.org.