Mosaic Artist’s Artwork, APS Students Bloom at Summit Courthouse


The end of a first floor hallway that was once dark and nondescript in the first floor annex of the Summit County Courthouse is now dominated by luminous beauty with the new light mosaic “The New Dawn Blooms”.

It is thanks to Bath artist Bonnie Cohen, who was commissioned by Summit County Probate Court Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer to create artwork to inspire and ease the stress of Palace staff and visitors. historic downtown Akron justice.

Cohen’s design features a rare large trillium – Ohio’s state wildflower that blooms only briefly in early spring. Cohen strived for a light, airy and ethereal design.

“This trill is going to shine like it’s in the forest and I hope it brings peace to the people here,” Judge Stormer said in mid-April at the courthouse.

Akron students collaborate on courtyard mosaic

The artist’s mosaic project reached even further into the community, with Cohen collaborating with high school art students from Akron Public Schools to create individual tiles to incorporate into the artwork.

“Each one is so, so unique and it just adds that richness and depth and feeling,” Cohen said of the student tiles on Tuesday as she and more than 60 APS students and teachers meet. are met at the courthouse for the first time to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Students were thrilled to find their own tiles in the large 5ft by 14ft work, zooming in with their cellphones to capture them.

“It was amazing. Like it gave me chills when I first saw it,” said North junior Lauren Curtis, 17, who was smitten with the colors of the mosaic.

North High School art student Lauren Curtis listens to artist Iselin as he talks about his work on display at the Summit County Courthouse on Tuesday.

Prior to Tuesday, the students and Cohen had been unable to interact live due to the pandemic. The artist made short technical demonstration videos, created with the help of APS Advisor Karen Stepic, to teach students from Firestone, North and Buchtel the techniques of sculpting and stamping pottery art from the Ohio around the same time the courthouse was built – 1908.

Cohen’s goal was to impart a sense of history to students so that they had a starting point for the style of the time. Each student’s handmade tile design was inspired by the leaves, flowers and buds of the trillium.

“Without ever having met you, we ended up doing something beautiful together,” Cohen told students on Tuesday.

North High School art students Shristhi Pulami, left, and Santa Chhetri view a sculpture on display at the Summit County Courthouse on Tuesday.

Cohen used approximately 100 4×4-inch tiles made from Ohio clay by North and Firestone students to form the border of the mosaic. They were led by art teachers Steve Beltrondo at North and Michael Sienerth at Firestone.

Cohen, 68, chose student tile placement and glazed lots of tile repeatedly to flow with his trillium and sunburst design.

“Something beautiful came out of those plain white tiles when it all came together,” Cohen said.

Andra Beninghoff, 18, a senior from Firestone, was delighted to see the mosaic completed.

“I couldn’t see how it was going to fight together, especially since we all had a different design,” she said. “It’s really impressive for me to see what you can do with clay and mosaic like that.”

Buchtel High School art students made tiles for a coordinated piece in the Grand Jury lobby of the courthouse.

Coordination piece by students in the lobby

Handcrafted colorful tiles by Buchtel CLC students, led by teacher Annette Economus, were framed in a coordinating piece featured in the lower-level Grand Jury lobby.

“Looks good,” junior Javeion Littlepage said of Buchtel’s piece, identifying his green and yellow flower tile. “I’m really new to ceramics.”

On Tuesday, the students chatted with Cohen during “The New Dawn Blooms” installation, viewed works by other artists throughout the courthouse, then went to the ceremonial courtyard for a chat with the artist. Cohen is an Akron-born 1971 Firestone graduate who said she was particularly influenced by high school art teacher Dennis Chasek.

Showcasing local artists in a “non-traditional space”

Cohen met with Stormer about 18 months ago to do the mosaic commission. The project is an offshoot of the Curated Courthouse collaboration between the courthouse and Curated Storefront, which showcases local artists and was a winner of the Knight Arts Challenge in 2019.

“It was a chance to start shining a light on locals who were underappreciated,” Stormer said last month of the original Knight Challenge grant at the courthouse. “We try to give people the opportunity to show even though it’s a non-traditional space.”

“The New Dawn Blooms,” which will premiere at a public unveiling on May 19, was funded by individuals, foundations and law firms as well as in-kind donations from Akron Public Schools. The mosaic commission cost around $45,000, with the majority going to artist Cohen.

She created the artwork in her home studio in Bath using thousands of pieces of luminous glass tiles, recycled glass tiles, handmade stained glass and handmade ceramic tiles, using over 20 different colors.

Sania Rivera, left, and Aishma Tamang, Akron Public Schools art students, take a selfie in front of artwork on display at the Summit County Courthouse.

Artist inspired by the inaugural poem

Cohen was inspired to design a trill around the same time Amanda Gorman recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” during Biden’s presidential inauguration in January 2021, whose themes of light and renewal fit the concept. of the trill.

Gorman’s words are incorporated into the design of the Cohen mosaic: “The new dawn blooms as we release it. For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be.”

The trillium, Cohen said, symbolizes spiritual embodiment, awareness, precision, elegance, grace, and recovery. The six yellow stamens she created from ceramic tiles, which swirl like golden ribbons through the mosaic, evoke the miracles of spring and renewal.

With the help of scaffolding, ‘The New Dawn Blooms’ was installed in five 100-pound panels over two days last week on the original 1908 wall above a staircase in the palace annex of righteousness. On Friday, the installation team was tweaking the lighting to better showcase the light tiles.

Lauren Curtis, an art student at North High School, shows her tile to Galle Uwezo.  The tile was part of a collaboration with Bath artist Bonnie Cohen at the Summit County Courthouse.

Artist Cohen discusses his career with students

Cohen, who studied industrial design and graphic design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, worked for 15 years at Babcock and Schmid Associates in Bath, where she was art director. After leaving the corporate world at 40, she studied ceramics for two years at the University of Akron and has since focused on telling visual stories through mosaic art.

Cohen considers herself a designer rather than a refined artist. She has created a number of works for sacred spaces and public art commissions, including two mosaics at Beth El Congregation in Akron, where Stormer met her, and large mosaics at Cleveland State University, Bowling Green State University and Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. .

On Tuesday, she spoke to students about her career as an artist, which included designing the Cleveland RTA bus logo 35 years ago, which is still in use. As a proud Firestone alumnus, she also spoke about creating a beautiful silver and pearl ring in a high school silversmithing class, the key work in her portfolio that landed her at Carnegie Mellon. Cohen still wears the ring.

In mosaic art, she pointed out, each piece should relate to another: “Each piece should make the other pieces around it more beautiful.”

Art and restoration writer Kerry Clawson can be reached at 330-996-3527 or [email protected]


Event: Public unveiling of “The New Dawn Blooms” mosaic and tribute to courthouse artists organized

When: 3-5 p.m. May 19; ceremony at 4:15 p.m.

Or: Summit County Courthouse, 209 S. High St., Akron

After: Self-guided tour of all courthouse performers, light refreshments

Cost: Free


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