Dr. Shirla R. McClain Gallery Reopened

After an extensive renovation, the long-awaited reopening of the Dr. Shirla R. McClain Gallery occurred Friday, September 8, 2023, hosted by The University of Akron’s Office of Inclusion & Equity, The Myers School of Art, and the Dr. Shirla R. McClain Gallery Board.

Dr. Gary Miller, president, The University of Akron, provided a welcome and acknowledged various guests, including his lovely, wife Georgia, the late Dr. Shirla McClain’s family, and local dignitaries such as Dr. Vernon Sykes, Ohio State Senator and Shammas Malik, presumptive mayor, city of Akron, to name a few. Dr. Sheldon Wrice, vice president for inclusion and equity/chief diversity officer served as host for the occasion and Dr. Charles Debose did the invocation. Dr. Sykes provided an historical overview from the inception of the gallery. Arnold Tunstall, director, University Art Galleries, Myers School of Art, led group tours of the gallery.

The Dr. Shirla R. McClain Gallery of Akron’s Black History and Culture was established to reflect and promote the African American community in Greater Akron as an important part of the history and culture of the region. The gallery develops and displays exhibits and related programs that portray the history and culture of Akron’s African American community. It is a community repository and a teaching vehicle of the African American experience in Greater Akron.

“The newly renovated gallery is impressive, and we were pleased to showcase a UA alumni exhibit as a part of the grand reopening,” states Dr. Sheldon Wrice. Janice Troutman, director, Myers School of Art, provided an introduction of UA alumni artists Kwame Gomez, Shani Richards, and Alexandria Couch, all of whom were raised in Akron and went on earn their master’s degrees from prestigious institutions and their art is shown and collected around the county.

Kwame’ Azure Gomez shared her artist vision with those who toured the renovated gallery. Gomez graduated from UA 2021 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in painting and drawing. She went on to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and completed a Master of Fine Arts in 2023. Kwame is now a Chicago based interdisciplinary painter and writer.

Alexandria Couch, represented by her family at the gallery opening, completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2021 at UA and went on to complete her Master of Fine Arts at Yale University, 2023. Couch is currently a Studio Fellow with NextHaven in New Haven, CT.

Shani Richards graduated from UA 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in jewelry and metalsmithing and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts 2016, from State University of New York. Shani is currently conducting research and creating artwork about Sojourner Truth in upstate New York. Shani is also one of five artists currently featured in an exhibition, Easy Prey, now on view at the Emily Davis Gallery in the Myers School of Art through October 6, 2023.

“Many of the Board members had the privilege of knowing Dr. Shirla McClain and considered it an honor to serve on the Gallery Board” states Annette King, president, Dr. Shirla R. McClain Gallery Board. She expressed appreciation to Dr. Sheldon Wrice and the Office of Inclusion & Equity staff for planning and organizing the gallery reopening. Board members Aria Campbell, Brenda Preer, and Dr. Kendra Preer were also in attendance at the gallery reopening.

The gallery is located in the Buckingham Center for Continuing Education, 220 Wolf Ledges Parkway, on the west side of The University of Akron campus and is open for visitors during the fall semester Wednesdays, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm and Fridays, 9:00 am – 12 noon, or by appointment. To schedule an appointment, please contact Ms. Natalie Munas, Office of Inclusion & Equity, at 330-972-6014, or natali5@uakron.edu.