Akron Soul Train will be a nationally renowned Northeast Ohio art program serving as a magnet to attract and promote diverse artists and artistic expression. We will be a catalyst for the arts, offering a destination for Greater Akron residents to engage with artists and participate in the artistic process. In alliance with other community organizations, we will inspire the minds and lives of artists and our various audiences.
Akron Soul Train is an artist residency program connecting and empowering the community and artists by granting residencies that provide resources for all creative disciplines, thereby fostering a more vibrant downtown Akron.
Akron Soul Train was founded in 2016 with the vision of creating a supportive and inclusive space for artists to grow, connect, and engage with the local community. Inspired by the rich history of Akron as an industrial powerhouse and the diverse voices that shape our city, we sought to establish a platform that would celebrate and amplify artistic expression.
The roots of Akron Soul Train trace back to the dynamic efforts of artist and community activist Amy Mothersbaugh and co-founder and current Board President, Nancy Brennan. Their passions for both art and community development led them to envision a space where artists could find respite, nurture their creativity, and contribute to the cultural fabric of Akron. With the support of like-minded individuals, Akron Soul Train’s vision became a reality.
Since its inception, Akron Soul Train has played a pivotal role in the revitalization of Akron's art scene. By providing a supportive environment for artists to explore their craft, we have nurtured countless creatives and produced opportunities for them to share their work with the broader public. Our organization has fostered collaborations, inspired dialogue, and sparked the imagination of both artists and art enthusiasts alike.
John Sokol, a talented local painter, and writer, made history as the inaugural recipient of the Akron Soul Train award. In 2016, his remarkable one-month residency resulted in a show a Spectrum Gallery in downtown Akron that yielded an impressive exhibition featuring over 30 new works.
The program experienced substantial growth between 2017 and 2018, extending residencies to six regional artists: Stephen Tomasko, Michelle Droll, Jenniffer Omaitz, Danny Volk, Gabe Gott, and Eva Kwong. During the 2018-2019 residency year, we introduced an online application process and meticulously selected 13 individuals out of a pool of 70 applicants. Furthermore, we broadened the residency's horizons by incorporating artist-led public programming. Presently, we bestow 12-15 residencies annually across various disciplines, encompassing visual, literary, and performing arts.
In 2019, Akron Soul Train solidified its presence in Akron's downtown arts district by establishing a permanent gallery space on South Main Street. This location serves as a hub for the community, offering opportunities to engage with and appreciate visual art exhibitions, performances, and workshops conducted by our resident artists. Additionally, its proximity to other Akron arts organizations and The University of Akron facilitates collaborations and promotes convenience.
Following the pandemic-induced shutdown in 2020, Akron Soul Train unveiled the CapSOUL an inner gallery space exclusively dedicated to showcasing emerging local artists. Moreover, we upgraded our technological infrastructure, adapting our programming to a hybrid model that seamlessly combines virtual and physical elements in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19.