NORTH CANTON The North Canton YMCA recently opened the Ellsworth Smith Art Gallery in what used to be called meeting room one.
The YMCA had Smith's paintings of buildings from around the city gifted to it by the artist's family during the time the building opened in the 1970s. The paintings had been hung throughout the building over the years with some being held in storage until recently when two local curators took another look at them. Then, a Museum Studies program student from Walsh University, Raven Venegas, took an interest in opening a gallery featuring the artist.
"The students in the Museum Studies program have the option to choose from different projects and I selected this one because it matched my personal and professional goals," said Venegas.
Venegas is planning to go onto law school and to get certified in museum law. She wants to specialize in patents and reproduction rights of intellectual properties.
"When I saw Smith’s paintings and the way he told the history of New Berlin and North Canton, I thought it was important to preserve and share his paintings in a gallery type setting," she said.
Communications Manager and Marketing Director at the North Canton YMCA Kathy Yaros said that the curator of the Little Art Gallery and the Hoover Historical Society asked to see some of the paintings. The two curators suggested calling Walsh to see if a student would be interested in setting up a gallery to exhibit Smith’s paintings.
Yaros said she contacted Katherine Brown a professor in the Museum Studies program.
"I don’t assign specific projects to the students, I let them pick from a variety of different projects and Raven who was one of our best students this year selected the Smith gallery," Brown said. "Raven wrote a grant for $750 from Arts in Stark to cover the cost of the new matts and for reframing with materials that will preserve the artworks. She also selected the paint colors for the gallery, designed the layout, put in UV protective blinds and hung the paintings."
Venegas also researched the background of the artist. She found Smith created artworks for most of his life. He served in World War I and when he returned home to Canton, he got a job working at the Canton YMCA.
Smith started working in an art position at the Hoover Company in 1921 where he designed and painted advertisements, publications and awards. He quickly became the Hoover Company’s art director. Along the way, he built a strong relationship with W.H. "Boss" Hoover and H.W. Hoover.
Smith and both Hoovers were interested in the health and wellbeing of the company’s employees which eventually led to opening the North Canton YMCA. Smith served as architect of the original building.
A detailed history of Smith hangs in the gallery with many of his paintings. There is also a portrait of Smith in the gallery. His son, Lowell Ellsworth Smith, painted the portrait of him. Lowell was a professional artist of significance who lived in Hudson.
"We plan to keep the gallery open to the public. The room can still be used for community meetings and classes. We’re also planning to loan out some of the paintings to the Hoover Historical Society for an exhibition," Yaros said.
She said any future Smith paintings they receive will be matted, framed and hung in the same manner and put on display.
"I met all my goals in setting up the gallery and I’m happy to see the community appreciates the artworks. I learned a greater appreciation for the history of North Canton. I just want to thank Walsh, the YMCA and Arts in Stark for all their help," Venegas said.
The Ellsworth Smith Art Gallery is open during the regular YMCA hours. To view the paintings, stop by the front desk and ask someone to open the gallery for viewing.