Archive - January 2015

Karen Starr

"Living With Art" at Akron Art Museum, post 3....The Makers!

Posted January 26, 2015

 John Strauss of John Strauss Furniture in Canton

This is the third post in a series about 'Living With Art', the exhibition I designed and guest-curated for the Akron Art Museum that opens on Thursday, February 5, 2015. In this post you'll meet the local furniture designers I collaborated with to turn the gallery and lobby into living spaces.

When I was in the dreaming portion of work on the exhibition, I was determined to design this space using only locally-made furniture and lighting if I could. As you may know, at Hazel Tree Interiors, I take this approach whenever possible when I am designing spaces. Sourcing locally is as much an environmental choice as it is a continued mission to make connections that support our local economy and shine the spotlight on local artists and makers.

Enter John Strauss and Kevin Busta.....

I have known and worked with these two amazingly-talented furniture designers for a few years now. They are two of my go-to makers when I am seeking interesting, beautiful, well-made, custom pieces for an interior design project. We have also sold their furniture and lighting in our gallery over at Hazel Tree. So when the time came to design this space and furnish it to match my vision, I knew they were the ones. John brings a mastery of wood-working, and Kevin brings a mastery of metal-working. Together, I knew their styles woud be perfect complements to each other and would be stunning in my design.

Let's start with John...he's the fella in the photo above. John owns a company called John Strauss Furniture Design
I first met John years ago down in North Carolina of all places...when I came across his showroom at High Point Furniture Market. I go to Market every so often to look for new Made-in-the-US companies to support my design projects, and when I saw his furniture, I just loved his style. When we got to talking we made the connection that we were city neighbors. Ever since, I have loved being able to sell John's work to my clients and on the showroom floor. 

One of the coolest things about John and his work in the world is that he not only makes beautiful furniture right down the road from us, but he is also a connector in the national furniture industry.
John has worked hard over the last five years or so to convince other national furniture companies, that have been outsourcing their furniture oversees, to consider using Amish furniture makers right here in Northern Ohio instead.
Over time, John has formed realtionships with a few different furniture makers in Holmes County. At this time, they can now not only support making John's intricate designs for his larger-scale markets, but they can also support making furniture for various other national furniture companies. 

Kevin Busta owns Kevin Busta Industrial Furnishings in Cleveland. Kevin and I met a few years ago as well and I was an instant fan of his work. LOVED it.
Just like Susan, a current design client of mine, said when I showed her photos of Kevin's work, "I love everything he has ever made!"
Indeed. Me too.

Kevin's design sensibilities, his instincts on scale and function, and with his talent with selecting materials and finishes, made him the perfect furniture maker to bring the metal elements I wanted in the exhibition.

So those are my two collaborators on 'Living With Art'! And I couldn't be more pleased they wanted to do this with me. They are such great guys, in addition to being amazing talents!


Telling the story

I am very fortunate to have Chris Miller and his crew from follow us along the journey as we prepared for the exhibition. The Akronist is creating a mini-documentary on 'Living With Art', and it will be on view in the lobby outside of the exhibition, as well as on
That last photo down there is of Chris Miller and me, on our trip up to see Kevin in Cleveland.

If you haven't ever checked out or the Akron Digital Media Center, please give the links a click. is a wonderful local resource and ADMC is very cool commmunity journalism program.
I am so very grateful to have had Chris along for the ride to capture the journey to 'Living With Art'!


Opening Reception

The exhibition 'Living With Art' opens on February 5, 2015, and runs until April 5, 2015. The museum will hold an opening reception from 6-9pm on Thursday, February 5 from 6-9pm. Please join us for the opening reception next Thursday! For the facebook event link for the museum reception, click here.

 Kevin Busta of Kevin Busta Industrial Furnishings

 John Strauss filming his interview portion for the mini-documentary about the exhibition

 Kevin Busta showing me the progression of the game table he is making for the exhibition

Chris Miller of Akron Digital Media Center and me, Karen Starr! I took this seflie when we traveled up to Cleveland together to get some footage of Kevin Busta.

Karen Starr

"Living With Art" exhibition at the Akron Art Museum - post 2

Posted January 17, 2015

Gina Thomas McGee, Associate Educator at the Akron Art Museum. Gina was my main contact throughout the process as we prepared for the exhibition.

A few weeks after I happily agreed to design and guest-curate "Living With Art" at the Akron Art Museum, I spent the day onsite there to get acquainted with the team I would be working with and to start considering which pieces from the collection I would like to use in the exhibition.

Let me first introduce the person I have been working the most with throughout this process...Gina Thomas McGee! Her picture is up above. Gina is shown there with her trusty notebook in hand and a smile on her face - the way I saw her every time we had a meeting there. :)

Gina and her colleague Alison Caplan (unfortunately, I don't have a picture of Alison!) work in the Education Department at the museum and help coordinate these special exhibitions. Gina and Alison set me up in an area of the offices of the museum so I could log on to the museum's internal art works collection database. The museum has a wonderful online collection tool on their website of the large majority of the pieces in their collection, but the internal database had everything they own in the collection. 

I must say, that day was one of the most fun ever! To think about and select what painting I wanted to put above the sofa...well, it was simply cliche' and wonderful.
I scrolled for hours and hours through the digital images and accompanying information on artist, dimensions of the piece, museum notes on the pieces, and the like.

At the end of that day, I had a stack of printouts of art works that I loved and wanted to have as possibilities to use for the exhibition. Arnie Tunstall, Collections Manager, would then need to take a look at my selections to see which pieces could be used. I knew going into it that some of my choices might not be available, either because they were already scheduled to be shown in the future, were too fragile for the environment of this type of exhibition, or because they had recently been shown. (More on that, and him, in a future post.)

That day, I also had a chance to meet Chris Ross, Preparator, and Joe Walton, Director of Design for the museum. Joe and Chris are responsible for the design elements and installation of all of the exhibitions.

The pictures below will show you some of the fun behind-the-scenes views that Joe, Arnie, and Chris are involved with at the museum. 

The photo of Chris and Arnie captures them in action...discussing placement of art works in one of the galleries, via the miniature scale model of the galleries.

The one taken from high above a gallery was snapped by Joe Walton. Joe took this shot from up in the platform of a pneumatic lift he was working in during a recent installation of the newest exhibition.

The last two photos are closeups of the miniature galleries model and art replicas...I just loved seeing this up close and thought you would too.
Chris Ross is who makes all the miniature replicas from the pieces in the collection so they can move them around the gallery and play with placement, before the install. (How much fun would that have been to make the mini replicas of Kusama's, Arm Chair, or Warhol's Brillo Box?)

I had a wonderful time that first day searching the database and I am so grateful to the staff at the museum for being so helpful and welcoming to me as I began working on my exhibition.

In my next post I will talk about the furniture and lighting makers I collaborated with on the exhibition. Two of the area's finest craftsmen helped me transform the gallery using all locally-made furnishings.

Chris Ross, Preparator, and Arnie Tunstall, Collections Manager, discuss an upcoming exhibition.

A view from Joe Walton's world....high on top of a pneumatic lift inside the gallery as they install the next exhibition, "Beauty Reigns."

The miniature replica of the museum's main galleries.

 Museum visitors will recognize these minature replicas of pieces from their collection.