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Conversations with Marissa McClellan & Elisa Gargarella of Art Bomb Brigade

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marissa McClellan & Elisa Gargarella. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Art Bomb Brigade is a mural project started by University of Akron faculty, Elisa Gargarella and Crafty Mart Executive Director, Marissa McClellan, with a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Arts Challenge award in 2016 and 2019. They have contributed over 25 murals to the greater akron area since its inception. The mission of the Art Bomb Brigade is breathe new life into Akron neighborhoods through high-impact art. The program was designed to connect local organizations with talented UA students and alumni to transform their communities. 

Art Bomb fills a unique niche in the community; one that works specifically with young artists and students to foster opportunities for apprenticeships, commissions, and creative leadership roles. We remain committed to this model education program as other public art programs and mural artists arrive on the scene. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
We have learned that part of our job is educating the public about the value of art and that we still have a long way to go in convincing the for-profit and non-profit community that artists should be compensated appropriately for their work. We continue to consult with stakeholders and for-profit businesses in the community to grow that understanding. 

We are still challenged by the demand for Art Bomb murals in the region. With only two staff working full-time on the project, who also have full-time jobs, we remain in need for more internal staff and support. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Elisa Gargarella is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of Art Education at the University of Akron’s Myers School of Art. She is creator and director of the award-winning Arts LIFT program, a summer arts residency for high school students. 

Marissa McClellan is Executive Director for local art non-profit Crafty Mart where she develops and implements educational programming for Akron entrepreneurs and artisan makers. 

Together, Marissa and Elisa founded and co-direct the Art Bomb Brigade for university students, alumni, apprentices, and local artists. They do private mural commissions, serve as resident artists, design public arts education curricula, and lead school arts and community partnerships. 

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Art Bomb believes that mentorship is an essential part of our programming. We’ve recently created an apprenticeship to further this commitment. Some advice we would give for those looking for a mentor is to identify someone you admire and is doing the work you are interested in doing. Also, reach out with something you can offer them (volunteer, internship, special project) so the mentorship has some reciprocity. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Jacob Mollohan
Mollohan Photography
AMP mural

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