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Local man passionate about the arts

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • Jan 9, 2018 at 12:00 PM

“God's given me the talent of art.”

Those are the words of local artist David Wolff.

“It was my chief talent ever since I was a little kid. My dad would give me a topic to draw when he went to work and would give me a chocolate cigarette or two for it when he came home. That's like gold to a little kid.”

This was Wolff’s first step on the path to becoming an artist and, ultimately, an art teacher.

“In kindergarten we would make drawings for birthdays. The teachers would make a book of them for us. My drawings always got noticed and I would be told to go down the hall to the room where teachers were meeting to show them my pieces. I was always so embarrassed. The teachers called my parents to have me go to the Akron Art Institute summer program put on by the Akron Art Museum (in 1966). I was always drawing and painting.

"At 16 I took oil painting from Jack Richards. He painted presidents such as Obama and George W. Bush and many celebrities. This was in Cuyahoga Falls.”

That is where Wolff received his in-depth experience with mixing and painting oils.

He had painted with Richards a lot. Years later, one day at When Pigs Fly, where he sometimes advises on the value of paintings donated to them, he was shown a painting that he was sure was one of Richards' early pieces. Wolff bought it for $20 as a souvenir of his teacher.

“I called my mom the next day to tell her about the painting. Her news was that Jack Richards had died that day,” he said.

"Three weeks later after his death, I called my parents. We were going to drive by his studio,” he added. “A boy named Mark Sporra was in there, who had been painting with Richards the same time I was. Mark had inherited it all (Richards had no children).

“You know, I just acquired a painting of Jack’s,” Wolff told him. “Mark looked at it and decided it was worth about $1,500 to $2,000. So I have it in my collection.”

With his early training in oil painting, Wolff won several high school awards. He was runner-up to paint a mural in Washington for the national 4-H clubs.

“In college I always knew I'd do art and took industrial and production design with engineering and graphics courses. My classes were rigorous and were above everybody else when I got into product design, which has a high rate of burn-out. I began to think of other work. I loved the idea of teaching and product design was a very advanced foundation for teaching,” Wolff said.

“I didn’t get hired right away except as a substitute. I began as a ‘career development specialist’ for Tallmadge City Schools. While there a lady in the next office told me to check with Dr. Olive at the University of Akron biology department. He wanted to start a program to teach kids from Cleveland City Schools math and science by going out to natural settings. Phyllis Wheatley was the founder of this idea.

“The plan was for students to learn (math and science) in practical ways, not from a book. I planned curriculum. For ecology there was a pond study to sample phylum of insects, analyze findings, using math in percentages in many ways. Another was to determine how deep the pond is at its deepest point, to make boats, then have races using time clocks, all aimed at developing math abilities. It was a great experience. Dr. Olive wrote me a great recommendation ...'Of 14 people teaching, he is far and away the best.’”

“Milan High School was looking for an art teacher. I bring recommendations from Dr. Oliver and from Mr. Don Gfell, superintendent of schools at that time. It will be 33 years now.

“I involve my Edison High (School) students in lots of art shows and competitions, dor example the Cleveland Clinic Expressions Competition. This year one of my students won the Red Ribbon Award and $75. His work will be published in the Cleveland Clinic Expression Competition publication. We have had several winners of top awards and also a Best of Show for their participation in the Ohio Five County Art Show at Oak Harbor,” Wolff said.

"Four years ago we had a winner in Jim Jordan's 4th District Congressional art contest whose art is displayed in the U.S. House of Representatives. Last year we had a runner-up in the same show. Students can enter any two-dimensional, framed art work."

This year, works by two Edison students are featured in the Vacationlands Federal Credit Union 2018 calendar.

“This year our Edison Art Club painted a snow plow for Erie County's branch of ODOT. This year we will also join with the Lorain County Scholastic Art Show at Lorain County Community College,” Wolff said.

Wolff has been involved in many other ways in promoting art not only in his Edison connections, but in the community at large and around the state. Four of his students had art selected as winners by the Milan Township Bicentennial Committee — one design each for a T-shirt, the program, the website and for the capstone of granite, from India, for the repository of information on the bicentennial to be opened in 100 years.

He has earned the 2012 Northeast Ohio Art Educator of the Year Award at the Ohio Conference in Cincinnatti.

Every year Wolff has done paintings for the EHS band benefit for the $10,000 drawing and dinner fundraiser, which have brought in thousands of dollars.

For four years in a row, Wolff's own art has been chosen in the juried State of the Art Show put on by the Ohio University School of Art and Design, which is a celebration of high school art educators.

He also has work in the Hit the Hop Show every year in The Studio on High, the most popular gallery in Columbus' Short North District. Other works are on display in galleries in Cuyahoga Falls and currently at Grace Episcopal Church in Sandusky.

Last year Wolff did a week's residency at the Columbus College of Art and Design and two years ago a ten-day residency at Cleveland's Institute of Art. These are opportunities for “intensive development of your own area of art, under different teachers and college professors which challenge you as an artist to expand your expertise and challenge you to try new ways to develop in a different area as well,” Wolff said.

Wolff has been the president of the Firelands Area Art League for quite a while.

“We would love to welcome new members. If you are 18, young adults or old, and are interested in visual arts of all varieties, join us for a trial meeting. Beginning in January we have a great list of speakers, instructors and trips, movies and workshops to keep art skills sharp and offer 'little gems' of inspiration. You can participate and both give and receive the pleasure of art,” Wolff said.

For for information, call David Wolff at 419-668-0569 or Linda Stoneham at 419-744-2875.

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