With Valentine's Day comes the annual onslaught from both those celebrating and those protesting everything to do with the holiday. Though the holiday as it currently exists is a cheap marketing ploy, the emotions can be very real. No matter whether we're happily in love, freshly heartbroken or awesomely single, this time of year has a way of getting us to celebrate the relationships we have and reflect upon the ones we've left behind.
Many people have that shoebox full of memories in their closet, filled with old photos, ticket stubs, and handwritten notes. These items become relics of our most important moments, and they're now the inspiration for a special group art exhibition. A free, one-night-only event at the Magalen art space in Slavic Village, I Can't Believe How Much I've Forgotten About You is a collection of artwork and artifacts remembering, celebrating and mourning young love. The show opens with a reception Saturday, Feb. 4, from 8 to 11 p.m. Local artist and musician Emma Shepard is the curator.
Remembering her initial inspiration, Shepard says, "I was reading an old diary from my first three years of high school. I found a lot of cringeworthy journal entries about secret crushes and dates, as well as some emo breakup poetry. I realized I had shoeboxes full of old souvenirs left over from past friendships and love interests. I think when I was younger I anticipated doing a lot more scrapbooking or something, but the joke is on me because I have never touched a scrapbook in my life; and now I have a lot of embarrassing things that I'm going to put on display in a very public setting. I thought that many people probably still have that shoebox that they don't know why they've held onto, so I started thinking it would be interesting to make a pop-up museum of adolescent heartbreak. I guess maybe you hold onto those things for a reason."
Shepard found inspiration for the show's title from a particularly rough journal entry, which came to represent the show's overall theme.
"I was talking about my first boyfriend, who I had only dated for two weeks," says Shepard. "I wrote, 'Two weeks ago, you meant so much to me. I can't believe how much can change in two weeks. I can't believe how much I have forgotten about you.' It was a very serious journal entry at the time but it makes me roll my eyes super hard now. That line sort of captured what I wanted from the show: moments where you look back and simultaneously want to tell yourself it's all going to be okay and kick yourself."
Contributing artists include Molly Soda, KC Green, Katy Kosman, Emma Pavlik, Arfil Pajarillaga, Emily Poor, Christine Petersilge, Maggie Duff, Nicole Yim, Evan Fusco, Phoebe Thomas, Alec Schumann and Willow Hawks, among others.
"My goal is for anyone attending to feel a twinge of nostalgia mixed with, 'I'm really glad that time in my life is over,'" Shepard says. "Visitors can expect a variety of artwork that will either make them laugh or sob in recognition. What surprised me is that this started off as light-hearted, but a lot of the pieces are deeply sad. I love the range of emotions in the show and I think every person participating did a great job submitting pieces that are very relatable, whether it captures how you felt at 16 or how you feel now. I also really want people to get out to the Magalen because it's such a beautiful space!"
The Magalen opened last May as a 12,000-square-foot, multi-purpose arts venue. Built more than 100 years ago, the two-story building once housed Magalen Furniture.
"We acquired the building in 2013 and it lay dormant for three years until we began refurbishing the front show room in March of 2016," says Benjamin Domzalski, who runs the business in the building his father and business partner, Jeff Domzalski and Chester Cuiksa, respectively, both own. "The Magalen opened coinciding with Rooms to Let in May 2016, and it has since hosted multiple gallery shows, community events and live music."
Shepard comes from a musical family in Kent. Her father owns Time Traveler, an independent record shop in Akron, her mother fronted Akron's Unit 5 punk band, and her brother is blues guitarist Stompdown Smith. She skipped classes during her junior year of high school to write more than 200 songs. In 2013, she released her first album, Public Displays of Affection. Following this weekend's event at the Magalen, Shepard plans to shift her focus back to her band Small Wood House.