Currently on display at the Kent Free Library is a photographic tribute by Ken Gessford titled “Processes of Transformation in Kent.” Gessford’s 36 digital photograph images show the progress of the development of the downtown area from 2009 through earlier this summer.
Gessford, a Stow resident who taught art at Kent Roosevelt High School for 30 years before retiring in 2000, wrote in his artist’s statement that he intended to “Raise people’s awareness . . . to the fast and furious changes that have taken place in Kent, OH over a short period of 5 years.”
Photographs highlight the both the tearing down and rebuilding processes that have changed the face of Acorn Alley, South Water St., the Crain Avenue Bridge, the Franklin Hotel and the PARTA Garage.
Gessford was granted unusual access to work areas, frequently donning a hard hat to take photos alongside workers. “They were so cooperative and professional,” says Gessford. “They get the job done like magic—they’re magicians.”
His fascination with the artistry of the workers is obvious in several of his photos. One titled “Elegant Worth Ethic with Pirouette Le Dance” shows a worker balanced on scaffolding with his arms raised above his head, as he works on a ceiling.
While most photos portray the energy and anticipation of the new construction, some photos also convey a bit of melancholy for the structures waiting to be torn down. A photo of the red door of a house on Erie St. with a bulldozer just visible in the foreground is titled, “The Red Scream of I Don’t Wanna Go!”
The photographs on display are a very small sample of the more than 35,000 photos Gessford has taken over the last 5 years, and he continues to document the ongoing construction. He anticipates that his project will take another year to complete. He is interested in displaying a large number photographs as a more comprehensive exhibit some day.
The exhibit at the library will be up through August and can be seen any time the library is open.