Kent exhibits show work of photographer Richard Sweet

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published:

For nearly 40 years, Richard Sweet traveled across Kent and Portage County, capturing the images of local people and places for the Record-Courier.

Next week, his work will be traveling Kent, with three separate events showcasing the various sides of Sweet's work.

"A Timeless Community: Photographs of Richard Sweet" opened in June and will be on display until Aug. 9 at the School of Art Gallery, located on the second floor of the Art Building at Kent State University.

The event coincides with two others in downtown Kent.

"Time & Town: A Sweet History of Kent," will take place at the Downtown Gallery, 141 E. Main St., from July 24 through Aug. 24.

The Kent Historical Society also will display more of Sweet's work at its museum at about the same time as the downtown gallery's show. "Richard Sweet: Art, Innovation and Community" will be the title of the event.

There will be a joint reception and art walk between the three events from 5 to 7 p.m. on July 25. At all three events, prints will be available for sale to raise money in a scholarship of art established at KSU in Sweet's name.

Betty Hejma-Sweet, the photographer's widow, wrote an invitation to the event, discussing her husband's love of Portage County and his pride in his education from Kent State University.

"Richard loved his work," she wrote. "It was his life. He also loved sharing his talent with the community."

She said that the event has drawn so much attention from her husband's friends that "Richard is among us again."

The scholarship fund is set up for students from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent or possibly students from Portage County who want to study fine art or photography at KSU, said Shawn Gordon, director of advancement at the College of the Arts, who worked with Hejma-Sweet to set up the scholarship.

Hejma-Sweet said she endowed the scholarship to leave a legacy in her husband's memory.

"He had opportunities to do other things and always said no," she said. "This was home."

Each of the exhibits will focus on differing aspects of Sweet's work. The exhibit in the School of Art features more of his work with an artistic focus, said Anderson Turner, director of galleries for the School of Art, and the exhibit at the Downtown Gallery will feature more of Sweet's community-oriented work. Brenton Pahl, graduate assistant at the School of Art, was curator for both exhibits.

"To me, the key is that this is what the downtown gallery has always been about, and what the Record-Courier is about, and what Richard was when he was here," Turner said. "It's a tribute to who Richard was as a person."

The Kent Historical Society's images will focus on historic images, and mosaics Sweet put together featuring images such as the downtown mill and the Kent dam. It also will feature a slide show with more than 100 images and some of the antique cameras Sweet collected over the years.

A booklet will be available featuring articles by Ernie Mastroianni, an R-C photography colleague, who wrote about the technical aspects of Sweet's work, and Roger Di Paolo, Record-Courier editor, who wrote about the role of a photojournalist in the community.

"We have so many images we want to display," said Tom Hatch, director of the historical society. Some of the more prominent ones include images of the downtown Kent fire in 1972 and protests related to May 4, 1970.

The staff of the historical society began to look through Sweet's work, and Hatch said they were overwhelmed with the sheer volume of it. Pahl and other students at the School of Art took over, organizing the slides and negatives.

Hejma-Sweet said many of the images on display came from her home.

"This is Portage County history," she said. "For me to sit on it would be a crime ... It's time."

Sweet, who came to KSU to study architecture, ended up getting a degree in fine arts. He started working for the R-C in 1966, when he was still a student at KSU. He became full-time photographer in 1971. He retired in 2004 and died the following year.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com

Facebook: Diane Smith, Record-Courier

Twitter: @DianeSmith_RC

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