Dorothy Shinn

Buttons that will admit First Night Akron 2013 revelers into events on New Yearís Eve in downtown Akron will feature artwork designed by local painter Judith Gaiser.

Downtown Akron Partnership recently unveiled the design. Gaiserís winning work, which features the Akron Civic Theatreís mighty Wurlitzer being played by a fox, was chosen by a committee of previous button artists.

Gaiser has been involved in art one way or another for most of her life and credits her grandfather, who was a professional wood sculptor, with her artistic interest.

Though she is now retired, for 21 years she taught art, drama and English at the high school level. Now, Gaiser says she likes to spend as much time as possible painting and conducts creative painting workshops and coaches high school students with portfolio work.

Her winning design was the last of three she produced, after spying a red fox drinking at her fishpond in the early morning. She saw it as a good omen.

Gaiser knew the third theme would have to do with the Akron Civic Theaterís Wurlitzer, which has fascinated her for years. Last year she arrived early for the childrenís ballet performance of The Nutcracker and took pictures of the organ. She never imagined it would later be used as a reference for this project.

It did not take long for the idea to spring to mind to have the fox as the musician for the Wurlitzer, said Gaiser, who likes to humanize critters in her drawings and give them personalities.

Now in its 17th year, First Night Akron is a New Yearís Eve event and is a family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration of the arts that includes 10 venues filled with more than 80 experiences featuring music, dance, theater, inter-active and visual art performances and projects for all ages from 6 p.m. to midnight Dec. 31.

Admission buttons are on sale for $10 at and at Acme Fresh Markets, FirstMerit Bank branches and additional locations throughout the community. The buttons provide admission to all event sites and free bus rides to each venue. The event is free for children younger than 10 who are with a button-wearing adult.