Melissa Stark’s five local picks

After more than 25 years in the corporate world, Melissa Stark decided to circle back to her roots.

 Stark Art Studio owner gives her five local picks.
After more than 25 years in the corporate world, Melissa Stark decided to circle back to her roots.

Stark, owner of Stark Art Studio in Jackson Township, began painting at her grandmother’s home studio when she was roughly 5 years old.

She soon enrolled in art classes at the Massillon Museum and the Canton Cultural Center for the Arts. Even as a student at Jackson High School, Stark still would drive to Canton to take classes.

After earning a degree in visual communications from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Stark found jobs as a graphic designer and art director at a Mentor-based retailer and at Lake Health before returning to Stark County to work as Cutler Real Estate’s marketing and design manager for more than a decade.

While at Cutler, Stark decided to return to school to pursue an art education degree at Kent State University.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be happy for the rest of my life working in corporate America and having someone telling me you have to design it this way and it has to work that way,” Stark said.

She knew she wanted to teach art, at first thinking she would teach in the school system. But she was laid off by Cutler as part of a reorganization plan in 2013 and needed money.

“I had $500 in my pocket, and I started teaching art classes,” she said.

She started with teaching her friend’s children but quickly outgrew her basement. In January 2015, she moved to her current space at 2137 Wales Avenue NW. She’s already looking to expand.

Stark said she chose the Jackson Township location so she can reach the busy families that cannot drive to the city.

“I love going to downtown Canton, but you’re not going to get suburban moms on a Wednesday night because this one has soccer and that one has something else,” she said.

Stark’s studio features six resident artists and offers a variety of classes from woodworking to watercolor to superhero paintings, such as Captain America and the Avengers.

One of the most popular events at the studio is her StarkArt summer art camp. It’s geared toward children between the ages of 6 and 12 and allows them to explore paper sculpting, printmaking, drawing, painting and other artistic techniques.

The studio also hosts a variety of private events, including baby showers, bachelorette parties, birthday parties, business team-building events and charity fundraisers.

More information can be found at Stark Art Studio’s website at

Melissa Stark’s five local picks:

1. Taggarts Ice Cream Parlor’s Bittner

Stark loves the salty sweetness of the ice cream treat’s homemade chocolate syrup with roasted pecans. Her Bittner also must have tons of whipped cream.

“I just crave them out of the blue,” Stark said. “Even when I lived in Pittsburgh, I couldn’t wait to come home on the weekends to get it.”

2. Elec Simon and his drums

“I just really enjoy watching him,” Stark said. “His enthusiasm and his impact. He’s made such a positive impact on the people around him.”

3. Vintage Canton

Stark, who served on the committee that helped organize the annual Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce event several years ago, said it still remains one of her favorite events.

“I’m not even a huge wine drinker, but I just really like that event,” she said.

This year’s Vintage Canton will be held May 26.

4. Downtown Canton Arts District

“I especially like the music block with Buzzbin Arcade, Cultured Coffee and George’s (Lounge),” Stark said. “I love live music—it doesn’t matter what kind of live music—and they have bands from all over.”

5. Celebrity Cuisine

Stark first learned of Celebrity Cuisine, which is a fundraiser for Community Harvest of Stark County, when she was asked to donate a painting to the event, which features a wide range of food and beverage samples served by local celebrities.

“The entire event was just so well put together. It was so nice,” Stark said. “Some of the places I didn’t even realize were in Canton. I tried some of their food, and I’ve gone back since then.”

Stark not only donated a basket to the event this year, but also sponsored a table so she and seven others could attend. She plans to do the same again next year and beyond.