Access To Arts Key To Akron Cultural Plan

Illustration of Akron skyline in watercolor [Cristina Romero Palma/]

People enjoy the parks and zoo, value working artists and want to feel welcome in Akron’s arts and culture scene.

Those are some of the sentiments captured to date in the process of developing a cultural plan for Akron.

The goal is to come up with actionable steps for the city, cultural organizations, artists and the greater community, according to Nicole Mullet, executive director of ArtsNow, the nonprofit leading the effort.

ArtsNow is working with Designing Local, a planning group out of Columbus, and a steering committee of Akron residents, artists and leaders. Throughout the summer the team held gatherings, conducted a survey and interviewed people to solicit ideas and recommendations.

Many people brought up a need for better access and inclusion. A conversation with representatives from United Disability Services and the Center for Applied Drama and Autism called for more opportunities to participate in arts and culture.  

“Sometimes what happens is we stop at, ‘Ok, we’re going to allow you to come to our events,’ when really the desire is they want to create culture,” Mullet said.  

A 2013 study found African-American residents didn’t feel well represented in Summit County’s arts sector. Mullet said the team heard that again this year.

There is a “disconnect between resources, of investment and opportunities, and we need to take ownership of that as a community,” she said.

The planners will reveal draft recommendations Thursday at the Akron Art Museum. The public is invited to review them in person between 2-9 p.m. The recommendations also will be available online August 23.

In addition to ideas surrounding access and inclusion, the team also seeks feedback around public art and support for working artists.

Conversations are ongoing about methods of funding arts and culture, too.

“There will be recommendations on funding. What comes of that will be really owned by partners,” Mullet said.  

A full plan is due out this fall with another round of community input to follow. A final plan is expected in December.

The GAR and Knight foundations provided $200,000 for this initiative.

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