Akron Art Museum Breaks Ground Soon on Art Park
By Joanna Richards
Akron’s art museum plans to start work this month turning a couple of adjacent parking lots into an open, art-filled park. The idea is to expand the museum out into the community right from its doors, placing sculpture in a new public gathering place.
Akron Art Museum Director Mark Masuoka says The Bud and Susie Rogers Garden is part of a shift by many arts institutions toward greater civic engagement.
“I don’t think we have the luxury to be insular,” Masuoka said. “I think we need to figure out and understand what it means to be inclusive. What better way to do it than by creating an open, public garden space?”
The park will have a lawn, walkways, gardens, rotating art works – and a bigger space for a long-running outdoor concert series, he said.
“It’s bringing in a lot more green space and usable outdoor space, which we think is very important,” said Sharon Gillberg, with the Downtown Akron Partnership. She says along with the museum’s arts programming, office workers may be lured outside for lunch or a meeting. “That’s all part of activating the streets and activating the areas of downtown,” she said.
Masuoka says the idea for the art park was conceived about eight years ago, but was delayed by a leadership change at the museum, fundraising and logistical efforts, gathering public input and rethinking the design. It is named for the parents of Rick Rogers, one of the major funders along with his wife, Alita.
The city of Akron also chipped in with free parking to museum members at its nearby garage, to replace the lost museum parking spaces where the park will go.