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Mural Arts Philadelphia Brings a Public Art Project to Akron's Summit Lake This Year

photo of Summit Lake

This spring, a public art project will kick-off at Summit Lake in Akron. And as WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports, it’s being coordinated by groups in Akron and Philadelphia.

Mural Arts Philadelphia began in the 1980s as an anti-graffiti program. Today, cities from around the world come to the organization for training in how to bring projects to fruition in struggling neighborhoods. Now, Mural Arts is bringing a $100,000 grant to Akron to support an 18-month project here.

Dan Rice, CEO of the Ohio & Erie Canalway, says his group will be working with Mural Arts and Akron-based ArtsNow. The first step, he says, is public engagement to decide what the project will be. And he says they’ve already started gathering input on what people want around Summit Lake.

“We heard comment and feedback from the community that they’d love to learn more about fishing. They’d love to learn more about bird watching. One of the most popular comments was, ‘I want something else to do besides basketball.’”

Mural Arts will also be running similar projects in Memphis and Detroit. Chief Strategy Officer Caitlin Butler says they chose Akron because they wanted to affect environmental change at Summit Lake.

“It’s a really wonderful amenity for the city that seems [to have been] underutilized and could be more of a community asset than it currently is. And so we saw an opportunity to use art to help connect people more to the future of that space and what it should be and look like.”

Summit Lake is part of Akron’s Re-Imagining the Civic Commons project, an effort to bring recreation back to an area affected by heavy industry.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.