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'AkronArts' Draws Closer Ties for Campus, Downtown in Revitalization Effort

a photo of University of Akron campus
University of Akron
The AkronArts Initiative includes repurposing spaces in the Polsky building into places that promote the arts.

AkronArts, a new initiative from the University of Akron, launched last week, aimed at promoting arts on campus and downtown.

The idea to pair the arts with local revitalization efforts came from realizing that while the city of Akron had an interesting and “intentional” way of making its downtown into a more, “prosperous, vibrant place,”  the university didn’t “really have a part to play,” said university president Gary Miller.

a photo of Gary L Miller
University of Akron President Gary Miller.

“So, I asked a group of faculty to think about what that would look like,” Miller said. “They worked on it since February, came out with just a fantastic, really forward-thinking set of ideas about how to re-imagine our art programs, which are excellent, and coordinate them into becoming more of a value-added partner in downtown.”

The AkronArts Committee on Re-imagining University Arts Programs for Community Revitalization gathered inspiration from other “Midwestern legacy” cities, Miller said.

“We just had a really interesting half-day meeting with Macon, Georgia,” he said. “And if you see what happened in Detroit, connecting the downtown out to where the main campuses were, where the art campuses are out there, there's a lot of really good background information that having a vibrant art program in your downtown spaces is key to growing businesses and commerce in those areas and getting people to live there.”

The program’s plan includes repurposing space within the university-owned Polsky Building into spaces that promote the arts and foster closer community-faculty-student relations. The University of Akron also plans to relocate strategic programs within the Mary Schiller Myers School of Art and School of Music to the space, which is near Lock 3.

The AkronArts initiative will be supported through the university’s “We Rise Together” capital campaign.

“A renewed focus will be placed on the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and the work of the University of Akron Press. The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron will also be expanded to provide the community with even more exposure to dance through its extensive national and international connections,” according to a press release. “Important programs such as the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, and Synapse, the art + science series of the Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center, will connect art and music to the physical, biological and social science programs of the University to create community learning and entertainment opportunities on campus and downtown.”

Miller said the next steps for AkronArts includes site visits and talking to supporters.

“We have this wonderful E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Center, which we want to connect more closely with the Akron Civic Theater, which is downtown,” Miller said. “We are already in the downtown spaces in a big way with our individual faculty efforts and so forth. So, we have conversations with every major art entity in the region about how we could better be a partner, and become more focused on bringing people to Akron to live.”

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Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”