By Mary Kay Palazzo
Over the four months that I’ve been working with ArtsNow, I’ve had so many incredible experiences, and I’ve met many amazing people who care deeply about their cities and the artists living in them. I’ve gotten to visit beautiful places inside Summit County and outside Ohio and explore the local arts and culture sector in a completely new way. I consider myself lucky to have been able to have all of these experiences, and I’m glad that I will be able to return in the Fall to continue working at such a great organization!
I found ArtsNow last fall when I was beginning to prepare for my practicum course for my Nonprofit Studies minor. For this course, I was required to work as an intern over the course of the semester at a nonprofit that interests me. As a Crafts major, I knew that I was interested in working at a nonprofit that had the arts as its focus, so I headed to the internet to begin my search. A few Google searches later, and I’d found ArtsNow, combed through the website, and decided to try setting up a meeting with Nicole to discuss the possibility of an internship. When we had our meeting, Nicole outlined all of the projects ArtsNow was working on, as well as initiatives that were planned for the future. I became really excited about ArtsNow’s work, and I immediately felt that this small but mighty nonprofit was an organization that I wanted to be a part of. I was hired to start in January, with my main project for the semester being the public art directory, and I was really looking forward to getting started!
Throughout the semester, I had so many opportunities to work on interesting projects and meet awesome people, and I cannot possibly fit all of them into one blog post. That being said, here are some highlights from my internship thus far:
The Summit County Public Art Directory
My main focus this semester was the public art directory. I was really excited about this project because it was a great opportunity for me to become familiar with much of the art in the area and the artists who made it. Being that I am not from Summit County originally, I was unfamiliar with much of its arts and culture offerings. However, this project allowed me gain insight into the arts and culture sector by connecting with local artists, business owners, and administrators to track down information on public art in the community. This experience quickly led me to become fully immersed public art, which made me feel pretty at home in Summit County. Though this directory is not yet an exhaustive list of all the public art in Summit County, I’m proud to have found over 100 pieces to showcase in it. I’m excited to see it up on the website, and I hope that Summit County residents interacting with it and continue to submit pieces to it!
Visiting Detroit with DAP
In April, I had the opportunity to go to Detroit for ArtsNow with Downtown Akron Partnership. We spent two days looking at arts initiatives with a goal of understanding how Detroit has leveraged its arts and culture sector to promote sustainable growth of the city. During the trip, we were able to see initiatives including, the Artists Village, Murals in the Market, and the Heidelberg Project. My favorite part of the trip was the tour of Ponyride, a business center that allows emerging artistic professionals to rent studio space at a low cost. Not only does Ponyride provide large, affordable studio spaces, but it also facilitates engagement and collaboration between emerging artists, which helps strengthen the arts and culture sector. This trip left me feeling energized and prompted me to start thinking of ways that Akron and Summit County could implement some of these same initiatives to use its arts and culture sector to its advantage while supporting local artists.
While working on grants might not sound fun to anyone else, one of my guilty pleasures is writing and editing papers, so I enjoyed having the opportunity to review several grants and write one narrative of my own. My first class as a nonprofit student was a grant writing class, so naturally, I was excited to put that knowledge to use. Not only did grant writing allow me to put some of my academic skills into practice, but it also gave me the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of all facets of work that ArtsNow does. While I don’t know yet if we received the grant, I am glad I had the opportunity to write for it, and am keeping my fingers crossed for its acceptance!
After working at ArtsNow for a semester, I feel like I have a much better understanding of Summit County’s arts and culture sector. I’m grateful to have had so many opportunities to engage with Akron and Summit County residents around public art, and to have gotten to work on such meaningful project this semester! I’m glad to have found an organization that was such a good fit, and I am lucky that I get to come back and keep working here in the Fall!
You can keep up with what I’m working on through Kent State University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience this summer on Facebook and Instagram.