Tell us a bit about yourself:
My name really is Mac Love. I am the Co-Founder and Chief Catalyst of Art x Love, a creative agency based in Akron, Ohio. We create art and design that changes the way people think, feel, and operate in select environments. My wife and I founded the company after meeting at a branding agency in New York City and moving to Ohio in 2013. Since starting our company in 2015, we have hired more than 200 local artists and produced hundreds of creative initiatives in Ohio.
What is your earliest memory of participating in arts and culture?
My parents didn’t let me watch television as a kid, so I entertained myself drawing mazes, tracing baseball cards, designing Lego sets (complete with instructions), and playing imaginary games in the woods. Arts and culture were mainstays in our household. I realized how special that was in Elementary School, when students quickly passed on the creative assignments. “I’m not an artist,” they’d say. That disavowal and creative insecurity always stuck with me. I’ve dedicated myself to helping people harness their creative courage to make a difference.
How do arts, culture, and environment impact your life in Summit County?
As a full-time artist and creative entrepreneur, I am constantly inspired by the people, places, activities, and environment around me.
Most recently, I have been encouraged by those calling for greater accountability, justice, and reform from local institutions and leaders. The “it is what it is” and “that’s the way we do things,” approaches have long been a frustration of mine. I’m excited for responsible, transparent, proactive, and equitable change.
What artist, cultural organization, or experience do you wish more people knew about in Summit County?
There’s such an abundance! First, I’d encourage people to venture in new directions and get lost in discovery for themselves. If you walk a little further or bike around, it’s amazing the treasures you’ll find in Summit County.
I love the Sagamore Hills park, Lockkeepers Restaurant, the Inn at Brandywine Falls, graffiti in Hudson, The Henry Bierce Co., Cuyahoga Falls’ concrete corridors, wandering through the Myers School of Art’s studios, The Bomb Shelter, Nine Muses, Woodrow Nash, Time Cat, the Countryside Farmer’s Market, jogging through Summit Lake while the mist is over the water, and pretty much everything around Peninsula from the Quarry to the Peninsula Art Academy. I also love the local ruins – from the old factories to the train tracks, stone walls, and rusted machinery in the woods.
Why is it so important to you/your family to support arts and culture? Why do arts and culture matter to you?
I think art is the purpose of life. It’s creating, expressing, experiencing, challenging, indulging, failing, learning, sharing, diversifying, innovating, and growing in every way. It’s perfectly imperfect, and makes this whole experiment of life worth every second.
We support arts and culture because it makes us happy and redeems our faith in humanity. Art has the power to transform people, places, and history at faster than light speed. Art and culture are not a luxury, they are a necessity. We need to do so much more to support them. I think our world would be smarter, healthier, and richer for it.
Have you seen an example of how arts and culture have positively impacted your community? Can you describe it?
I am obsessed with demonstrating the return on investment of art in our communities. Our @PLAY project explored every street in Akron’s 24 neighborhoods, engaged thousands of residents, and produced 93 unique initiatives in 18 months that generated 100 murals, 50 public space transformations, 2 reinvigorated public pools, 1 parcour trail, and a traveling theater production.
Three of the first four neighborhoods @PLAY engaged each received $250k grants shortly after our work there. Following our work, the City of Akron has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Akron’s parks, recreation system, and business corridors. There’s also been a reappraisal and renewed dedication to diverse and equitable practices working in collaboration with Akron’s residents.
I see the impact every day, but I’m biased. In the words of Billy Joel, “We didn’t start the fire, no we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it.”
What is your favorite spot to shop local? Why?
For art, it’s Zeber-Martell for gifts and Don Drumm for the experience. The Bomb Shelter is probably my favorite place overall. Kicks Lounge is great for shoe shopping and top of mind because my daughter’s first birthday is coming up. The thrift game in Summit County is also amazing, though I mainly scour for knick-knacks.
What is your favorite view in Summit County? Why?
The tree canopy from my hammock, with my kids on either side appreciating a moment of peace and quiet.
Who is a patron or supporter of arts and culture in Summit County who you admire?
Jill Bacon Madden, owner of Jilly’s Music Room. She is a sincere and enthusiastic supporter of the arts. I always have a great time at her place, and know she appreciates how difficult it is to be an independent artist. Our local music scene is top notch. PorchRokr is probably my favorite local art & culture experience. There’s nothing like it.
What do you wish for arts and culture in Summit County in the next five years?
I want to see more young emerging artists entrusted with greater responsibilities and put in a position to succeed. There has been a history of very concentrated investment in narrow corridors across our community, and I’d love to see a little more go to the fringe. I think that’s where the best work is coming from, and we need to embrace it before that talent leaves and is thrown a pair of golden handcuffs elsewhere.
Why do you feel exposure and participation in arts, culture, and/or environment are important for students and young people in Summit County?
New ideas and experiences are essential to a healthy, proactive, and generous way of life. Art, culture, and environmental immersion open the floodgates to both, and allow us to merge and grow with an infinite stream of possibilities. There are probably only a few moments in any of our lives where we feel like “this is exactly where I am supposed to be and exactly what I am supposed to be doing.” I’ve found that exposing myself to art, culture, and the environment increases the frequency and depth of that feeling. Take off your shoes and step into the river. It’s that easy.
We are currently accepting art submissions for our Akron On Deck playing card set celebrating 52 Akron businesses and landmarks with cards featuring 52 local artists. Go to https://artxlove.com/blog/akron-on-deck to learn more. Submissions are free and unlimited, and selected artists will receive a share of 40% of royalties from card sales for life. Check it out!
I’d also like to give a shout out to Miriam Ray for our Rubber Worker Statue & Stories project. Miriam has worked tirelessly to spread the word about the commemorative bricks which are funding our grass-roots oral history project to share stories of the people who made Akron the Rubber Capital of the World. There’s still room and time to buy a commemorative brick before the rubber worker statue is unveiled downtown. You can learn more at AkronStories.com.