What is your earliest memory of participating in arts and culture?
Born and raised near Pittsburgh, PA, I can recall a class field trip when I was in 1st or 2nd grade to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the adjacent Art Museum. While the dinosaur room may have had the greatest impact on me at the time, I also have vivid memories of walking in the sculpture garden, featuring mostly contemporary art, and the bold pieces contained in the Scaife Galleries that captured my eye. Until that time, art was either an activity I participated in at school or pastoral images hung in the homes of family members.
Why do arts and culture matter to you? How do you support arts and culture?
I took visual arts classes as an elective every year in high school. I was not a great artist and only had marginal skills, but it was something I truly enjoyed. Not only were some of the most interesting kids in my school in these classes, but we were able to go on field trips to the museum and painted the windows of businesses in the mall at Christmas.
This interest stayed with me as I moved into my adult life and identified civic organizations to support with time and resources. While living in Cleveland I got involved with Art House and eventually served as a board member. This organization allowed me to combine my love of the arts with supporting educational opportunities for kids. I met many incredible local artists, learned about arts-focused community events, and again saw how arts programs enrich the experiences of the young people who participated in our school-based programs taught by working artists.
One incident that stands out was when we hosted a student showcase. Kids walked across the street from their school to our studio to view the work of their peers. After perusing the work the teachers would gather the children to go back to their classroom. One little girl, about 5 or 6 years of age, raised her hand and asked the teacher if she could thank me. With approval from the teacher, she ran up and hugged me and exclaimed, “It’s so beautiful, thank you!” I think at least three more kids asked to do the same following her example.
Engagement in the arts has been a consistent thread throughout my life. I can look at any age and focus in on times where it has helped me learn and grow or allowed me to share my passion with others.
What is your favorite spot to shop local? Why?
I was so disappointed when the West Point Market closed the original location. As someone who loves to cook (and eat) this market had everything you might need in one convenient location. Whether I stopped to gather a variety of ingredients to make an impressive meal for friends and family, wanted to pick up a hostess gift, or just needed a quick lunch – including a killer brownie – it was all there.
Now I like to visit the Farmers’ Market at Howe Meadow. Not only does it provide me with an opportunity to be out in one of our beautiful public parks, but the number and variety of vendors can’t be beat. I love that the producers themselves are often onsite to answer questions about the products they grow or sell and can guide my purchases. I usually run into a friend or two while I’m out adding a pleasant surprise each time I go to the market.
Who is a patron or supporter of arts and culture in Summit County who you admire?
I am always very excited to see corporate support for the arts. The artwork displayed at Akron Children’s Hospital and Summa Health not only provide financial support for artists but create a less sterile and more visually appealing experience for anyone visiting the campus. This is especially impactful when the commissions are used to engage and promote local artists.
Why do you feel exposure and participation in arts, culture, and/or environment are important for students and young people in Summit County?
Working for Boys & Girls Clubs, I can attest to how the arts improve kids’ lives in our community. We are very lucky to have staff at the Clubs with skills and training in the arts field working with our kids to offer various enrichment activities.
Annually Boys & Girls Clubs has organized an exhibit to showcase our members’ artwork. For the past few years, the Akron Art Museum has hosted this in the atrium. This is very special for our kids to receive recognition for their work and to know it is being prominently displayed at the museum for all to see. They eagerly pose next to their work and point out their friends’ pieces too.
Access to the arts is so important for young people. Not only does it enhance the way they see the world and provide outlets for expression, but research also shows that it helps their brains and bodies develop too. From increasing motor skills to enhancing academic achievement, exposure to music, visual arts, dance, and more can help children achieve developmental milestones on the way to becoming better citizens in our community. Further, access to the arts builds critical thinking skills, improves empathy, and contributes to being able to think creatively to find solutions to problems.
Have you seen an example of how arts and culture have positively impacted your community?
I found it very interesting to follow the details around the Sojourner Truth mural at Lock 3. This project initially received a fair amount of criticism for the lack of inclusion of people of color in the planning and execution of the installation. While a more inclusive focus from the onset would have been desirable, I saw how this work encouraged discussion. Conversations around attracting more diverse individuals to the table when planning community projects and providing more opportunities to people of color overall were just a few of the topics spurred by this project.
I was thrilled to see a response from women of color in our community, organized in part by a few passionate elected officials, who spoke up about the exclusion that still exists in our society and the resulting conversations designed to encourage greater inclusivity.
This is the power and beauty of the arts. Even if you disagree with the perspective presented, the arts encourage us to communicate with others about what we see and feel in response to a piece. This dialogue can bring individual growth or community-wide understanding about important and relevant issues. And when we listen to each other we can learn and evolve.
What is your favorite view in Summit County? Why?
My husband loves waterfalls. While there are plenty of incredible waterfalls throughout Summit County, I think Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is my favorite due to how the water cascades over the rock structure and the soothing sounds it creates.