Arts & Culture Patron: Sandra Kurt

What is your earliest memory of participating in arts and culture?
Growing up as the youngest of four children on a farm in Iowa to parents who grew up during the Depression, arts and culture were pretty low on the priority list. I have to say my earliest memory of any arts and culture in our home was watching the Lawrence Welk Show on TV every Saturday night. Perhaps that explains why I so appreciate our vibrant and diverse local arts and culture scene!

How do arts, culture, and environment impact your life in Summit County?
Going into our Summit Metro Parks or hiking the Towpath renew and nourish my soul. When life becomes overwhelming, a hike in a nearby park always recenters me. I never take for granted the variety of parks and environments that are so nearby. In non-COVID times, live music, especially in our outdoor venues like Lock 3, provide an opportunity to share a communal enriching experience, a respite from daily concerns and tasks.

What artist, cultural organization, or experience do you wish more people knew about in Summit County?
The Bechdel Fest held its inaugural film festival in May 2019, centered at The Nightlight Cinema. To pass the “Bechdel Test,” a film must have at least two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. The fest included films local and national from filmmakers new and experienced. A reception was held at the Akron Art Museum for the filmmakers who could attend – it was eye-opening to chat with them and show off Akron. The fest had something for everyone: fiction, documentary, and family-friendly. I truly hope that it can continue in safer times, as originally planned!

Why is it so important to you/your family to support arts and culture? Why do arts and culture matter to you? 
Not only do the arts provide a break and entertainment, they also offer a view into another human experience, a new perspective. Why are we here if not to open our hearts to our neighbors with different experiences than us? The arts allow us to literally see and hear the world in a new way.

Have you seen an example of how arts and culture have positively impacted your community? Can you describe it?
The most direct example is the Akron Pride Festival. Between the Equality March and the festival, the music, organizations, vendors, and performers create a safe space of beauty and love in every conceivable shape, size, and color. The festival has artists offering their creations for sale, informational booths from local organizations like the Summit Metro Parks, Summit County Public Health and other health care organizations, open and affirming churches, and student and political organizations, just to scratch the surface. And it wouldn’t be a festival without stages of performers entertaining and celebrating the LGBTQ community all day. It’s not only a wonderfully fun time, but for those who are not welcomed by their own family or workplace, it is a place of solace and an opportunity to make connections and find resources to help get through challenging times and situations.  

What is your favorite spot to shop local?  Why? 
The Northside Marketplace is fabulous! There is such a variety of creations, hand-made soaps, stationery, clever t-shirt designs at Rubber City Clothing, many tempting treats such as honey at Akron Honey Company, my favorite Not Yo Daddy’s Mexican Hot Sauce, and so much more! You never know what’s around the next corner, and you’re likely to bump into a friend while you’re there.

What is your favorite view in Summit County? Why? 
My most-visited view is the Overlook at Cascade Valley Metro Park, overlooking the oxbow of the Cuyahoga River below with the Route 8 bridge at the horizon. Even though you are surrounded by the city, the only significant indicator of civilization is the bridge. My next favorite might be at the new Valley View park, soon to open. On a “behind the scenes” tour, as we came to an overlook, a half-dozen deer ran across an open field below us as if they had been deliberately released. I can’t wait until that park is open for hiking, biking, canoeing, and kayaking!

What do you wish for arts and culture in Summit County in the next five years?
I hope for an insurgent outburst of performances, festivals, and adventures once it is safe to gather in groups again. When the roadwork is finished downtown and the statue to rubber workers is installed with the kiosk to access people’s memories and experiences, and the Akron Civic Theater restoration and expansion is complete, there will be more venues for performances and culture to meet the pent-up demand that will surely be unlike anything we have ever experienced. I believe our gratitude for festivals and concerts will continue for some time, bringing more of us together more regularly and providing more opportunities for performers and artists in the years to come.

Why do you feel exposure and participation in arts, culture, and/or environment are important for students and young people in Summit County?
The arts and culture can unlock untapped potential in our youth, not only making learning more rewarding for them, but opening new universes to their imaginations. If they can dream it, they can be it and dreams are often first imagined through the arts.