Arts & Culture Patron: Bronlynn Thurman

Bronlynn Thurman is a creative and Program Officer at GAR Foundation. Her primary focus at the Foundation is on community development and arts in education. As a creative, she enjoys using myriad media to tell stories, including writing, photography, and painting. Prior to joining GAR full-time, she served as a Program Associate for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and as a Marketing Events Assistant at the Akron-Summit County Public Library. A community advocate, Thurman is often connecting Akronites to the richness that our community has to offer and striving to drive positive change. In her spare time, Thurman is the co-founder of Black Women Explore (BWE) and creator/host of the Coffee & Cocktails Book Club. BWE is an outdoor recreation group for Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, and other women (and fem-identifying folks) of color to explore and engage in nature. The Coffee & Cocktails Book Club focuses on uplifting the voices of authors of color whose stories are often overlooked.

What types of arts and cultural activities do you enjoy the most (e.g., theatre, music, dance, visual arts, literature)?

To be honest, I love all sorts of arts and cultural activities and it often depends on what I’m feeling in the moment. We have such a robust set of options in our community that it’s hard to choose just one. One day I want to hike in my favorite Metro Park, and the next I might check out a local band or visit a theatre performance. I’m always interested in a new exhibition at a gallery or a poetry open mic night. There are a wealth of opportunities to connect and discover something new.

In what ways do arts and culture contribute to your personal well-being and mental health?

I firmly believe that life is nothing without the arts. There is a quote from Robin Williams’ character, John Keating, in Dead Poets Society that sums it up perfectly. He says, “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion…poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” He was speaking specifically about poetry, but I believe that this can be applicable to all art forms. Art can heal. It can move the hearts and minds of people. It can restore.

How do you think exposure to arts and culture at a young age can shape a person’s development and worldview?

One of the most beautiful things about the arts is the ability to both see and express yourself within it. Young people, as they grow and develop, are constantly encountering new (to them) experiences. These new experiences often bring about a wealth of emotions and ideas. The arts are a way to channel those emotions in a healthy way and also provide opportunities to see that they are not alone. They aren’t the first to experience love or heartbreak, immense joy or all-consuming anger. Often, the arts help people speak even when words fail them.