Arts & Culture Patron: Dr. C. Michael Robinson Jr., Ed.D.

C. Michael Robinson Jr., Ed.D., has experience in education that crosses from urban-suburban districts to rural, suburban, and urban districts of varying sizes, diversity, and socio-economic status. He is a former superintendent (Pine Bluff, Arkansas) and was the current chief academic officer of East Baton Rouge Parish School System of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, prior to his selection as superintendent of Akron Public Schools. Robinson has two doctoral degrees in educational leadership.

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

I am a huge proponent of the arts, so I enjoy all of it. I probably should have gone into theatre and acting myself–but I love ballet, theatre, drama, acting, and dance. I can’t dance worth a lick, but I have a huge affinity for it. It’s important for people to understand that people who go into the arts are skilled. It requires skill for someone to be able to learn lines, position themselves in a character, and act out that role.

Describe a work of art or cultural experience that deeply resonated with you and why it had such a powerful effect.

I always watched television when I was a kid, growing up in the Deep South of Louisiana, and I used to be fascinated by the actors on Good Times, The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time, and Alice. I’ll never forget when The Marva Collins Story came out–I looked at the little kids that were on that show, and how I would have loved to have been them. I remember when Fame was out, and I thought that Leroy was so fascinating as an artist. I didn’t know anything about acting at that time; it was just something I was drawn to.

I used to write plays and stories, and I’ll never forget that Mrs. Page, my sixth-grade teacher, allowed for me and my group to write a story called “The Elves Save Christmas.” That was my first time in public school, and we acted out the story. I always noticed my distinct passion and connection to the fine arts. For me, I’ve never lost that zeal and passion, and I think that’s why I’m so supportive of the arts. I believe in having specialized schools and programs within schools that solely focus on developing and training aspiring artists. As a superintendent, I want to give every opportunity that I can to as many scholars as I can who want to become an artist in some aspect. I want to do everything I can to ensure children have that exposure to the arts, even if they don’t want to become an actor, writer, or artist. They may just appreciate it. I want to provide that for them.

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

I think the earlier that we expose kids to the arts, the better. Do you know how many kids acted in the Christmas play at church and are now successful actors and actresses? We shouldn’t look at these experiences as insignificant but as opportunities to shape, mold, grow, and foster upcoming actors and actresses. We have to ensure that kids have these opportunities, which is only going to happen if the arts become a way of life, and not just something to do. Give credibility to the arts, because you’re transforming the world by exposing people to the arts.

What are some arts experiences you have enjoyed during your time in Summit County so far?

I haven’t lived here long, but I do intend to take advantage of the arts here. I love being in a city that has such rich arts and cultural heritage. We tend to sometimes misunderstand the blessing that we have being in this type of a city–and in conjunction with that, having Cleveland so close as well.