Arts & Culture Patron: Jason Blakely

What is your earliest memory of participating in arts and culture?
My earliest memory of participating in arts and culture was in my 7th grade English teacher Ms. Miller’s writing workshop. We created books for our stories. We designed and created the covers out of wallpaper and poster board. The name of my story was The Lone Star. I still have it. In my 8th grade teacher Ms. Coleman’s class, we would write stories and she was real encouraging about using our imaginations. In 9th grade, Ms. Stewart suggested I enter a poetry contest and I did. It was my first time being published in a book. This was my introduction to poetry. A lady named Michele Olivieri started a neighborhood kids’ club where I was able to write poetry. I had neighbors who would give me stamps to submit to contests and they would allow me to use their computer to submit to contests and publications.

How do arts, culture, and environment impact your life in Summit County?
Arts and culture impact my life by providing opportunity to be creative and to share that creative opportunity. With poetry being my avenue for expression, it has helped me become who I am and has given others the opportunity to share their experiences.

What artist, cultural organization, or experience do you wish more people knew about in Summit County?Anyone who is using the arts to bring people together to help move the arts forward. The library had poetry readings the second Saturday of every month and now Patterson Park has a poetry reading every Friday. Selfishly, I wish people knew about Poetry Is Life Publishing and the projects, contests and publications it puts on. Not only know about it but support it. There are other readings and events in the city also.

Why is it so important to you to support arts and culture?
It is important to me to support the arts and culture because it has given so much to me. It is the pulse of the community. It is a tool that can be used to bring us together. Art and culture is not just something you buy, it is something you experience.

Have you seen an example of how arts and culture have positively impacted your community?
For poetry, arts and culture has positively impacted community by people being excited to have and see their work in print, Some people don’t believe their work is good enough, but I let them know they are good enough and their work is also.

What is your favorite spot to shop local? Why?
The Peanut Shoppe in Downtown Akron. They have always been nice, kind, generous, welcoming, and supportive. We collaborated on a poetry program for kids called Poetry: Crackin’ & Poppin’ at The Peanut Shoppe.

What is your favorite view in Summit County? Why?
Summit Lake. It is just beautiful

Who is a patron or supporter of arts and culture in Summit County who you admire?
I highly respect Nicole Mullet. She allowed me to use her platform to host a poetry scene conversation. She is what leadership should be when it comes to providing spaces for conversations to happen. I have never met her. I sent her a letter I wrote about the Akron Poetry Scene about what I and others saw and experienced. Instead of getting defensive, she said, let me be part of the solution.

I highly respect Noor Hindi and the Devil Strip magazine for genuinely listening to my questions and concerns about the poetry scene and shining a light on what I am doing as a poet and publisher in the city. Noor could have dismissed my concerns or ignored them as some have, but she took the time to listen without judgment or ridicule and that meant so much.

Anyone who is a part of the art for its purpose and not the prestige. I respect and honor the mission and work of Stewart’s Caring Place. I was referred to them by a fellow poet who is very supportive of what I do. Stewart’s Caring Place reached out to me to see if I would be interested in doing a restorative writing group with people who are battling cancer. I was humbled and honored that they would be interested in me doing a poetry writing group. It is one of the greatest things I have ever been asked to do. It fits in with my mission and vision of why I started my publishing company.

Anyone who has trusted me with their work. It is an honor.

What do you wish for arts and culture in Summit County in the next five years?
I wish the poetry scene can come together and be respected as an important and valuable art form for the community. And all the art forms to possibly do something together.

Why do you feel exposure and participation in arts and culture are important for students and young people in Summit County?
It gives opportunity for those who are not in sports to express themselves and show their talent. Exposure opens up a new world and it provides inspiration. It is okay to play an instrument, dance, paint, sculpt, write, draw, rap, sing, DJ and be a part of other art forms. Arts and culture should be a part of your soul.