Arts & Culture Patron: Pita Brooks

Pita Brooks is the Interim Director at Akron Soul Train. As a multimedia artist, she explores various materials and techniques, including painting, photography, and encaustic. She also pushes the boundaries of art by experimenting with new media like audio/video, installation, and performance. With her extensive background in arts administration, particularly in large nonprofit organizations, Brooks brings a wealth of experience to her new role. Prior to joining Akron Soul Train, she served as the Visitor Services and Museum Store Manager at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland (moCa) and as the Assistant Director of Admissions at the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA). These positions have uniquely prepared her to handle all aspects of her current position. Brooks has been an active volunteer at SPACES since 2012 and served as an annual benefit committee member for two years. In addition, she and her husband manage newsense projects, a small gallery and project space located in their Lakewood home, which fosters inclusive conversations.

What is your earliest memory of the arts (attending a function, organization, or art-making)?

My earliest memory of art-making dates back to my kindergarten days when we made drawings on plates as holiday gifts for our parents. My artwork was an abstract picture featuring bird and tree elements. Although it wasn’t the best piece, my parents cherished it and recently gave it back to me, which always brings a smile to my face. I still enjoy giving homemade gifts during the holidays.

What was your first introduction to the arts/culture scene in Summit County?

Growing up, my mom always made an effort to expose me and my siblings to unique experiences, including the arts and culture scene. Although it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment, I have fond memories of visiting the Akron Art Museum long before its incredible expansion and addition. Additionally, when I was very young, we went to Peninsula to witness the circus parade of The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. The parade, featuring circus performers, elephants, and other animals marching on Route 303 to the Richfield Coliseum, was an unforgettable sight.

How do arts/culture/environment in Summit County impact your life?

As an artist and nature enthusiast, Summit County offers countless avenues to merge these two passions. I can attend large concerts at Blossom, enjoy intimate theater productions at None Too Fragile, connect with emerging artists at Summit Artspace, explore thought-provoking films at the Nightlight Cinema, encounter public art on my way to work through Curated Storefront, create a native pollinator garden with plants from Native Roots Inc., and embark on long hikes through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This merely scratches the surface of the many organizations in Summit County that provide opportunities for me to engage with the arts and environment.

What artist/arts organization in Summit County do you wish more people knew about?

I don’t like to sound like a navel-gazer, but Akron Soul Train, of course! Akron Soul Train is a multidisciplinary residency program that awards 12-15 artists with paid residencies each calendar year. Our organization gives space, time, and financial support to visual, performing, and literary creatives so they may innovate and present new works to the public. In addition to creative experimentation, artists are asked to design a public program for the greater Akron community. I would be delighted to welcome anyone to our gallery on Main Street in downtown Akron to experience the captivating work on display!

What is a “can’t miss” Summit County arts/culture/environment experience?

If you haven’t visited the Bath Road Heronry to witness the magnificent blue herons building nests and raising their young, you should definitely add it to your list. The heronry is easily accessible, allowing you to park your car near the nesting area. Even without binoculars, you can spot their large nests nestled among the trees. The best time to observe the herons is early spring before the tree leaves fully bloom. So grab a loved one anytime between February and June and head down to enjoy the beauty of these majestic birds, whether by driving, biking, or hiking.