What is your earliest memory of participating in arts and culture?
My story is a little different because my mom is a professional pianist, thus me and my sister’s names – EbaNee and Ivoree. I just grew up with music. I was introduced to the arts as a profession and not just something that you do in school or for a talent show.
How do arts, culture, and environment impact your life in Summit County?
I think that it makes it worthwhile. I have my favorite jazz band here that I like to see live, Acid Cats. I love to see people express themselves through the arts. The arts are reflective of humanity. Artists make sacrifices so they can pursue their path, they will find ways to cut back on their living expenses so they still get to live a life and do the work that they are passionate about. I find that really admirable. As far as the environment, I would go outside of what people typically think of as arts and culture and say I enjoy the Metro Parks. It’s one of the reasons I really like Akron. The parks are a way to enable and accelerate self-discovery as well, which is an art form in itself because there’s no formula to it.
What artist, cultural organization, or experience do you wish more people knew about in Summit County?
The Northside Marketplace, I wish more people knew about this urban marketplace for local artisans.
Why is it so important to you/your family to support arts and culture?
I like to support it. As I’ve grown, how I view artists has changed. I see them more as business people. Growing up I would think, “Why would anybody go to school for art, it’s like you’re setting yourself up for failure?” Now that I’m older I have so much respect for people who pursue art as a career. Now I view them as businesses and I try to support artists whose products or services bring me value. I like the way ArtsNow advocates for artists so they are compensated. Too many do things for free or for exposure. In other industries, people expect to pay for someone’s skills and gifts and they should in the arts as well.
Why do arts and culture matter to you?
Someone asked me eight months ago what brings me joy as an adult and I didn’t know. I watched a Ted Talk about a man who was so serious all of the time and miserable. He tried everything, but finally, incorporated play back into his life. He started taking business meetings playing catch instead of meeting for coffee and within a month he was happy again. I think often times that play element involves things that are more arts and culture based. You become a professional and sometimes that part is sucked out of you, but it’s the lifeline of society. So since the quarantine, I started incorporating more play. I wrote a standup comedy bit, bought a canvas and painted, wrote a song and recorded it. I’m discovering me again through the arts.
Have you seen an example of how arts and culture have positively impacted your community? Can you describe it?
I would say it definitely impacted me growing up. I was in afterschool programs and we did art activities, went outside and played and did sports. I grew up rollerblading, playing hopscotch, hide and seek and Simon Says. A lot of that is culture. I didn’t have a care in the world as a child. I didn’t even know I lived in an “underserved” neighborhood, but growing up I never thought of myself as disadvantaged because my life was rich with arts and culture. As kids, my cousins and I created our own little culture. It impacted my community. I think if it’s done right, community and culture go hand in hand.
What is your favorite spot to shop local?
I’d probably have to say the grocery stores, the local health food stores.
What is your favorite view in Summit County?
Favorite nature view, Overlook Trail off of Sackett Ave. Favorite city view is from Waters Park.
Who is a patron or supporter of arts and culture in Summit County who you admire?
Josy Jones. Her work ethic is crazy.
What do you wish for arts and culture in Summit County in the next five years?
That it’s visually and economically thriving and more inclusive. Not just in terms of the artists that are supported, but also in the type of art. I feel like more people would rather see a mural of Nipsey Hussle than just a black artist producing abstract art – something that minority and marginalized people can identify with.
Why do you feel exposure and participation in arts, culture, and/or environment are important for students and young people in Summit County?
I feel arts and culture are tools for self-expression and self-discovery. I think that self-expression is what every human is entitled to but that it begins with practice. We all have the ability and opportunity to bring our unique, divine design into the world and arts and culture gives us an outlet to form and express our identities.