Arts & Culture Patrons: Rick & Alita Rogers

Alita Rogers was born in New Rochelle, New York and moved to Kent, Ohio in 1967 when her father became a professor at Kent State University. Naturally, she considers herself a Buckeye. She holds an M.ED in Education Technology (1986) and a BBA in Human Resource Management (1982) from Kent State University. Alita started her career at the downtown Akron M. O’Neil Department Store hiring hundreds of people for a wide variety of positions including Santas and elves. She loved David Sedaris’s SantaLand Diaries. Less entertaining, but far more thrilling she worked on and off with her husband, Rick, to run BW Rogers Company, a manufacturing and distribution company started by Rick’s grandfather in 1928. Over the course of 20 years, the business grew to have 21 locations and 250 employees. They sold the business in 2014 and since that time Alita has assumed her favorite role to date; grandmother. Along the way she always worked in the community as a volunteer with a strong devotion to the Akron Public Schools, Firestone Friends of the Arts, Planned Parenthood, the Akron Art Museum and most recently Grace House. She is exceedingly proud of her work with the Tobacco Prevention Coalition and making Ohio workplaces smoke free in 2006. She received Competent Toastmaster and Leadership Awards in 2002. She and Rick have been married for 40 years and have an extensive art collection. Their daughter Sarah and husband, Corbin, have two children and Madeline and husband her, Adam, have one son.

Alita’s Earliest Art Memory: No one memory stands out as my earliest because our family surrounded itself with art. While my parents couldn’t afford to buy art, they made sure their children had access to all sorts of it in the form of visits to museums/plays, enrollment in art/music/dance classes, and a house full of books and a kitchen table full of great food. My mother sewed all sorts of things and built furniture. My father listened to jazz daily from his extensive collection of LPs from the 1920s-40s. Rick introduced me to architecture and his parents taught me about plants, gardens, and landscaping.

What was Alita’s introduction to the arts in Summit County? My first introduction to arts in Summit County was probably in the early 70’s when the Akron Art Museum exhibited Frederick Remington’s work and when the Nutcracker was performed at EJ Thomas. As an adult, Rick and I bought season tickets to the Ohio Ballet as newlyweds. That was a big deal for a young couple. Summit County Arts/Culture/Environment Impact our lives: The arts, culture, and environment of Summit County make life worth living here. They enrich our lives in so many ways. The expansive programming at the Akron Art Museum under Mitchell Kahan’s leadership was one of the most influential. He brought the wider world’s art, issues, and culture right to our doorstep. We feel similarly about the programming of the Akron Symphony, EJ Thomas, and the University of Akron. These institutions allowed us to expose our children to the arts just as our parents did with us.

What does Alita wish more people knew about? Curated Store Front, of course! Downtown Akron has great art, but there are very few people downtown. Please explore it! And don’t miss the small venues for the arts like the Emily Davis Gallery, Summit Art Space, Night Light, Bounce, etc.

Rick currently serves as executive director of The Curated Storefront a non-profit dedicated to transforming downtown Akron into a more vibrant community through the arts. Rick holds an MBA from Ohio State University (1979) and a BA in Biology and Chemistry from Hiram College (1977). A consummate entrepreneur with an innate propensity for leadership, Rick began his career in 1980 as founder and president of Tribute, a software company based in Akron, Ohio. He assumed leadership of B. W. Rogers Company, a manufacturing and distribution company founded by his grandfather, in 1994. Over the course of twenty years, Rick expanded the family business from six offices in the state of Ohio to twenty-one offices spanning seven states. He assembled and led a diverse team of over 250 people. It was through his ability to identify talent and cultivate a sense of creativity and independence in his employees that his company was able to thrive and contribute to the economic vitality of his beloved hometown, Akron, Ohio. Rick continues to give back to the city that allowed his business to flourish through his civic involvement with and contributions to a number of area charities, including Akron Children’s Hospital; the Akron Art Museum; the Intermuseum Conservancy Association, Front International, NCECA, and the Boys and Girls Club of the Western Reserve. Rick is deeply engaged in the arts, and he is a leading collector of contemporary ceramics from Asia and the US and twentieth-century American and European design.

Rick’s Earliest Art Memory: I have memories of my mom taking us to the Akron and Cleveland Art museums when we were in grade school in the early sixties.

How do Summit County arts, culture, and environment impact our lives? I met Mitchell Kahan when he first came to Akron. He subsequently had a tremendous influence on me over the 30+ years of his tenure as the Executive Director at the museum. This association led me to start the Hieronymus art collection. I continue to stay engaged in many facets of the arts through the Curated Storefront, Myers School of Art, Arts Now, the Civic Theater, Blossom, Akron Art Museum, Blue, Jazz Fest, the Akron Symphony, Tuesday Musical, Jilly’s, and numerous other venues. Dance was also a constant presence when I was growing up with wonderful early memories of the Ohio Ballet at the Civic theater. Today I continue to enjoy Groundworks, Akron’s summer dance series, Verb Ballet and Dance Cleveland.