What is your earliest memory of participating in arts and culture?
The answer to this question has multiple parts. Our first memory of taking part in the arts was at Norton High School, where our Dad was a teacher and the director of Drama and Forensics. We spent many evenings with him, watching play rehearsals, and even landing minor roles here and there. He also wrote many plays for our church, and we always enjoyed taking part in those, as well. We also spent many school holidays visiting museums like the Natural History Museum, the Great Lakes Science Center, and Akron Civic Theatre. We spent every summer vacationing in Vermont and Maine, driving all night to get there, with my Mom singing every album she knew while we kids slept. Those were the days before 24 hour a day radio, and she sang to keep my Dad company as he drove all night. The impact of our upbringing was that we understood the importance of the arts in peoples’ lives. The area of the arts that we were most drawn to was our interest in music. Nate and I, almost 15 years ago, started playing music locally. Nate began writing and recording songs in a room in our house that we had converted into a mini recording studio. After a friend asked Nate to play at an open mic night at Cocco’s coffee shop, he decided he had found his calling and began to play more and more. Even though, at that point in time, I had never played a musical instrument (I was the only child who didn’t take piano lessons!) Nate asked me to play bass with him. Our initial interest in local arts and culture was born, as we began playing around Akron and surrounding areas. We had the privilege of meeting quite a few other musicians and artists alike. We were even asked to play at the Akron Civic Theatre in our early years for a Battle of the Bands which, needless to say, was a really cool experience.
How do arts, culture, and environment impact your life in Summit County?
Throughout the years of recording and playing we decided to travel throughout the northeastern parts of the country, specifically Vermont and New York. While we traveled, we learned that being an artist was quite expensive. In 2010 we decided to find a location that would allow us to open a recording studio and a music venue. We wanted to create an opportunity for not only our band, but other local musicians and artists to record, mix, master, while showcasing their material in a theatre style venue. Our traveling experiences, especially in New York, showed us the great potential that could be made available by creating an atmosphere for artists to record and showcase their material in Summit County.
What artist, cultural organization, or experience do you wish more people knew about in Summit County?
Coming from the Kenmore part of Akron, we have had the opportunity to work closely with the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance to bring artists and culture to the Kenmore neighborhood. When we first opened the theatre, we started meeting wonderful people who shared our vision. We have met many musicians, artists, and theatre groups, and have had the privilege of having most of them perform at The Rialto Theatre. With the help of the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance we will continue to bring more art and culture to Kenmore Boulevard. They do a great job of promoting arts and culture as well.
Why is it so important to you/your family to support arts and culture? Why do arts and culture matter to you?
Being artists ourselves, we personally understand the benefits that art and culture bring to neighborhoods, especially those facing financial hardships. Arts and culture have a way of showing opportunities that may not be obvious to everyone, and encourage pursuits that may not always be realized. Kenmore is an area that has a high degree of potential to do great things, but has been held back by the financial hardships that has affected its community. Through arts and culture we are able to give opportunities to the community, whether it be to a child who wants to learn to dance, sing or act, or to an adult who is given the opportunity to create, work, and be a part of the communal activities. Arts and culture can change society by giving all voices an opportunity to be heard.
Have you seen an example of how arts and culture have positively impacted your community? Can you describe it?
Yes! The Rialto Theatre has put on many performances, including theatre, art shows, music, dance, and comedy, and has brought folks from all over Summit county to participate and enjoy. One of the most notable examples happened three years ago when local organizations and businesses, like The Rialto Theatre, brought people from the Kenmore community and other surrounding areas in Summit county together for a Better Block event that brought almost 3,000 people to the community. These events have continued in Kenmore each year.
What is your favorite spot to shop local?
Too many to count!
What is your favorite view in Summit County? Why?
One of the things we did with family and friends is picnic once a year at the ledges in Virginia Kendall Park.
Who is a patron or supporter of arts and culture in Summit County who you admire?
Can I name 4? This is a too-many-to-count question as well! When we first moved to Kenmore and decided to start a recording studio and performance theatre, we didn’t know many people, in fact felt pretty alone in our endeavors. However, about 2 years into renovating The Rialto Theatre we met Dave and Kathy Hoppe, Angela Miller, and Jim Ballard. Deciding to build the theatre with minimal capital and little experience was a tough decision to make, but meeting these individuals gave us the confidence to keep following our dreams and keep creating because there was community support behind us and because of them, The Rialto Theatre is in a wonderful place today, specifically for people of all races and genders to participate in arts and culture.
What do you wish for arts and culture in Summit County in the next five years?
Our hope for the future of the arts and culture in Summit County is that it can open up again, and continue to bring enjoyable art, music, and theatre to everyone who lives here.
Why do you feel exposure and participation in arts, culture, and/or environment are important for students and young people in Summit County?
We grew up with parents who were in the education system, and believed that we should be as open as possible to all sorts of opinions and ideas. Growing up, we were involved in sports, but also speech, debate, and theatre. Arts and culture exposes young people to different points of view and differing ideas, and encourages them to make decisions that are beneficial for society as a whole. We think it’s important for young students and young people to develop their own view in the world by listening to the views of others.