What is your earliest memory of participating in arts and culture?
My earliest memory of participating in arts and culture was in my friend’s backyard around the corner where we had neighborhood talent shows – that we charged a fee to attend! I was 8 years old then and it was on this backyard stage where I gained the confidence to perform Michael Jackson’s Thriller video on the steps of my elementary school a couple years later. Being on stage was so exciting and was the start of my appreciation for arts and culture.
How do arts, culture, and environment impact your life in Summit County?
Arts, culture, and environment are a large part of my life in Summit County. As the executive director of the Akron Children’s Museum, I wake up each day and think about new ways to enhance the visitor experience for children and families by collaborating with other arts and cultural organizations. This summer, the museum has been ramping up to reopen gradually by offering private parties, field trips, and special programs. Some of the unique collaborations have been with Akron Soul Train, ArtSparks, Curated Storefront, and Open Tone Music, to name a few!
As an adult living in Summit County, I discovered the Metroparks just a minute from where I lived in the valley. I took lots of walks and once my family started to grow, we would go to the Nature Realm for s’mores around the campfire where my sons learned from the naturalists about fireflies, which I called lightning bugs when I was their age.
What artist, cultural organization, or experience do you wish more people knew about in Summit County?
I wish more people knew about the bookstore and writing center, Elizabeth’s, which is located inside The Well CDC, a safe place for the community to meet for a cup of Compass Coffee, perform poetry on the stage, or benefit from services such as shared commercial kitchen use and more. I attended a lovely evening which started at the Akron Art Museum with a celebration of Rachel Cargle, founder of Loveland Foundation and concluded with an intriguing conversation from best-selling New York Times author Hanif Abdurraqib.
Why is it so important to your family to support arts and culture? Why do arts and culture matter to you?
Arts and culture have been instrumental in keeping my family connected through the love of music. My husband, Tobin, and I instilled in both of our sons a love of gospel to jazz to neo-soul. Our love of music stems from my father who was a drummer and Tobin’s grandfather, a violinist and guitarist, who composed his own songs. Tobin produces music which is on several platforms, and he also helped launch Keepers of the Art, an arts organization that has highlighted hip-hop artists for over a decade. The variety of arts and culture we have access to in our own county make living in this community fun enough that we don’t have to travel to bigger cities often to indulge in the arts.
What is your favorite view in Summit County? Why?
My favorite view in Summit County is the Ledges Overlook which is in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This view is well worth the short hike to the top where my family has enjoyed a packed lunch and fun photo opps.
Why do you feel exposure and participation in arts, culture, and environment are important for students and young people in Summit County?
As a young person I played the flute, performed in the marching band, hiked in the ravine in my backyard, and climbed trees for fun. These activities allowed my imagination to flourish, giving me a chance to breathe in fresh air and dream. I believe programs such as the Children’s Concert Society, Dreams Academy, Wandering Aesthetics, the Black Artists’ Guild, and the Youth Excellence Performaning Arts Workshop (Y.E.P.A.W.) are all vital outlets for the students and young people in Summit County. Music brings people together. Nature keeps people alive longer. The arts allow people to dream. These elements create a culture of hope which our young people need and deserve.