ArtsNow and Summit Artspace Host Akron Mayoral Town Hall on Arts,Culture, and the Environment

Header Photo: Shane Wynn

On Thursday, March 30 th , supporters of arts and culture convened at Summit Artspace for the Akron Mayoral Town Hall. Akron mayoral candidates Mark Greer (D), Shammas Malik (D), Keith Mills (D), Tara Mosley (D), Joshua Schaffer (D), Marco Sommerville (D), and Jeff Wilhite (D) each responded to questions about how they would work with and support the arts and culture sector as mayor.

The event began with a meet-and-greet. Attendees included staff and board members from within the arts and culture industries as well as patrons, artists, and creative business owners. Musical entertainment was provided by Jonah Ferguson on guitar and Ronnell Regis on saxophone. Both musicians are recent graduates of The University of Akron.

Nicole Mullet, executive director of ArtsNow, began the forum by briefly recapping the Akron Cultural Plan. “We know that Akron residents care deeply about arts and culture, not only because of the full house we have tonight, but because of the process and outcomes of the Akron Cultural Plan,” said Mullet. “The Akron Cultural Plan has received national attention because it established a new model in cultural planning where the development and implementation are owned by both the community and by government. But in order for the work to be realized in the years ahead, it requires a commitment from the next mayor of Akron to be intentional in their support of and engagement with arts and culture in Akron.”

Mullet also noted that all candidates in the six Summit County communities who will have mayoral races this year received questionnaires regarding arts and culture
to complete. Their responses will be available on ArtsNow’s website following the deadline for submissions on April 6th.

Photos Courtesy of Shane Wynn

The forum was moderated by Jim Crutchfield, an accomplished journalist and the former president and publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal and “On February 23rd, candidates received a link to the Akron Cultural Plan in its entirety, a copy of the Executive Summary, and a link to the Administrative Guide
for the Public Art Plan adopted by the City in 2020. Our planning team worked hard to ensure candidates had the resources needed to thoughtfully consider the two prompts they will be responding to this evening,” Crutchfield noted.

Candidates were asked to respond to the following two prompts:

  1. “What role do you envision for yourself as mayor when it comes to arts and culture? Where will arts and culture fall within your priorities?”
  2. “If elected, how will you use your position to strengthen the arts and culture sector in Akron?”

Next, candidates were asked to respond to questions that were submitted by members of the audience at registration. All questions submitted in advance, even the ones that were not read at the forum, were provided to the candidates. Additionally, all responses to the prompt, “What does the next mayor need to know about arts and culture in Akron?” collected during the event or through registration and social media were provided to each candidate following the forum. Terri Johnson, a resident of Ward 3, asked, “The City of Akron and other investors, like foundations, have heavily invested in Lock 3 and in Summit Lake, but many neighborhood parks are in disrepair. How will you make our city parks a priority?”

Stephanie Stewart, a resident of Ward 4, asked, “In 2020, the City of Akron adopted a plan for public art that committed City staff and money to create and maintain visual art in public spaces across all neighborhoods in the city. If elected, how would you ensure the plan works and we see art across Akron from local artists?”

The final question of the evening came from Anderson Lasher, a second grader at King Community Learning Center. He asked, “Art is for everybody, and we all need to take care of Akron. My question is, do you like to sing or do any other arts?” To conclude the forum, Anderson Lasher presented candidates with artwork he created.

The May 2nd primary election will decide the next mayor of Akron because there are no Republican candidates in 2023. For more information about the mayoral race and Election Day, please visit the Summit County Board of Elections website.