ArtsNow Patron Spotlight: Hillary Stewart & Neil Nagy

Art audiences, supporters, and patrons are all vital to a healthy arts and culture sector. This new blog series will highlight some of the people who make the arts work in Summit County. (Have somebody you want to nominate for the spotlight? Reach out to

Art needs and deserves an audience and advocates. In our newest series, the ArtsNow Patron Spotlight, we’re putting the stories of our local arts patrons front and center. Today, we meet Akron residents Hillary Stewart and Neil Nagy, a young couple living on the North Side in Akron in their first home.

Q: What was your first introduction to the arts scene in Summit County?

One of my early experiences that shape the way I support artists occurred in 2014, as a member of the Summit Artspace board. This exposed me to all different kinds of local artists, and also gave me the opportunity to attend the Artist as an Entrepreneur workshop series. That series really opened my eyes to the experience that artists go through while building their businesses, and that buying their products is one of the most important ways to support a vibrant local arts scene. This has really informed how I think about and treat artists, and how we support them and celebrate their talents.

Alexander Draven

And the best thing about local artists is that you can support and celebrate them while also making purchases that work for you: once, I found a photograph by Bronlynn Thurman at the Mustard Seed, and for the whole time I was there, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. So, I purchased it and it’s on the wall in my office. At CraftyMart, Neil found a watch by Alexander Draven, and he gets compliments on it all the time. These are purchases we would have made anyway, and are happy that we are able to celebrate local artists.

Q: How do the arts in Summit County impact your life?

Lizzi Aronhalt

We’ve been able to fill our home with unique pieces by fantastic local artists: one of my favorites is a commissioned piece from Lizzi Aronhalt, featuring one of our favorite local hangouts. It’s wonderful to live in a place where you can find local art so easily. But there are also a lot of ways to experience performance art, whether it’s attending a show at Blu Jazz, a play by Ohio Shakespeare Festival, or one of the countless others. We’re lucky that Summit County is so rich in opportunities to experience the arts.

Q: What artist or arts organization in Summit County do you wish more people knew about?

Ben Manista

Ben Manista. Last year we were fortunate to commission a large piece from him to complete in our newly-furnished bedroom. We love this piece and can’t imagine the room without it now. Ben also has a great talent for dreaming ways to combine elements that I would never have expected, but always love as a finished product. We won’t give away the details of his plans, but we were fortunate to see a sneak-peak of some of the pieces he’s working on for his next show, and well, let’s just say this is a show you won’t want to miss. 

Q: What is a “can’t miss” Summit County arts experience?

One of our favorite arts experiences is the Akron Civic Theater’s annual “Masque of the Red Death”. We love the combination of one of our favorite holidays (Halloween!) and the wonderful way that the Civic brings together a variety of performing arts. 

“Ink My Lar” by Eric Jonke

A second event we won’t miss this year is Torchbearers’ third annual Art Against Addiction in September. Two years ago, Torchbearers desired to make an impact on the local opioid addiction and began to partner with local artists to raise funds for agencies that work in this space. This is also where we acquired the piece “Ink My Lar” by local artist Eric Jonke. It’s wonderful to see organizations fairly partnering with local artists to ensure that that they are compensated for their work, while also showcasing their talent for a greater good.