Art audiences, supporters, and patrons are all vital to a healthy arts and culture sector. This blog series will highlight some of the people who make the arts work in Summit County. Today we hear from Lucille Esposito, Consulting EIG Program Manager at the GAR Foundation. (Have somebody you want to nominate for the spotlight? Reach out to email@example.com.)
What is your earliest memory of participating in arts and culture?
As a child, I remember listening to the music of the wonderful musicals by Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and in the later by Sondheim and Bernstein—I became immersed in the music, the acting, the dance of all of the great classics: King and I, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, and South Pacific. etc. It permitted me to escape to another world of words and wonder. Then in high school, I participated in theater and was lucky enough to be part of Showboat and King and I.
How do arts, culture, and environment impact your life in Summit County?
When I became a middle school English teacher, I wrote musicals as a rite of passage for my students. Then when I taught high school and a theater course at NEOCOM, I immersed my students in theater. I directed many musicals and plays at St. Vincent-St. Mary. I taught drama at Maple Heights High School and directed musicals. During this time, I also shared my love of theater by taking my students to New York and Toronto so that they would have the wonderful experience of living through the music, lyrics, and dialogue. For many of my underserved students, it was a 2 ½ hour escape to a world of glitz and wonder. I encouraged my students to participate in local theater experiences. During my tenure as an educator, I was lucky enough to receive an Ohio Arts Council Grant to study theater in New York. It was an experience of a lifetime to come back and share with my students.
What artist, cultural organization, or experience do you wish more people knew about in Summit County?
For me personally, I love the Northside Marketplace. This urban market allows us in the community to support young local artists and enjoy an afternoon or evening of WOW—as we browse. Also, Akron Glass Works and of course Don Drumm Studios give our community places to shop and learn.
Why is it so important to you/your family to support arts and culture? Why do arts and culture matter to you?
We as a family support the local arts and cultural organizations. We love the Akron Art Museum and support their summer programming as well as Lock Three and the Akron Civic Theatre. We are donors at Playhouse Square and attend all of the Key Bank theatrical productions. We have been taking our grandchildren to theatrical productions and area museums since they were little. We believe in giving our children and grandchildren memories rather than “stuff.” James Barrie once wrote, “God gave us memories so that we can have roses in December.” When it is the doldrums of January, we can all escape to the south pacific and listen to Ensign Nellie Forbush belt out, A Cockeyed Optimist or Eilza Doolitttle gleefully sing I could Have Danced All Night. It certainly makes it easier for me to scrape the snow from my car.
Have you seen an example of how arts and culture have positively impacted your community? Can you describe it?
I remember a time of riding the bus to downtown Akron, shopping at Polskys and O’Neils, and then going to a movie at the Loews and being mesmerized by the ceiling rather than watching the movie! Now look at the evolution of the Akron Civic Theatre and how it is impacting the lives of our community and after this major renovation and addition, it will be the go-to place for Summit County residents and beyond.
What is your favorite spot to shop local? Why?
I love artwork that is funky and locally sourced so of course, my favorite place to shop is Don Drumm Studios. I love that fact that Don and his wife support local artists and make their displays a focal point of the studio. I don’t go to often because I buy too much. Yikes!
What is your favorite view in Summit County? Why?
My favorite view is a moving view that includes a walk around Silver Lake in Silver Lake Village. As the seasons change, so does the lake as it reflects the bleakness of winter, the glow of summer, and the mesmerizing foliage of fall.
Who is a patron or supporter of arts and culture in Summit County who you admire?
a. I really admire Howard Parr and his artistic vision for our community. He works tirelessly to bring this vision to fruition as the renaissance continues in downtown Akron.
b. The GAR Foundation and its simply stated mission is to help Akron become smarter, stronger, and more vibrant. That says it all. The entire staff with Christine Mayer as its president are role models for the Summit County Community.
What do you wish for arts and culture in Summit County in the next five years?
With the vision of so many focused on the continued transformation of downtown Akron, I see our community growing, our local graduates staying in the community, living downtown, walking the vibrant Main Street, attending shows at the Akron Civic Theater either on the mainstage or black box theater or the outside venue of Lock 3. Suburbanites also will find that downtown Akron is a place to eat, gather, grow, and learn.
Why do you feel exposure and participation in arts, culture, and/or environment are important for students and young people in Summit County?
I know that exposure to the arts and the immersion in all areas of the fine arts helps students learn in all core subjects. There is much research to show that students engaged in the arts, come to school ready and willing to work and that this immersion helps them in a myriad of ways, especially in math and language arts. On a personal note, I have a granddaughter who is dyslexic and it is through her tremendous grit and her total love and commitment to theater since she was a small child has enabled her to be an honor student in high school who has memorized all 46 songs from the musical Hamilton. She has experienced the arts as a spectator and a performer. All students within Summit County should be exposed to all fine arts that we offer in Akron/Summit County.