ArtsNow: Connect, create, collaborate

Brittany LaPointe \
December 10, 2015

It’s been nearly two years since GAR Foundation and the Knight Foundation, both long time funders of the arts and culture sector in Greater Akron, set out to engage the community to uncover a clear, objective picture of the current arts and culture landscape in Summit County. The goal was to examine the arts and cultural sector from many angles: its financial health and stability; connection to the community and its customers, and how it fits into the community’s future.

The study interviewed hundreds of Summit County residents and engaged dozens of artists, arts organizations, and community leaders. Over the course of 18 months, townhall meetings were held, task forces were created, and action steps were taken. All resulting in the creation of ArtsNow, a new organization to serve as an ongoing steward of the work to connect and support Summit County’s arts and culture community.

Nicole Mullet, executive director of ArtsNow, said this initiative is the first of its kind in Greater Akron. “Nothing has been done like this before. ArtsNow is the first robust county-wide effort to connect the sector.” she said.

Although ArtsNow’s first major initiative was the launch of SummitLive365, an interactive website showcasing the arts and culture community, the mission of ArtsNow goes beyond sharing arts and culture happenings.  ArtsNow serves as a connector, supporter, and voice for the creative community.

The new organiztion limits barriers to entry and helps artists and arts organizations find their niche.“Whether art is your hobby on the weekends or your full-time job, we’re here to help form meaningful connections and collaborations,” said Mullet.

Embracing the knowledge that a vibrant arts and culture scene supports a thriving community,  ArtsNow recently partnered with the Greater Akron Chamber to recognize a business in Summit County that has made strides in supporting the local arts and culture sector.

“The awards program will spark a larger conversation about the value of the arts in the community and the impact art and culture have on attracting and retaining employees,” said Mullet.  Braun & Steidl Architects received a uniquely designed metal working by local artist, Megan Louise Shane. “We couldn’t think of a better way to recognize a businesses that supports the arts than with an award made by a local artist,” she said. The company was recognized for their work in restoring and re-purposing historical buildings as well as donating numerous volunteer hours to local arts organizations.

Nearly two months after ArtsNow open its doors, the organization took an opportunity to broaden its vision sooner than it had strategically planned by hosting a mayoral forum on the arts. Over 200 people attended the forum at Summit Artspace to discuss topics relevant to the community’s arts and culture sector and engage in a Q&A with Akron’s mayoral candidates.

“There was a need for the arts and culture sector to get to know the mayoral candidates and this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” said Mullet. “The forum changed the conversation around arts and culture in our community as it relates to our elected officials.”

One of the major findings of the assessment was a need for an online portal connecting arts users and makers.  Working directly in response to the community’s needs, ArtsNow launched SummitLive365 in October, an interactive website showcasing arts and culture happenings in Summit County. Artists, organizations, and arts and culture venues can create profiles, add events, and connect with other artists on the site. The website helps attract new audiences to arts organizations and venues, while building the bigger story of the community’s arts and culture strengths.

Anyone can access the website to search for an artist, organization, venue or event. Feel like jazz this weekend or interested in discovering a local artist? With over 500 events, 143 organizations, 118 venues, and over 50 artists, it’s safe to say, SummitLive365 has you covered.

Watch: SummitLive365 unveiling video

Mullet can sense a certain kind of energy, desire, and interest in the arts in the Greater Akron area. The energy is there when she meets with an emerging artist for the first time, when she collaborates with an anchor arts institution on a new project, or when she squeezes her way through a sold-out crowd at events like PechaKucha Akron.

ArtsNow is eager to keep the momentum going. “We’re more than just a resource,” said Mullet. “We’re a connector, we’re a supporter, and we’re here to help articulate the great story of arts and culture in Summit County.”

For more information about ArtsNow and SummitLive365, please visit their website.