Why an inclusive arts & culture plan is the perfect next step for Akron

July 11, 2019
By: Rob Lehr & Dina Younis 

Communities of all sizes develop plans – strategic plans, economic development plans, urban design plans – but a cultural plan? You betcha. From festivals to food trucks, arts and culture are among a community’s most powerful assets. But in order to ensure that we are effectively caring for and investing in our City’s cultural assets and heritage, we need a plan. One that will serve as a roadmap to guide future decisions, policies, and processes of cultural projects in our community.

That’s why our local arts agency, ArtsNow is taking a closer look at existing arts and culture assets and inviting residents to share their vision for Akron.

Fueled by residents

The most important ingredient to the success of the plan? The voices of those who live, work, and care about Akron. Without the voice of Akron’s residents, there isn’t a plan. Over the last several months, ArtsNow and the planning firm, Designing Local, have conducted over 100 stakeholder interviews and held several focus groups and neighborhood meetings to collect public feedback to inform the planning process.

Which of the existing arts and culture experiences do you value the most? What is the City lacking and how can we do better? How can we invest in arts and culture to create more inclusive experiences for everyone? These are only a few of the questions ArtsNow and Designing Local have been asking residents, artists, arts advocates, community leaders, and more throughout the planning process. A draft plan will be released for public feedback this fall, and the final plan will be released in the winter, but there is still plenty of time for the community to participate.

Deserving of research and investment

ArtsNow recently shared that $1.4 billion in cultural activity impacted the greater Akron area in 2018. For that reason alone, the cultural sector is deserving of research and investment. GAR Foundation believes that a thriving city is often a vibrant city, and nothing brings more vibrancy than the arts and culture sector. The Akron Cultural Plan is an investment in Akron’s future as an innovative and creative place to live. (click to tweet this)

The perfect next step for Akron

Six years ago, GAR and Knight Foundations commissioned a study to gather data around the shortcomings in the cultural landscape of Akron. Public feedback led to the creation of ArtsNow and SummitLive365.com. A cultural plan is the next perfect step to unite the voices of Akron residents and to highlight the city’s qualities.

The Cultural Plan will guide GAR Foundation in creating strategies and thoughtful approaches for investing in diverse arts and culture assets that the Akron community identifies as relevant. It will also inform us of gaps in the cultural offerings around the city, and of areas that may need improvement. This process is an inclusive approach to decision-making for the long-term, which relates to the collective practices we use in our systemic grantmaking for economic development and education.

We invite you to join us as we build upon our collective history and develop a clear picture of the experiences, values, and cultural priorities of the people of Akron. Please consider stetting aside some time to complete a survey, attend a neighborhood meet-up, or connect with facilitators at one of the upcoming summer events.