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Akron’s Public Art Policy Is Part Of City-Wide Cultural Plan, Two Years In The Making

AKRON, Ohio, June 29, 2020 – Today Akron City Council will consider a new policy for public art that is the product of two years of community engagement, including dozens of open community forums, hundreds of hours of interviews, and five rounds of public review. The final Akron Cultural Plan is available here.

In 2019, for the first time in its history, Akron engaged in a citywide cultural planning process with goals to strengthen the city, advance cultural diversity, increase opportunities to create art and culture, and provide vibrant experiences for all Akron residents. The cultural planning process, championed by Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan, was made possible thanks to a partnership with independent nonprofit ArtsNow and funded privately by GAR Foundation and Knight Foundation.

“Just like healthy public spaces, access to arts and culture is a fundamental right for those living in an equitable and free society,” states Mayor Daniel Horrigan. “The task of the Akron Cultural Plan was to capture the current state of our arts and culture landscape and imagine its future, by engaging the community members who live, work, and create in Akron. Through this deeply collaborative process, we learned that many of our residents and artists feel disconnected from public art and that was something we knew had to change.”

And one glaring need expressed by community members across Akron’s 24 neighborhoods was more public art—and specifically public art that was open, equitable, and neighborhood-centric.

"You shouldn't have to know somebody to get a commission for a public art project,” said Dray Evans, artist, poet, and owner of 1021Clothing. “Your work should earn that for you. It's time for a plan that makes sure everyone has a shot."

To meet this community priority, the cultural planning team, including a 31-member steering committee, worked with nationally-recognized planning firm Designing Local, partner organizations, and community members to develop a full legal framework and Master Plan for how the City engages with public art.

Akron City Council will be reviewing the final version of these new policies, which include:

  • The creation of a new nine-person Public Art Commission reflective of the Akron community,

  • The framework for an equitable process for selecting artists for public art projects,

  • Details about maintenance and deaccession of public art, and

  • Provisions for public art funding through a Percent for Art TIF Share which requires all new ORC 5709.41 incentives to dedicate 1% of the City’s net TIF revenue to public art, which is not a new tax to residents.

“In Akron, we know that public art can provide meaning to our public spaces, reflect the history of our city, add uniqueness to neighborhoods, and humanize our environment,” shares Nicole Mullet, executive director of ArtsNow. “Akron’s community-driven program is devoted to equity, increasing civic participation, and creating a deeper sense of place.”

The City is currently accepting expressions of interest from residents who are interested in serving on the new Public Art Commission. To avoid conflicts of interest, individuals who serve on the Commission will be ineligible to seek or receive any public art contract from the City.

The Reporter Newspaper
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