By Mark Masuoka, Executive Director and CEO
A is for the Akron (Art Museum)
With the recent publication of three Akron-centric books, A is for Akron by Karen Starr and Joanna Wilson, The Hardway on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt, by David Giffels and Dave Lieberth’s history of Akron, Inventive. Industrious. Inspired., I feel it is only appropriate that the focus my attention is on my new home.
Over the past year, I’ve been listening and learning about what it means to be from Akron and the impact the Akron Art Museum has had on the community. To that end, the art museum has celebrated the seventh anniversary of its John S. and James L. Knight Building and has taken full advantage of the forward thinking design and architecture of Coop Himmelb(l)au and as the building continues to attract visitors from all over the world as well as throughout Northeast Ohio. The expansion of the museum’s galleries and public spaces has also proven to be a great addition to the museum and a significant cultural asset to Akron; producing a substantial increase in our public programming and our ability to engage with the community.
So why does this matter to Akron? It matters because the expansion of the Akron Art Museum has been the catalyst for a cultural shift, not only for the museum, but also for our entire Akron community. It has set in motion a new set of possibilities about what it means to be an art museum, our role in the community and most of all, it has raised expectations. We no longer have the option to only live within our means, but to live up to our full potential.
As part of the original vision of the expansion of the museum, the development of an outdoor space-directly to the south-currently our member’s parking lot, will focus of our attention on creating a public space that will serve as an urban oasis and provide a place where people can gather to enjoy art. It will also be a space that can offer tranquility and encourage users to slow down and take a moment to just sit still and unwind from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The premise is that an outdoor space could be more that just additional programming space, but should offer the opportunity to be an active participant in the life of the city and to be a connection point to visitors that seek a way to live creative. Join us on November 11 for our forth Community Conversation: Shifting the Cultural Landscape, Public Place | Public Space. This series of community forums are generously sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and are intended to expand our ability to facilitate conversations on a broad range of topics including art, entrepreneurship, innovation and placemaking.
Inside the museum, our expanded galleries also provide additional space to showcase new acquisitions to our ever-expanding collection including Tony Feher’s Untitled, sculpture, acquired through the generosity of The Mary S and Louis S. Meyer Endowment Fund for Painting and Sculpture and currently installed in our Sandra L. and Dennis B. Haslinger Foundation Galleries. Our current exhibition, Skin and Bones: 20 Years of Drawing features over 300 works by Houston-based artist, Trenton Doyle Hancock in our Karl and Bertl Arnstein Galleries. Hancock’s work provides viewers with an insight into the artist’s inner life through his drawings and paintings and is inspired by comic books, superheroes, cartoons and graphic novels, which is filtered through his personal experiences and fueled by his creative spirit. Recent changes in our galleries also include interactive activities connected with each new major exhibition in our Jerry and Patsy Shaw Video Box and an expanded exhibition schedule in our Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation Gallery, featuring photographs from the Akron Beacon Journal archives celebrating their 175th anniversary.
Over the past year, we have launched three public projects outside of the museum’s walls including Jamie Burmeister’s Message Matters, Tony Feher’s Buoy and Jesse Strother’s Make Your Mark wall drawing at the Knight Center. This year, the museum will be announcing more projects intended to bring art directly into the community and to increase our effort to communicate our increased level of activity. As a member of the Akron Art Museum, you will receive an invitation to our upcoming Annual Meeting on September 23. The event will offer a recap of the past year of activities; programs and events as well as offer an inside look into the upcoming exhibition season and to hear about the future direction of the museum’s strategic initiatives and public programs. If you’re not a museum member, here is your chance to sign up today, get plugged and join us at the event. To become an Akron Art Museum member, please give us a call at 330.376-9186 ext. 225 and speak to one our membership associates today. You’ll be glad to know that your contribution allows us to accomplish our goal of enriching lives through modern and contemporary art.
A is for the Akron (Art Museum) and as a 21st century art museum, we are dedicated to promoting the understanding that creativity is an essential component to the development of a vibrant and engaged community. As a community leader, I have the responsibility to stay on the leading edge of innovation, civic engagement and cultural advancement to lead the museum into the future. With your support, we can make great things happen together, in this city we call home.