by Sophie Franchi
Our cover artist for the December 2017 issue is also our former Lead Arts Section Editor, Bronlynn Thurman, who was with us since the magazine first got started. She has since moved on to other endeavors, and we’re rooting for her success as one of Akron’s most renowned creatives. We caught up with her to see what she’s up to now.
Sophie Franchi: You work for not one, but two of the biggest supporters and funders of arts, culture and community in Akron: GAR Foundation and Knight Foundation. What is your position at each of these organizations, and how do the positions differ? And in what ways do they complement each other?
Bronlynn Thurman: So, I’m a Program Associate for Knight Foundation and a Program Assistant for GAR Foundation. These positions are similar in some ways, but vastly different in others. Each foundation has a different strategy focus and the grant process is quite a bit different, but having both of these positions allows me to look at the city in more of a holistic view. For example, I can see how funding K-12 on the GAR side will help Knight achieve their goals of an engaged community in the future. With Knight, I’m more external facing than internal. This means that I’m out with Kyle in a lot of meetings and have had the opportunity to travel, present and speak at a couple events. Internally, I keep the expenses and paperwork inline. With GAR, it’s more 50/50. I go on site visits, review and recommend grants. I also do research at times when Christine or Kirstin needs more information on a particular topic.
SF: How does your background as a creative play into your work with GAR Foundation and the Knight Foundation?
BT: I think that being a creative has helped me see things in a different way. I also believe that my training in design and social media has been an asset to the Knight Akron office. I often go to grantee events and am able to quickly get photos, quotes, etc. to our Communications team so that it can be shared nationwide. I also designed all of the materials for our Common Threads Akron program and I run the social media for Akron Civic Commons (follow us to keep up with this important project).
SF: Your website says that when you’re not working, you’re working—writing for your blog or pursuing other creative endeavors. How do you balance your work and creative life?
BT: HAHAHAHAHA. I’ll be honest, I’m far from an expert on that. I’m a person with severe anxiety. I never feel like I’m doing enough so I just keep adding more on. Therapy is a life saver. Getting on someone’s couch and discussing everything under the sun has helped me keep myself from burning out. It’s also helping me battle the need to do all the things. I am getting much closer to where I want to be in terms of balance. Oh! And a detailed calendar and to do list combo.
SF: And do you consider all your creations “work,” or do you sometimes make art just for “fun?”
BT: Recently, most of my design work has been commissions, so I would consider that work. I’m slowly getting back into the “fun” art. This year I decided to really do my best to create work for myself and that has led me to being in a group art show at the beginning of the year and having a solo “show” at both Akron Coffee Roasters (go there!) and Sweet Mary’s Bakery (it’s still up!).
SF: With all you’ve got going on, is there any element of your artistic skill that you wish you could make more time to pursue and develop?
BT: Writing. I have two books sitting in the wings and a few short stories that I want to get out there. One short might be done by the time this is published.
SF: What is your favorite artistic outlet, or the one you are most passionate about?
BT: I would like to think that I’m most passionate about my illustrative side, but I don’t think that’s as true anymore. I think that drawing and illustrating will always be a big part of who I am, but writing is definitely up there. There’s something about the way words flow onto a page that can activate your imagination like nothing else. A visual piece can’t do that as easily.
SF: What advice do you have for other creatives who might have difficulty finding time to balance working for a living and creating art for sanity?
BT: Well, I tend to not follow my own advice, but I will say carry a sketchbook/notebook with you. I find that, that keeps me inspired most often. If I’m at a conference or a meeting, I find that even sketching my notes helps restore some semblance of sanity for me. Also, hike! We have such a beautiful park system in Akron. There’s no better way to activate those creative juices than wandering through a forest, smelling earthy scents, and listening to the water. Sometimes I just go sit and draw or write in the middle of the woods.
SF: Are there any big creative projects you’re currently working on that we should watch for in the coming months?
BT: Um…the book/books are pretty big. I think I’m going to attempt my neighborhood photography project in the new year. I didn’t have time before due to life. I’m also hoping to get some form of my comic back on line and put out some new work.