It’s been two weeks since I posted about becoming a Knight Cities Challenge finalist, inviting (begging) anyone and everyone to offer ideas and feedback about what the do-dad formerly known as Chickadee Society should be.
Well, thanks to some good friends and other eager locals, I’ve engaged more than 150 people in person, via email, phone, text and social media. While I’m polishing the application, which is due Sunday, I’ll go ahead and share a few things I learned.
First off, you can call it Unbox Akron now. We—an unofficial group of interested parties—bandied about dozens of ideas for a new name then, seemingly out-of-nowhere, photographer and arts activist Shane Wynn raised her hand, figuratively, and said, “How’s about ‘Unbox Akron’?” It was an instant hit. If you don’t like it, tough noogies.
Most of what I learned these last two weeks pertains to honing Unbox Akron so it’s A#1) something that passionate Akronites want and B#2) something that can help local businesses, creatives and makers reach those passionate Akronites. In that process, we—Team Marsupial—played with about a dozen different models, each pretty awesome before coming up with something more focused. A little further down I’ll share some specifics about what this will look like if the Knight Foundation (or you, or someone) funds it.
Before I get to all that, lemme say the last two weeks have been pretty good for magazine too. For starters, you can expect to find your (FREE) copy of The Devil Strip every two weeks starting March 17. That’s a Tuesday, which means I can take the rest of the week off, right? By (around) March 1, the website will fleshed out with more content (what normal people call stories, pictures, videos and miscellaneous whatnot). You’ll see more writers, photographers and artists involved because over the last month, I’ve met a bunch of writers, photographers and artists.
Together, whether they know it or not, our mission is to pique your curiosity by exploring our own.
That is, while The Devil Strip is focused on Akron’s creative community, I’m not interested in settling into just one part of the city or with one group or even just several. I live in Highland Square and love it here. But I love me some Firestone Park too. Now, who can I get to know in Ellet? In Portage Lakes? In Goodyear Heights and Downtown and Chapel Hill and Kenmore and Wallhaven? It may take me years—and honestly, I hope it does; I’d like to be around a while—but I want us to explore all the nooks and crannies, meeting the thousands upon thousands of people that make Akron interesting. Why? Because each of you represents a different take on what it means to be an Akronite and I believe the more folks we all get to know, the bigger this city feels, which brings us closer together and makes our town seem a little smaller, in the best of ways.
W0w, Preachy McPreachalot! Sorry. But that really is the heart of what I’ve heard over and over, especially these last couple of weeks. You like Akron because it is big and small.
It’s big enough to have plenty to do and explore. It’s small enough that you’re able to find your people.
It’s small enough that there’s still room left on the canvas to paint your picture (or start your arts and culture alt-weekly) and big enough that there are people here who’ll support it.
It’s big enough to constantly surprise you and still small enough that the cool/weird stuff doesn’t get lost.
So, in addition to hearing from creative and the people who love them, I’ve met amazing people who’ve taught me some amazing things. Like, how Gallagher, the sledgehammer-slinging comedian, shoots tequila. And that—viewed from space, or somewhere near it—there’s a house on my street with what appears to be a penis-shaped pond. And that some science wizard has invented a machine that converts dog poop to electricity, which, of course, means we need one of those in Akron. Because dog poop electricity!
This is just the metaphorical tip of the proverbial iceberg, the very weird tip.
So, to start, there’ll be two ways to enjoy Unbox Akron.
Every month, we’ll have a new box with three or four Akron-centric items (think food stuff and goods), a download card featuring local music, interest-based itineraries and a short guide to a different neighborhood, including a gift card to help you explore one of these places.
Every quarter, we’ll roll out a larger box focused only on locally-made stuff without any of the events stuff and gift cards. So, if you want to give it as a gift—or you’re currently living in the Little Akron part of some faraway place—this is the box you’ll want.
For the monthly box, there will be incentives for taking a friend with you as you explore the city’s hidden gems. We’ll provide ways for you to offer local businesses and vendors with feedback, as well as ways to share your joy and excitement over finding your new favorite Akron place or thing. There are also plans for turning the box into a platform for creatives who currently don’t have one.
As the deadline for the application nears, my only regret is that I haven’t talked to more people, but thanks to the help I’ve already received, there is an official version of Team Marsupial, a core group of people who’ll shepherd this little project into its next steps, as the business kids say, should it get funded. That means, you can keep peppering me with your ideas. I’ll keep them and consider them. There’s still plenty of time to get involved and several ways too.
Like my business card says (humblebrag; I have a business card), “It’s about being a better Akronite.” The box, the magazine, everything. I’m depending on you to show me what being a better Akronite means.
PS – For a week, I’ve had some weird headache/nausea thing. Anyone know if it means I’m allergic to snow?