LeBron James isn’t the only Akronite that’s putting Akron on the map. Out of 987 applications, two Akron organizations are named finalists for ArtPlace America’s 2017 National Creative Placemaking fund and will be the first to win from Akron since 2011 if selected.
As an extremely competitive national grant program, ArtPlace America invests money in communities across the country. For 10 years, it has worked towards strengthening the social, physical and economic areas of the community by positioning art and culture as sectors of community planning and development. By collaborating with 16 partner foundations, eight federal agencies and six institutions, ArtPlace America aims to make community development informative, human centric, holistic and most importantly, creative.
Crafty Mart and East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation (EANDC) shares the same goals as ArtPlace America and aims to improve Akron overall.
As a non-profit organization, Crafty Mart hosts a bi-annual multi-venue craft show in Akron, showcasing over 70 curated regional homemakers. Along with hosting pop-up shops, Crafty Mart encourages entrepreneurship with artist-led conversations such as The Maker Sessions, as well as Creative Catapult, which is a shark-tank style program held over a meal. Its mission is to “provide creative and engaging opportunities for artists and community members to foster artistic, thoughtful and community-focused lifestyles.”
Since The City of Akron has admitted to a population decline, Daniel Horrigan, The Mayor of Akron and Ilene Shapiro, Summit County Executive, has endorsed Crafty Mart’s plan as just one of many strategies to increase the population size. In its proposal, it identified the challenge of having numerous empty storefronts downtown and not enough opportunity for entrepreneurs to utilize them. They hope to secure a building with two to three storefronts to help entrepreneurs launch a brick-and-mortar retail store.
For those who are unfamiliar with brick-and-mortar’s definition, it’s just a physical store where customers can purchase items face-to-face. As the digital age grows, more people are shopping online for the convenience, and malls and retails stores are left as “energy suckers.”
EANDC’s proposal is a little different and focuses on a different sector of community development.
The EANDC has revitalized communities and provided quality housing, practical ownership opportunities, financial independence and citizen involvement since 1982, and its proposal of StormWaterColors is no different. This will layer green infrastructure with public art by leveraging the city’s sewer overflow and using art of a neighborhood that has been left out of Akron’s art scene.
The sectors of community planning and development that ArtPlace America focuses on are: agriculture and food, economic development, education and youth, environment and energy, health, housing, immigration, public safety, transportation and workforce development. Crafty Mart and EANDC’s proposals fit right in.
“We believe that these projects, when added to our tremendously strong portfolio of demonstration projects will inspire, equip and connect members of the arts and culture field, the community planning and development field and those who are working to make healthy and equitable communities creatively across the country,” says ArtPlace America Director, Jamie Bennett.