The Future of Arts is Now March 21st, 2016 How ArtsNow and SummitLive365.com are shaping the area art community by Megan Combs If you’re lucky enough to catch ArtsNow Executive Director Nicole Mullet between meetings, I bet she would talk your head off about what her organization and its counterpart SummitLive365.com are doing for artists in the Akron area. I happened to catch her for a buzzy, caffeinated 15 minutes to get an update and tell you about some of the fantastic things coming down the pike. ArtsNow is a nonprofit that aims to enrich the lives of Summit County residents through arts and culture. The organization has had its hands in several events in the past, including the creation of SummitLive365.com, Love the Arts in Cuyahoga Falls, PechaKucha and more. And the future of the organization is bright. “Looking back, one of the most surprising things, and one of my favorite things has been that SummitLive365 is helping artists find jobs and commissions,” Mullet said. “That alone has made me the happiest I’ve been all year.” SummitLive365.com is an interactive website where artists and creatives can create profiles to showcase their work and list upcoming events or work availability. Consumers can then search the site to find arts events happening in their area or even list a classified ad if they are looking for something specific. The site was launched in October, and according to website consultant Benjamin Rexroad, the site averages about 900 hits per week. “Classifieds seem to be our biggest draw I think, in part, because we’ve been posting a lot of job opportunities,” Rexroad said. “I try to find only the best for our artists in Summit County. When we post one of these, it can get as many as 350 (or more than) hits in one day.” Mullet added that the team will place a bigger emphasis on the classifieds this year and explained that they were a last-minute addition to the site. “We weren’t even sure we were going to use them,” Mullet said. “But we ended up putting the section up and hoping for the best. When you get artists in the community working, that’s pretty special.” Rexroad keeps a running list of the updates that he would like to make to the site, but adds that the nonprofit is limited by budget constraints (and what business isn’t?). “We change things here and there as we’re able,” Rexroad said. “There are so many great ideas out there, it’s just a shame that we can’t do them all.” ArtsNow is also busy in Cuyahoga Falls and Barberton, partnering with organizations to bring the community together around arts and culture. In Cuyahoga Falls, Collide, which came into existence last month, is busy getting the conversation going about how the community can help artists thrive and succeed. Molly Hartong and Matt Weiss, both arts advocates in the city, are excited about working with ArtsNow to make this happen and also found success using SummitLive365 to promote their community events. “I found ArtsNow when researching arts organizations in Ohio,” Hartong said. “I was trying to see what was being done in other cities to promote and engage the arts. I was so excited to see that we had a newly formed county advocate.” Hartong is a graphic designer, but more importantly considers herself an advocate of the arts. She said ArtsNow and SummitLive365 are important for the county as a whole because of the connections they’re already helping build. “[ArtsNow creates] connections and support for the arts and culture community, not just in Akron, but county-wide,” Hartong said. “For example, ArtsNow saw the need for what we were trying to do in Cuyahoga Falls and has been a huge advocate and invaluable resource.” Weiss, who is also a graphic artist, agreed. “I think they really help create awareness for the arts to the community as a whole and provide a platform for artists to talk about what they are doing,” Weiss said. “I have heard of artists finding work through SL365. So that definitely shows the power of connecting people that Molly talked about.” In Barberton, ArtsNow is helping three Barberton High School students and the Barberton Arts and Entertainment District launch Fourth Friday, an event that highlights artists and art opportunities in Barberton. Stay tuned because we plan to have a story about this project and these three high school students in our April issue. In the last bit of our conversation, Mullet also mentioned the help county executives have given ArtsNow, including Mayor Dan Horrigan’s launch of the rotating art installation at his office, County Executive Russ Pry’s continued arts advocacy and more. “Next up, we’re working on a comprehensive guide with our board of directors,” Mullet said. “ It’ll be a plan for how we’ll function going forward and it’ll outline our long-term plans as an organization. It’s a robust undertaking, but I’m very excited about it.” She added, “Stay tuned: We’re only just beginning.” All this in 15 minutes? Yup. SummitLive365.com by the numbers: 68 individual artists 165 organizations 134 venues 349 user accounts 900 hits per week Megan thinks everyone could use a little more art in their lives. 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