Arts & Culture Day
By Pat & Dick Kemph
We began this last “program day” with an optional back stage tour of Weathervane Playhouse. On the tour, we received a very interesting behind the scenes view of Weathervane as we observed the production, sound, lighting, set building, costume designing, and education aspects of this community theater. What an asset in the Akron community.
We then traveled by trolley across town to Miler South School for the Arts, where we were greeted by student guides. After a lunch prepared by UDS and sponsored by Harwick Standard, we met in the Art Gallery where Mark Auburn, NEXT class member, moderated a panel of arts organization executives -- Howard Parr (Akron Civic Theatre), Mitchell Kahan (Akron Art Museum), Phil Walz (Akron Symphony), Suzie Graham (Downtown Akron Partnership) and a major funder, Julie Rittenhouse of the GAR Foundation. The subject for discussion was “Factors Impacting Arts Organizations.” Julie shared what had been learned from a Regional Arts Learning Tour that looked at arts initiatives in the surrounding counties of Mahoning Valley, Stark, and Cuyahoga. Key points learned from the Tour were that 1) actions trump demographics, 2) data collection and analysis is critical, 3) collaboration will yield high returns, and 4) there is room to grow in Northeast Ohio. The representations of the arts organizations shared their thoughts on funding challenges and opportunities.
Following the panel discussion, we broke into smaller groups to visit classrooms of both core academic and performing arts classes. Then we were treated to performances of the Show Choir and the Jazz Band, and heard from Miller South principal, Alyce Altwies.
Back to the trolley to visit the NorthSide artisans Zeber Martell, Claudia Zeber-Martell where we toured their showrooms and studios. We watched Jack Baker, at Akron Glass Works, demonstrate his glass-blowing expertise to create a pumpkin. Kathy Booth was the lucky winner in a drawing for one of Jack’s glass pumpkins -- a very special remembrance of our day!
The trolley deposited us back at Weathervane Playhouse where we enjoyed a cocktail reception provided by Program Day Chairman Ernie Pouttu and Mary Kay Pouttu. We were fortunate to see a wonderful performance by the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet – a very talented group of young dancers under the direction of Artistic Director, Mia Klinger. The day ended with comments by Janis Harcar, of Weathervane Playhouse, on arts funding.
Special thanks to Ernie for a full and interesting day. This was more of a “fun” day and not quite as serious as some of the others, but with the same challenges for funding. Not only that arts and culture add to the vitality of our quality of life, we learned that as of January 2011, Summit County is home to 1,314 arts-related businesses that employ 5,930 people. These arts-centric businesses play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy.
P.S. Janis Harcar shared the story of their current production of “Shakespeare in Hollywood.” The show sounded so enjoyable that we made the trip back to Weathervane last Friday evening to see the show – and were delighted to see classmates Jackie and Hal Horton had made the same decision!