The Akron Art Museum has received a gift of $8 million to further expand its reach into the community and create new ways to make art accessible in the area.
At a special reception Thursday afternoon, the museum announced the $8 million gift from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to advance the museum’s investment in bringing the community together through art and digital technology.
"For us it’s creating an accessible place for the art museum," said Akron Art Museum CEO Mark Masuoka. "That means opening our doors wider so that we want everyone to come. We believe art is for everyone and that the museum is open for all."
The gift is the largest donation from a single donor in the museum’s history.
The museum has worked to incorporate art beyond its walls and into the community with the Inside/Out project.
The project is focused on bringing reproductions of art from the museum's collection into neighborhoods. This year, several pieces of art have been integrated into Copley Township, Ellet, Middlebury and West Akron/Sherbondy Hill neighborhoods.
In the next couple months, the Akron Art Museum will also be launching the Akron Art Library where library card holders can rent out artwork, similar to checking out books.
According to the museum, the multi-million dollar gift will be focused into the following four categories:
Exhibitions: Supporting the planning and execution of exhibitions by significant modern and contemporary artists, including the exhibition of work by artists whose practice explores digital aspects of contemporary culture.
Collections: Strengthening the museum’s on-going commitment to scholarship, research and acquisitions of significant artworks to be installed in the museum’s collection galleries and in the Bud and Susie Rogers Garden.
Public Engagement: Enhancing the digitization of the museum collection, in addition to the creation of digital assets that include web, gallery and program design that broaden access to the collection and boost visitor experience.
Operations: Supporting the integration of technology into museum operations by enhancing the museum’s ability to provide engaging digital content and incorporating technology into visitors’ experiences.
In 2007, the Knight Foundation awarded the museum a multi-million grant for its expansion that included the opening of the John S and James L. Knight Building.
Independent artists are also carving their own place in the city’s arts culture.
Kevin Richards, an artist and photographer at Studio KMR Photography, has launched several art projects within the city, including his most recent work along Main and Market streets. A tree is decorated with hand-cut wooden blocks laced along strings.
“It’s something that stops them in their tracks and makes them feel hope or love, just for that one moment,” said Richards.
Richards has also created a project titled "Love Bomb" where he has created and distributed prints with messages of affirmation throughout the city of Akron.
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The impact is not only found in and around city streets, but it’s also leaves an impact in Akron and its economy.
“There are 1,800 people, 1,800 jobs in the arts sector in Summit County,” said Christine Mayer, president of the GAR Foundation, “Half of those are in Akron.”
Mayer calls it an ecosystem, attracting young talent to the city with its vibrancy and also its culture.
“To me if that were missing, I think that would be really sad. It would not feel as warm and welcoming as it does now.”