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Arts & Culture

Akron Photographer, Probate Court Among 16 Winners of Knight Arts Challenge Awards

Sixteen ideas that can engage residents and enrich Akron through the arts have been chosen as winners in the fourth Knight Arts Challenge.

Applicants answer a simple question: what’s your best idea for the arts in Akron?

This year, Knight awarded nearly $600,000 to bring to life ideas that range from an exploration of the community’s history of disability to a presentation of Baroque music integrating puppets and visuals.

For Akron artist Shane Wynn,  her third arts challenge grant of $17,000  will help her create an interactive traveling exhibit titled “40 percent,” which is the percentage of young homeless LGBTQ people in the United States.

“’It’s a pretty startling statistic compared to the fact that they’re only 7 percent of the population,” Wynn said. “So that was the shocking information that really propelled me to want to make this art project.”

Summit County Probate Court entered the challenge for the first time and was awarded $50,000 to continue a series of courthouse exhibits titled “Curated Courthouse.”

Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer said previous exhibits had a noticeable effect on visitors to the courthouse.

“Maybe they’re having a terrible day they were the victim of a crime, a family member was a victim, we’ve watched people stop and look, and it changes their face,” she said. “So we want to continue to show the world that you can have public art in unusual spaces and it can have exactly the same impact that public art has out on a lawn.”

Arts challenge ideas must adhere to three rules: they must be about the arts; they have to either take place in or benefit Akron; and applicants have to be able to raise money to match the grant awarded. 

The 2019 Knight Arts Challenge Winners:

Amber D. Kempthorn ($54,000)

Ordinary Magic: A Sunday in the Cuyahoga Valley

A stop-motion animated artwork that celebrates the landscape of Akron and the Cuyahoga Valley set to Benjamin Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes,” which will be screened with live accompaniment by the Akron Symphony Orchestra


The Center for Applied Drama and Autism ($25,000)

Along the Graveyard Path (A History of Disability in our Community)

A dramatic performance that offers an example of theater created and performed by people of all abilities, to connect Akronites with the history of disability in this community


Center for Applied Theater and Active Culture (New World Performance Laboratory) and Jairo Cuesta ($6,000)

Lost in Translation

A performance based on stories collected from local immigrants to engage the city’s Latinx community in a dialogue about culture, barriers, family, and displacement  


Cir L'Bert Jr. ($60,000)

Conjure Comics

The production of socially progressive comic books that center on the experiences of people of color, indigenous communities, LGBTQI individuals, and those of varying abilities


FRONT Exhibition Company ($100,000)

FRONT International Exhibitions and Installations in Akron

In collaboration with Dansbana!, a creation of a vibrant and welcoming dance floor for everybody in Downtown Akron, engaging the community in the planning, design and activation of the space


Gum-Dip Theatre ($25,000)

Three Countries, One Mother

A multilingual play that explores the history and culture of the Bhutanese-Nepali by following the journey of three brothers who live in Bhutan, Nepal, and the United States


Inlet Dance Theatre ($25,000)

Phase 2 of “The ‘Black Card’ Project”

Movement workshops, educational videos and an online platform, as well as a week of performances of Dominic Moore-Dunson’s dance theater production, “The ‘Black Card’ Project,” to create a conversation about the narrow scope of black identity and its connection to economic development


Kent State University Foundation, Inc. ($30,000)

Power of Print: Resistance and Revolution in Akron

A conference featuring exhibitions, technical demonstrations, lectures and panels

to position printmaking as an entry point for artists and communities to amplify their voices


Les Délices ($15,000)

Fables and Fairytales

Presentations of music by Baroque composers integrating puppets and visuals to animate Aesop’s Fables and a 17th-century feminist fairy tale, to provide cutting-edge early music programs to Akron


Robert Wesner ($30,000)

Akron Ascending, an Identity in Dance

Site-specific works on staircases throughout Akron that will develop an ongoing, public conversation among artists, dancers and space


Roots of American Music ($30,000)

Akron Heritage Music Project

Recording regional musicians, using direct-to-lacquer technology, in historic locations that have a connection to the genres of music being performed, or in locations inspired by the historic sites, to document through a podcast series, preserve and build awareness of regional music


Rubber City Theatre ($60,000)

Rubber City Musical Incubator

An incubator that will support the development of musical theater works and showcase them through readings, workshops, and fully-staged productions


a photo by Shane Wynn
Photographer Shane Wynn's series of #Overlooked images displayed on the 59 Bridge of downtown Akron, in collaboration with Curated Storefronts. Wynn's Knight Arts Challenge award will fund a new exhibit called 40%.

  Shane Wynn ($17,000)


A traveling exhibition of photo essays and doorbell installations documenting the stories of LGBTQ young people who have experienced homelessness as a result of their sexual identity


Summit County Probate Court ($50,000)

Curated Courthouse

A curated series of exhibits with local artists to give courthouse employees and visitors access to art in an unusual space


Synapse Art and Science Series, University of Akron ($25,000)

Synapse: Nature's Solutions

A series of exhibitions featuring leading artists and designers focused on learning from nature to address human challenges that will highlight Akron’s location in the Cuyahoga Valley and its legacy as a city of invention


The University of Akron Foundation/Art Bomb Brigade ($40,000)

Art Bomb Artist Residency and Apprenticeship Project

A pilot program for professional and apprentice mural artists to elevate public spaces in Akron and foster the next generation of arts leaders