Kenmore hosts Summit County’s first placemaking conference

City of Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan addresses “Great Places Rock” attendees at First Glance on Kenmore Blvd.

Kenmore Boulevard was front and center during the first ever Summit County Placemaking Institute, held Wednesday, Sept. 14 on Kenmore Boulevard. Subtitled “Great Places Rock,” the event featured some of Ohio’s leading thinkers in the areas of community development, public space and art, including Tod Wormstedt of the American Sign Museum, Guide Studio’s Cathy Fromet and LAND Studio’s Greg Peckham, both renown public space planning experts based in Cleveland. Other speakers included local artists, government officials and nonprofit representatives, including Tina Boyes, Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance’s executive director.

“Kenmore is a leader in authentic neighborhood placemaking, so this was the perfect place to launch the initiative,” said Nicole Mullet, executive director of ArtsNow, the event’s organizer.

While she admitted the general public might not know the word placemaking, they know good placemaking when they see it.

According to People for Public Spaces, placemaking “strengthen(s) the connection between people and the places they share.” It is a collaborative process of shaping spaces so they’re more valued by everyone and reflect the physical, cultural and social identities of their community.

“When ArtsNow embarked on the Akron Cultural Plan, this was one of the major goals: to strengthen the city through the arts, humanities, culture, natural resources and heritage of each unique neighborhood,” she explained. “This event is the perfect next step to get greater Akron’s creative juices flowing.”

Event sessions focused on the power of placemaking in community development, how branding and signage can improve neighborhoods and business districts, how visual art, programming and events can brand a neighborhood, and how philanthropy, government and nonprofits can work together to implement substantive placemaking efforts.

“For Akron to grow to 250,000 residents, it must grow through its neighborhoods,” Boyes said in the opening plenary. “We need to recreate emotional connections to those places.” She also gave attendees a tour of the art, branding and improvement initiatives underway along Kenmore Boulevard.

City of Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan kicked off the meeting, saying he hoped the event would be the first of many such conversations in the city. He added it’s the residents, artists and community developers, not government, that will create authentic change. “Our question is simply, ‘How we can help?’”

For more information about the Akron Cultural Plan, or to receive updates about future cultural plan-related events, visit artsnow.org.

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