Josh McManus joined Knight Foundation this week as Akron program director, Below, Carol Coletta, vice president for community and national initiatives, interviews McManus about his extensive work with placemaking and other nonprofits, and his hopes for his work in Akron.
Carol Coletta: You are from Chattanooga, Tenn. You have a summer home in Maine. You have worked extensively in Detroit, another Knight city. What have you learned from each of those places?
Josh McManus: Chattanooga taught me that individuals who give a damn and act accordingly make cities change. In the 1970s a small group of people from many backgrounds dug their heels in and refused to accept a fate of decline for their city. I’ve had the privilege to learn from them and that informs the work that I do every day. Maine keeps my eyes fresh to the work that I do. My heroes, ranging from Bucky Fuller to Thomas Edison to Frank Lloyd Wright, all understood that distance can help draw clarity and that communing with Mother Nature is a necessary balance to the nonstop energy of urbanity. Detroit has taught me how creative destruction can actually liberate systems within cities and spur unexpected answers to pressing problems.