Arts Groups in Akron Launch New Efforts to Boost the Cultural Community

$717,500 in Knight Foundation grants goes to eight local arts groups

AKRON (June 24, 2010) – Eight cultural and performing arts groups will carry out projects to enrich the Akron community and engage children and adults in the arts in new and innovative ways, supported with a package of grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The grants, totaling $717,500, are among the first in Knight Foundation’s new nationwide arts initiative, focusing on the eight communities where the foundation has resident program directors. In Akron, Knight Foundation is targeting programs and projects with the potential to transform Akron’s arts scene and enhance community engagement through music, theater, film and fine arts.

“We looked at projects that could lift these organizations to the next level,” said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation’s vice president/arts. “These projects cover a broad range of cultural enhancements, from the creation of a cultural center where artists of all types can meet and share their work with the community, to a variety of educational opportunities for students.

“All citizens can become more engaged in their community through a vibrant arts scene.”

The grants andrecipients are:

  • Akron Area Arts Alliance: $200,000 to establish Summit Artspace further as a central, highly-visible headquarters for arts and culture by renovating and expanding its space in a 1927 Art Deco building, the original home of the Akron Beacon Journal.
  • Greater Akron Musical Association: $150,000 to produce and present a semi-staged performance of Gershwin ’s Porgy & Bess by the Akron Symphony, along with community engagement activities, in conjunction with the University of Akron and the Gospel Meets Symphony Chorus.
  • Akron Art Museum: $107,500 to digitize the museum ’s art collection in online archives that will be accessible via the Internet for a wide range of educational purposes.
  • YEPAW – Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop: $100,000 to expand the group’s summer programming by creating the YEPAW Institute, a yearlong arts education program for urban high school students.
  • Akron Civic Theatre: $50,000 to enable the theater, founded in 1929, to expand programming opportunities for community-based arts and non-arts groups who otherwise could not afford to use the venue.
  • Cleveland International Film Festival: $30,000 to bring underserved Akron high school students to FilmSlam, the annual student film festival presented as part of the Cleveland International Film Festival.
  • City of Akron: $30,000 to bring entertainment to Akron area residents through Lock 3 Live and to support the Lock 3 Summer Arts Experience for high school students who display an aptitude in the arts.
  • Tuesday Musical Association: $50,000 to support educational outreach that matches the classically trained young musicians and composers of the FUZE! series with school-age and college students to inspire interest in the arts. Clara Knight, mother of John S. and James L. Knight and a Knight Foundation funding donor, was an enthusiastic supporter of the association. 

The cultural boost comes at a particularly crucial time as arts groups in Akron, as in most regions around the country, were suffering from the economic downturn, said Akron Art Museum Director and CEO Mitchell Kahan. “These grants will reinforce the existing mission of these organizations and will help each organization focus on key goals that were threatened by the recession,” Kahan said. “It’s enormously exciting.”

Kahan noted that although each project is different, together they provide information and services for the education and enlightenment of children and adults in Akron.

 “Even in times of economic trouble, we can focus on programs that really enrich people’s lives,” Kahan said.

In the 60 years since Knight Foundation was formed, Knight Foundation has committed over $132 million to Akron – more than a quarter of that, or $32 million, since 2008 alone. The amount represents Knight’s largest commitment to any single community.


About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed, engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit


Contact: Marc Fest, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677;

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit