Road Trip: Knight Arts in Akron

Arts / Article

I recently hit the road to see and discuss all things Knight Arts. First, I spent two days in Akron meeting with potential arts grantees with program director Jennifer Thomas.  The visit was highlighted by two sold-out performances of Porgy and Bess by the Akron Symphony Orchestra. I was able to attend the Friday night performance, which was added after the Saturday show immediately sold out all 1,800 seats. Knight Foundation funded this event as part of our 2010 launch of the National Arts Program.

Maestro Christopher Wilkins’ presentation was masterful. With the orchestra on the stage, accompanied by a cast of 40 and a chorus of 100 in the balcony, the production delivered a wall of sound that filled EJ Thomas Hall. It was the most successful single event ever for the Akron Symphony.  Kudos to Phil Walz and his team at ASO for taking this on, and for stepping up and scheduling a second performance to accommodate the Akron community. Jennifer and I were fortunate to be joined at the performance by Knight Foundation chairman Rob Briggs, trustee Jim Crutchfield and former Akron program director Vivian Neal. The three-hour performance flew by and the Akron audience and critics have been effusive in their applause.

Other highlights of the Akron visit included my first visit to Blossom, the outdoor summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra, which I can ‘t wait to come back to in the summer and a sneak peak at the Knight-funded Summit Artspace arts incubator,which is nearing completion on the second floor of the old Akron Beacon Journal building. Go Jessie go.

We’ll be announcing the 2001 Akron Knight Arts grantees later this year – in the meantime, stay update on Knight Arts news via our website & newsletter.

This is the first in a two-part series about my recent Knight Arts trip. Click here to read my report from my visit to Saint Paul, MN.