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Take 5 with Akron Art Museum's CEO

Q: Why should visitors to Northeast Ohio make it a point to visit the Akron Art Museum?

It truly is one of Ohio’s premier contemporary art museums, and with its 60,000-sq. ft. expansion completed in 2007 by Viennese architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au, the art museum’s iconic architecture continues to draw visitors from all over the world and has received numerous awards. Now we’re once again extending our physical footprint with our new Bud and Susie Rogers Garden, a 1-acre urban art park and community space being developed immediately south of the art museum and set to open in the summer of 2016. It will connect to the art museum’s current outdoor terrace, creating a new cultural and civic commons for Akron.  

Q: What’s new at the museum and what lies ahead in 2016?

Our mission is to enrich lives through modern and contemporary art. To that end, we’ve worked to energize our public programming, resulting in a 20 percent increase in visitor attendance and greater community engagement. The museum launched its new iQcafé, Free Thursdays—free admission to the museum every Thursday—and completed three public art projects in 2014. In 2015, the museum launched Inside|Out, a community activated art project, and is currently partnering with the Transformer Station in Cleveland’s near west side Hingetown neighborhood to present Choice, an exhibition of 23 contemporary works from the art museum’s collection by artists such as El Anatsui, George Segal, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and David Salle. Coming up in May 2016 is a partnership with MOCA Cleveland to co-present Myopia, a major exhibition by Akron native and nationally recognized contemporary artist Mark Mothersbaugh.  

Q: Who are some of your favorite artists?

As a contemporary artist and museum director, I continue to seek out artists that inspire me and are having a positive impact on the world. Artists such as Nick Cave and Theaster Gates have transformed cities and neighborhoods and improved people’s lives. Throughout my 30-plus-year career in the arts, I have always seen my role as a cultural leader and community builder—the intersection between art and life.

Q: You’ve held positions at museums in Denver, Nevada, and Omaha, and you ran your own gallery in Las Vegas. How did those experiences prepare you for your current role? 

Each of those cities had a unique influence on how each experience influenced my thought process and the ideas I bring to the museum. What I’ve come to understand is that Akron has a very unique personality and that everything we present at the museum must be of exceptional quality and examined through the Akron lens. The Akron Art Museum continues to have global perspective, but our actions are local and are focused on serving our community as a cultural resource. 

Q: When visitors to the Akron-Canton area ask you to recommend restaurants and attractions, what do you suggest?

Everyone should eat at our iQcafé. We serve the best coffee and pastries in town as well as killer wraps and soups. After visiting us, I recommend visiting the other art museums in our region. These truly are the cultural gems of Northeast Ohio.