The University Park Arts Fair and Food Fest at Grace Park has been cancelled for this year.
The successful art fair held in Akron, which typically brought in 100 vendors and 5,000 visitors to a downtown Akron park in August, will return in 2013, University Park Alliance Executive Director Eric Anthony Johnson said.
“We’re looking at how we can retool it and make it a better fair,” said Johnson, who added that the small staff of six at UPA felt they couldn’t adequately devote the time to the art fair with other ongoing UPA projects. The nonprofit group is working on the redevelopment of 50 city blocks around the University of Akron.
“We have a lot of stuff going on — the combination of the work around the transformative projects we are working on, the nature of our small staff and the work we are doing around civic engagement,” said Johnson, referring to several economic projects in the downtown core and preparations for a large, community summit June 16 to discuss issues and solutions that is expected to draw 300 people.
“That’s a lot of stuff going on. We do not want to do a disservice to the Arts Fair in terms of not putting the attention and focus it deserves,” he said.
Separately, the UPA has said it has entered into an agreement with Artspace USA, from Minneapolis, to explore the feasibility of developing a self-sustaining, mixed-use artist live-work facility in the urban core of Akron. Artspace is America’s leading nonprofit real estate developer of affordable space for artists and arts organizations.
Wendy Holmes, senior vice president of consulting and strategic partnerships for Artspace, was a featured speaker in UPA’s Urban Innovators Speaker Series earlier this year. She delivered her presentation, “Building a Vibrant Community: Artist’s Live/Work Space as Redevelopment Catalyst,” to a sold-out audience Feb. 29 at the Andrew Jackson House in Akron.
During her visit, and in response to an invitation from UPA staff, Holmes became excited about undertaking the study.
Holmes will return to Akron along with Roy Close, director of resource development at Artspace, for a project pre-feasibility visit June 19-20. Working closely with UPA staff, Holmes and Close will tour the community and potential project sites and buildings; examine existing arts communities, including studios, galleries and key arts organizations; conduct a series of focus groups with artists and arts organizations, potential funders, civic leadership, community organizations and businesses; and will facilitate a public meeting designed to educate and build community support for the potential project.
Feasibility study to follow
Beth Boggins, UPA senior director of communications and community relations, said there are a few sites under consideration.
A written executive summary of Artspace findings and recommended next steps will be delivered to UPA within six weeks following the visit. If Artspace and UPA mutually agree, the feasibility study would be followed by an in-depth arts market survey, a narrative space program description and traditional residential and commercial market surveys — all conducted by Artspace.
“Artspace is thrilled to be coming to Akron at the invitation of the University Park Alliance,” Holmes said in a news release. “University Park is an up-and-coming neighborhood, and we’re looking forward to helping it harness the power of creative placemaking to grow even better.”
Johnson said UPA believes “there is a significant artist community in Akron that’s eager to expand on that capacity to create more opportunity for the arts community to thrive — not only in the arts but live/work space as well.”
Artists and arts organization representations, creative service business owners, arts educators, architects, real estate professionals, bank representatives, civic leaders and others interested in participating in a project feasibility study focus group or public meeting should email email@example.com or call 330-777-2070.