By Dorothy Shinn
Beacon Journal art and architecture critic
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded a $750,000 multi-year gift to the Akron Art Museum to help organize a series of six exhibits over the next three years, which will include programming designed by the public aimed at drawing new audiences.
Community members will be invited to develop the events, interpretation and tours for the six exhibits, providing a new model for audience engagement for small and midsized museums across the country.
“This generous gift provides the museum valuable resources to directly connect the community to artists and the creative process,” said museum Executive Director and CEO Mark Masuoka in a statement, “as well as plan and program compelling programs that make art relevant to all audiences.”
The current Real/Surreal exhibition, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, on view through Nov. 3, is the first traveling exhibit supported by the Knight gift. It is to be followed by other traveling exhibits and at least two organized in-house by the museum’s own curators.
In addition to the exhibits, the museum plans to promote education and research by continuing to provide cutting-edge digital access to the art on display.
With previous Knight Foundation funding, the museum has developed an online presence for its collection that will increase the institution’s social media presence and build connections with Akron residents and art aficionados around the country.
The Knight Foundation invited the museum to submit a request for the gift last December, prior to the retirement of former Director Mitchell Kahan, said Elizabeth Wilson, director of marketing and communications.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports efforts that advance new ideas in news media, engage communities and foster the arts in the communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers.
To put the $750,000 multi-year grant in perspective, the museum had $1.1 million in contributions and grants in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012, according to nonprofit documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Total revenues that year were $5.5 million.
The Akron Art Museum showcases modern and contemporary art created since 1850. The collection includes more than 5,000 works, with a strong focus on contemporary painting, sculpture and photography.
Much of the display space is in the 2007 building designed by Viennese architectural firm Coop Himmelb(l)au, which is named for the Knights. The foundation gave the museum a $6 million grant to support the capital campaign for the building and the Education and Outreach Endowment.
Dorothy Shinn writes about art and architecture for the Akron Beacon Journal. Send information to her at the Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640 or email@example.com.