SUMMIT LAKE BUILD CORPS GALVANIZES AKRON RESIDENTS TO RESHAPE CULTURAL AND PHYSICAL LANDSCAPE OF THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD
Ramon stands about 6 feet 3 inches. All he wants is a bench where he can sit and his legs can dangle off the ground. “Normal benches are too close to the ground for me to do that,” he said on a recent day--a day when he was going to change that.
17-year old Ramon along with 10 other young adults ranging from 14 to 22 years old, gathered at the Summit Lake Community Center to become the first members of the Summit Lake Build Corps. We launched the Build Corps for the same reason Ramon was at the community center to help these young residents create the place they want to live in, a place where they can envision a taller bench, or a place to sit and look at the lake, and build and care for that bench themselves.
Summit Lake is a neighborhood that has not seen a lot of investment in public space; it is in dire need of more seating around the beautiful shoreline, at neighborhood bus stops, and many other locations. “People are going to be running down this [Towpath Trail that runs along the lake] and get tired and need somewhere to sit and rest,” explained 22-year-old Jay.
Stephanie Leonardi, neighborhood resident and League of Creative Interventionists project manager, led the effort to assemble the group of youth. Neighborhood partners Let’s Grow Akron, Summit Lake Neighborhood Association, Students With a Goal, and Summit Lake Community Center provided support in the planning and execution of the event. Local grocery store Mustard Seed Market & Café provided pallets for the creation of the benches, and local builders Bryan Huber, Jeff Horner and Megan Shane assisted in the build.
The day began with visits from Summit Lake Councilmembers Veronica Sims and Margo Sommerville, who offered their support for the youth as they embarked on their building. Everyone split into groups and was paired with one of the builders, as we brainstormed the best approaches for transforming the pallets into benches.
The group with Ramon, who wanted a really tall bench, soon realized that it might be difficult to maintain a sturdy bench with tall, skinny legs, and so they turned their efforts toward making nice armrests for the bench. A second group embarked on an ambitious effort to create a double-sided bench, and the final group created a sturdy and basic bench that they quickly set to painting. The youth enjoyed learning how to use new tools and thinking about how to provide a sturdy and comfortable bench for future use. When the benches were built and the paint was drying, Ramon and David began creating a tool box out of wood scraps and Ruth started work on another small box.
It was inspiring to see some of the youth continue building new things using the new skills they had learned. They will continue to have the opportunity to keep building physical assets that serve the neighborhood as the Summit Lake Build Corps continues with upcoming build days to create neighborhood kiosks that will be spaces for community information and resource sharing. These benches and upcoming build projects will continue to let the young residents of Summit Lake directly impact their neighborhood and shape the place they live. It is these principles that will foster their love for the neighborhood, and ultimately create a more vibrant and connected Summit Lake. Learn more about the project at summitlakepumphouse.com/buildcorps.
BECOME A LEADER IN YOUR COMMUNITY
After becoming the Akron League of Creative Interventionists chapter leader in 2014 along with local artist Megan Louise, David Swirsky has risen to become a leader for community art in Akron. The Akron chapter's member base has soared to nearly 800 people strong and has risen to be a creative force in the city. They recently installed their first permanent installation, a jungle gym made of repurposed tires, in partnership with the City of Akron and Better Block.
After leading several successful interventions with the League, David immediately continued to grow as a leader, taking on new projects and receiving recognition in his community. In 2015, he helped orchestrate 500 Plates, a shared community meal for 500 residents on a shut-down freeway. That same year he was awarded as an 880 Cities Emerging City Champion for his work on the creation of a pocket park in his neighborhood. Recently, he helped launch Akron City Repair, an organization that works with local residents to create spaces that honor the interconnection of human communities and the natural world.
Want to become a leader for public art in your city like David? We are currently accepting applications for new League chapters through August 29th. Click below to apply to start a League chapter in your city.
A Manifesto for Creative Revolution
The branches bent up to the sky, aching to dream, or escape the arid desert. I was nine years old on a road trip with my family, teetering on the edge of the Grand Canyon, staring at a short windswept tree, barren of leaves, and existing begrudgingly near the edge of a cliff. I grabbed the camera from the car, lined up the tree in the center of the frame, and clicked. At just nine, I loved to capture what was around me with photography. I had no idea where art would take me.
Three years ago, my path brought me to the stark realization that art can do more than capture. Art can enrapture. Art can be more than something to look at. Art can breathe. Art can move people to create change. I began to practice art that addressed the challenges of people and cities. I began using art to reimagine the social and physical landscapes of our urban areas. I worked with communities to co-create participatory installations, to share and listen to stories, and to play. Quickly recognizing the energy and passion for this movement, I formed the League of Creative Interventionists. The League was a name and an idea to rally around. Energy to capture and then multiply in communities all around the world.
What began as an idea now has chapters in six cities in the US and abroad. People just like you who are seeking revolution, inviting a more vibrant and equitable world. As people stepped up and began chapters in their cities, others swiftly came along to join in. After a fire damaged multiple downtown storefronts in Macon, Georgia, League members pulled together to paint beautiful murals on the boarded up storefront windows, promoting the businesses and displaying the power of art to provide resilience. The Akron, Ohio chapter created a large site-specific and interactive art installation that activated a vacant lot. And in Cologne, Germany, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Detroit, League chapters continually activated public spaces with unique ways for strangers to interact with each other. In every city, chapters found ways to partner with other organizations, using art as a tool for change and supporting a culture of creativity.
As the League evolved, I realized art allows us to connect in deep and meaningful ways with ourselves and others. The creativity that we seek to explore and activate is within each of us. It is when we dare to express ourselves fully. It is when we are brave enough to share our hopes, fears and dreams with each other. It is when we create powerful experiences with our friends and with strangers we have never met. When we open our hearts to this, we set a precedent for ourselves and those around us to shape their lives and their communities. To be filled with compassion. To choose love over fear. To choose connection over isolation. One voice becomes five becomes five hundred. One action becomes many. We create a movement.
We are dedicated to creating this movement, to boldly reimagining our world with you. In fact, we refuse to do it without you. You are a unique expression of art that the world is craving. You are never alone in the gallery of life. You are the creative intervention that we seek. We present this manifesto as a pledge to ignite love, compassion and positive change together, wherever you live. We invite you to read it, yell it as loud as you can, sing it to the trees. Share it with your friends. Click "Join The Movement" and let's create the world we want to live in. We are so excited to have you along on this journey. We are just getting started. Join us.