Local Stories and Food Celebrate a Community

200 Plates and Showcase at Summit Lake in Akron, Ohio

With 75 community leaders from around the country coming to Akron, Ohio for the Reimagining Civic Commons Studio to share knowledge and study Akron’s efforts, we knew they would be hungry.

We created a truly unique experience to host these community leaders: a 200-person community meal on a giant table with 125 neighborhood residents invited to join.

The result was an evening of celebrating the community and showing what is possible when residents and leaders come together to ask questions and question answers.

 

“The 200 Plates experience...was an exceptional event that touched everyone, both personally and professionally. Summit Lake is such a special place and community, you showed it off with such a thoughtful gathering that exemplified socioeconomic mixing in practice. It was awe inspiring.”    - Bridget A. Marquis, Reimagining The Civic Commons National Learning Network

 

“It didn’t feel like work, it felt more like a family reunion. It was a fun and delicious dinner!”    - Jay Travis, student photographer

 

Summit Lake has faced disinvestment and negative stereotypes for years, and we have been working with residents to create positive changes in their community from the inside and also displaying their stories to the outside. With the latter in mind, we partnered with local photographer Shane Wynn to capture powerful and playful portraits of neighborhood residents with quotes on why they love Summit Lake.

These images were installed in larger-than-life format along the Towpath Trail, which runs throughout all of Akron. Many folks use this trail to bike or run, but never engage with the neighborhood. These portraits now provide an insight into the humanity several feet from the trail, and create space for exploration and compassion.

 

We are continuously working to activate the vacant Pump House building. Most recently, we reinvigorated the exterior by partnering with the Leaven Lenses Project, a youth photography apprenticeship, to print banner sized images of the student photos and adhere them to the plywood covering the windows of the building. The City of Akron assisted in the project.

Students were thrilled to see their photos on the building and at such large scale. In addition, the photos were printed up in a book “Beauty In My Neighborhood” alongside the resident portraits taken by Shane Wynn. Faces swelled with pride as residents saw their faces in print. Younger kids started signing each other’s books like a yearbook, commemorating a special slice of neighborhood captured in book form.

 

 

“The book I received at the Pump House event is a wonderful expression of neighborhood pride and youthful enthusiasm.  I grew up in public housing and understand the shame that poverty can cause when coupled with an alcoholic parent.  These kids are expressing joy and optimism in their community that I only hoped to achieve by escaping.  Theirs is a healthier response.”   - Thomas R. Fuller, Executive Director, Alpha Phi Alpha Homes, Inc.

 

“The booklet is amazing!!  The photos on the Towpath Trail are phenomenal!!  The photos on the Pump House are incredible!!”  - Eric L. Nelson, Executive Director, Students With A Goal

 

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We continue to ask residents what they want to see in the Pump House. Voting boards were put up and our Summit Lake Build Corps youth facilitated the voting process, inviting people to share what they want to see in the building. We have heard from residents that they want a place for art, culture, and history in the community that gives Summit Lake a lasting vibrancy, employment opportunities, and intergenerational gatherings. An 8-year old adorably relayed that he wants to film scary movies in the building. A lifelong resident of the neighborhood said he wants to see a place for youth like he had as a young man; a place to hang out and stay out of trouble.   

 

“The turnout for these two events were filled with magnificent joy and excitement. I have immense gratitude for the residents of Summit Lake for allowing us to work with them to imagine, create, and dream.”   -Hunter Franks, Artistic Director, League of Creative Interventionists   

For more information about the Pump House Center for Art & Culture, please visit summitlakepumphouse.com.  For more information on the League of Creative Interventionists, please subscribe to our newsletter

A special thank you to:

Residents of Summit Lake

Stephanie "Leo" Leonardi, League of Creative Interventionists

Bridget Marquis, Reimagining Civic Commons

Dan Rice, Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition

Kyle Kutuchief, Knight Foundation

Eric Nelson, Executive Director, Students With A Goal

Lisa Nunn, Let's Grow Akron