Summit Lake Build Corps Creates Neighborhood Benches

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.

Jay (left), Divad and Ruth (far right) work with Build Corps mentor Bryan Huber on their bench.

Jay (left), Divad and Ruth (far right) work with Build Corps mentor Bryan Huber on their bench.

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 AkronSummit Lake Neighborhood AssociationStudents 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.

Members of the Summit Lake Build Corps pose with their finished bench. From left to right, Julie, League of Creative Interventionists fellow Megan Shane, Ramon, Markado, and League founder Hunter Franks.

Members of the Summit Lake Build Corps pose with their finished bench. From left to right, Julie, League of Creative Interventionists fellow Megan Shane, Ramon, Markado, and League founder Hunter Franks.

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


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.

Macon, Georgia League chapter  painting murals on storefronts after a fire. Photo by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Macon, Georgia League chapter  painting murals on storefronts after a fire. Photo by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

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.


16 Fellows from four cities convene in Akron

In the 1st weekend in June, we gathered with 16 members from 4 chapters of the League of Creative Interventionists (LCI) in Akron, Ohio with residents and youth from the community. The LCI creates unique public art installations that inspire communities to reimagine the social and physical landscapes of their cities. The brainstorm was focused on the neighborhood of Summit Lake, to activate underused spaces and transform them into platforms for connection and creativity.

Together, the LCI and members of the Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Reimagining the Civic Commons, the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, the Better Block Foundation, and the Downtown Akron Partnership strategized and built a community porch out of a vacant lot.

The 16 leaders of LCI learned about facilitating and listening to turn ideas into action. It started with brainstorming with the local community, then voting on the best course, and executing the next day. The community said, we don’t want something temporary in our neighborhood. What was built is solid and permanent, because this community is worth staying for and the growth will be long lasting.

Speakers included:

  • Courtney Bengston, Wichita Community Foundation
  • Better Block Foundation
  • Kate Catherall, CHORUS
  • Carol Coletta, Senior Fellow, Kresge Foundation
  • Kyle Kutuchief, Knight Foundation
  • Bridget Marquis, Reimagining the Civic Commons
  • Dan Rice, Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition

“The energy and passion that these young creative leaders have displayed to bring meaningful change to their cities is inspiring and we can’t wait to see how their work evolves after the convening.”  said Hunter Franks, Founder of the League of Creative Interventionists.

Time was spent thinking strategically empowers long term change. Equally important is getting our hands a little dirty, covered with colorful paint. Deeper listening and conversations in the Akron and LCI community were activated during the convention.