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ACF distributes nearly $7 million in quarterly grants


Competitive grants include arts and culture programs in Summit County

Akron Community Foundation's board of directors recently announced grants totaling $6.8 million and approved $671,100 in arts and culture grants chosen by the foundation's Community Investment Committee.

This quarter's arts and culture funding included a $50,000 grant to the City of Akron for the annual Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. As part of the summer series, a professional dance stage and performances are set up at area parks.

"It's wonderful because you're not only experiencing high-quality dance, but you're outside in a park," said Jane Startzman, the festival's director, who added the series is named after the internationally known dancer and teacher who once moved to Akron from New York City. This year's anniversary events will highlight his legacy. "Heinz decided that the idea would be to take dance and to build a stage in different neighborhoods – as many as we could go into – and we took dance to the people," said Startzman. "He wanted to present something that's as close to what you can see in a theater but presented on a stage in a park outside."

Akron Community Foundation's board approved 57 arts and culture grants in total, including $26,500 in operating support to the Summit County Historical Society, which will help support the nonprofit's 2024 centennial programming, as well as educational programming and new exhibits.

"The society is blessed to have a beautiful oasis in the middle of Akron," said Leianne Neff Heppner, president and CEO of the Summit County Historical Society. "Now, we have over 14 acres here in the city, and maintenance of it is important to our operating costs. So, our biggest artifacts are actually our buildings, the Perkins Stone Mansion and the John Brown House."

A new grantee this year is the Save the Music Foundation, which was awarded a $5,000 grant to help equip Akron Public Schools elementary students with new musical instruments and instruction. "I think the biggest benefit, aside from the exposure and opportunity, is the sustainability of the art piece, because if we build at the elementary level, then our middle school students will be more advanced," said Dawn Wilson, fine arts supervisor for music, art, dance and theater for Akron Public Schools. "And if our middle school students are more advanced, that means our high school students will be more advanced. That impacts our marching bands, our concert bands. It impacts access to our AP courses." She added that Save the Music has made a 10-year commitment to Akron Public Schools.

Nearly $20,000 of the arts and culture funding was contributed by the Howard Atwood Family Fund, the Charles E. and Mary K. Booth Family Fund, the Friebert Family Fund, and the Brian and Diana Moore Family Fund through the community foundation's grant co-investment program, which enables donor-advised fundholders to review the board's competitive grant applications and support initiatives that align with their charitable interests.

Grants will support the following arts and culture programs:

  • 2nd Act Org, Inc., to support drama therapy services for people graduating from Akron Recovery Court, $5,000
  • Akron Art Museum, for general operating support, including exhibits, hands-on art-making, community events and free performances, $52,000
  • Akron Civic Theatre, to support community-based programming, including free admission tickets, $35,000
  • Akron Pops Orchestra, to support "Harmony In The Neighborhood: Akron Pops Community Concerts" for underrepresented audiences in Summit County, $600
  • Akron Soul Train, to support a multi-disciplinary residency program that awards artists with paid residencies each calendar year, $8,000
  • Akron Symphonic Winds, to support free performances for Akron Public Schools students and in the community, $7,000
  • Akron Symphony Orchestra, to support the Akron Symphony's youth music and community outreach programming during the 2024-25 season, $19,500
  • Apollo's Fire the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, to support the 2024-25 Summit County concert series and Community Access Initiative, $12,500
  • Art Sparks, for Dynamite Duos, a peer-based inclusive dance and music curriculum for Akron Public Schools students with developmental disabilities, $10,000
  • ArtsNow, to propel Summit County's arts and culture sector by hosting events, fostering partnerships, advocating for the sector and awarding grants through ArtsForward, $37,000
  • Ballet Excel Ohio, to support the 2024-25 Reach Out and Dance program at Akron Public Schools and the Pre-Professional Ballet Training Scholarship Program, $7,000
  • The Bath Church, United Church of Christ, to support the Music at Bath Concert Series fall program, $2,500
  • Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture, for the 2024-25 season at the Balch Street Theatre, including professional development, performances and strategic planning, $12,000
  • Children's Concert Society of Akron, for the Akron Public Schools In-School Concert Series, which brings free live concert experiences of culturally diverse music to students in an informal, hands-on setting, $10,000
  • City of Akron, to support the 17th annual Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival in Akron, the festival's 50th anniversary, $50,000
  • City of New Franklin Tudor House Commission, to help the Tudor House Commission provide free family-friendly events to the greater Portage Lakes communities of southern Summit County at the historic Tudor House, $4,500
  • Cleveland Ballet, to support Cleveland Ballet's immersive classroom-to-theater performance experiences and programming at the Akron Art Museum, $6,000
  • Cleveland International Film Festival, to support Summit County student participation in CIFF's Youth Education Programs, including FilmSlam and FilmSlam Streams in-person and online educational programs for students in grades 5-12, $6,000
  • Cleveland Orchestra, to support the 2024 Blossom Music Festival, including 18 concerts of classical performances, family-friendly movie nights and popular music, $18,000
  • Curated Storefront, to support public art initiatives that increase accessibility to contemporary art, promote economic development, and support the artist, $12,500
  • Cuyahoga Valley Art Center, for operating expenses, including exhibits, events and workshops for artists and residents in the Cuyahoga Falls area, $5,000
  • DANCECleveland, to support dance programming with DANCECleveland visiting artists in Summit County, providing education at local schools and community centers, $10,000
  • Dancing Classrooms Northeast Ohio, to teach ballroom dance to fifth- and eighth-grade students, $6,500
  • Friends of The Summit, to support community service programming Music Alive, The 330, Next Gen Public Media and on-air music education, $15,000
  • GroundWorks DanceTheater, to support Summit County programming and educational outreach activities, and ongoing 25th anniversary initiatives in 2024-25, $7,000
  • Highland Square Neighborhood Association, to support arts and culture activities in Highland Square, including PorchRokr and Film Fest, $9,000
  • Himalayan Arts Language & Cultural Academy (HALCA), to support the social-emotional well-being of Summit County youth through music, $7,500
  • Les Délices, to support dance performances and community and educational outreach activities in Summit County, $4,000
  • Magical Theatre Company, for student matinees, touring programs, student scriptwriting and educational programs, $12,500
  • Makeshift Theatre, for an elder theater series featuring senior-themed plays and providing opportunities for older actors to perform, $3,000
  • Master Singers Chorale of Northeast Ohio, to help support classical choral concerts in Summit County, $5,000
  • MooreDunsonCo, LLC, to support the artistic production costs of the Akron premiere of "The Remember Balloons," based on a popular children's book, $5,000
  • The Movement Project, to support the Cleveland Dance Fest and Akron Concert Series free dance performances, as well as the Firestone Community Learning Center residency, a free seven-month career readiness residency for students, $2,500
  • Music from The Western Reserve, to support the 42nd concert season, with a campaign to reach a broader audience and more diverse musicians, $2,500
  • National Center for Choreography, for support of technical and creative dance residencies, Dancing Labs and other programs, $7,500
  • The Nightlight Cinema, to support independent and international cinema in downtown Akron, including operations during a building expansion project, $15,250
  • Ohio Contemporary Ballet, to support Akron artistic and outreach activities, including concerts and related education/community engagement, $8,000
  • Ohio Shakespeare Festival, to support Free Student Nights and Pay What You Will performances of classical theatre programming, $6,500
  • OhioDance, to support community engagement for Summit County through educational resources, a four-day residency and documentation through the OhioDance Virtual Dance Collection, $2,500
  • Open Tone Music, to support the 9th Annual Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival, $6,000
  • Peninsula Area Chamber of Commerce, to support The Peninsula Heron Project, placing approximately 20 heron statues decorated by Northeast Ohio artists at local venues with artwork highlighting the history and/or sense of place, $2,000
  • Peninsula Foundation, to support "Voices in the Valley" arts programming, a nationally recognized concert series promoting traditional roots music through live performances of local, national and international touring artists, $6,000
  • Project RISE-Akron Public Schools, for the Arts Can Teach program, which provides live performing arts experiences for local families facing homelessness, $11,500
  • Rubber City Theatre, for operating support, including the 2024-25 season, youth programming and educational outreach, $6,500
  • Save the Music Foundation, to support increasing equity and access to comprehensive school music education for elementary students in Akron Public Schools, $5,000
  • Singers Companye, to support the 2024-25 season featuring modern choral works by American composers, celebrating diverse approaches and perspectives in choral artistry, $3,000
  • Shanti Community Farms, to support the Shanti Community Farms Cultural Arts Program, which includes dance troupes, a farmers market and public events, among other activities, $7,500
  • Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, for 2024 general operating support, including exhibits, tours and year-round programs, $35,000
  • Standing Rock Cultural Arts, to create a theatre production in collaboration with Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture, $2,500
  • Summit Artspace, to support education, art exhibits and programming, along with resources for local artists, including studio space and workshops, $25,000
  • Summit Choral Society, to provide musical training for children and adults, $15,250
  • Summit County Historical Society of Akron, Ohio, for general operating support, which will help support the 2024 Centennial, including educational programs and new exhibits at the Perkins Stone Mansion, John Brown House and select areas in Summit County, $26,500
  • Tuesday Musical Association, to support six concerts and related education/community engagement activities in the 2024-25 season, $15,000
  • Wandering Aesthetics, to support theatrical educational opportunities and youth performances during the 2024-25 season, $5,000
  • Western Reserve Historical Society, to support educational programs and general operating funds for Hale Farm & Village, $20,000
  • Western Reserve PBS, for arts and culture broadcast programming, including locally and nationally produced content, $10,000
  • Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop (YEPAW), to support youth and families through a summer workshop; masterclasses in dance, photography, spoken word, visual art, step and drumline; and other avenues, $20,000

About Akron Community Foundation
For 69 years, Akron Community Foundation has been our community's champion and generator of enduring philanthropy. In 1955, a $1 million bequest from the estate of Edwin Shaw established the community foundation. It is a philanthropic endowment of $296 million with a growing family of more than 870 funds established by charitable people and organizations from all walks of life. The community foundation and its funds welcome gifts of all kinds, including cash, bequests, stock, real estate, life insurance and retirement assets, just to name a few. To date, the community foundation's funds have awarded nearly $245 million in grants to qualified nonprofit organizations. For more information about Akron Community Foundation or to learn more about creating your own charitable fund, call 330-376-8522 or visit

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