The University of Akron and Akron Civic Theatre have announced a new partnership that’s expected to bring a larger variety of arts programming to multiple Akron performance venues through a community-wide approach.
The one-year agreement brings Akron Civic Theatre Executive Director Howard Parr on board as an arts and culture adviser to UA President Gary L. Miller, a partnership that also joins the booking operations, operational strategy and event oversight of E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall with those at the Civic and Goodyear Theater. The new collaboration is an outgrowth of the university’s faculty-led AkronArts initiative that was announced by Miller in May.
Parr said he’s excited about the new collaborative.
With Parr now providing what he describes as “collaborative leadership” with the current E.J. staff in programming, marketing and patron services, all of the venues will have the ability to book “the right events at the right venues on the right dates.”
“It’s been something I’ve been hoping to see for years now,” he said. “It gives us the flexibility that if there’s something that wants to happen that for whatever reason, E.J. is absolutely unavailable, then it could happen at either the Civic or Goodyear Theater. And conversely — and this actually does happen all the time — shows that want to happen at the Civic Theatre, if the Civic Theatre’s not available, will be presented at E.J.”
Now, with all the venues working together, “a show that wants to play Akron, period, can play wherever the right venue is,” Parr said, allowing for a greater variety of programming.
He also expects to integrate Lock 3 through the agreement with UA, all of which helps connect the university to downtown, a main theme of UA’s AkronArts initiative.
Miller said Parr was the right man with the right expertise for the partnership.
“When we started this Akron arts initiative, it was very clear that Howard was one of the people in the community that was connected with virtually everybody else in the arts community,” Miller said. “He’s incredibly collaborative and has a deep love for the community, as he’s demonstrated for years.”
Parr formerly did booking for E.J. Thomas Hall starting in 2015, after UA cuts hit the hall hard and there was talk of it closing. The Civic also took over ticketing operations then, which it continues to do under a separate contract from the newly announced partnership.
UA’s AkronArts initiative was designed to embrace and enhance the arts on UA’s campus and in the city to present Akron as a national model of creativity, expression, authenticity, diversity and collaboration. The initiative also recognizes the arts as an economic driver in the community.
“Cities, particularly city centers that want to grow and get people to live there and attract business, generally lead with the arts because people want art programs, they want culture, they want a lot of diversity in their downtown area and the arts are a way to promote that,” Miller said.
The synergy among E.J., the Civic and Goodyear Theater will allow for joint branding of the city, he said.
“We could start to conceive and develop some overarching branding for the arts venues in Akron. So when we’re out talking to promoters and people selling shows, we would be selling the whole city and the variety of venues,” Miller said. “This, we believe, will get us a better opportunity to have more entertainment and different kinds of entertainment.”
Parr stressed that the new collaboration will help the Civic Theatre, too, by making it a bigger operation with greater reach in the community, thereby attracting top-notch staff.
“It is providing us another piece of the puzzle that builds the long-term sustainable model for maintaining and operating the Civic,” Parr said. “This is an extremely positive thing that helps the Civic Theatre move forward in a strategic way.”
Arts and food writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: UA, Civic to collaborate on performing arts venues