The fall 2016 semester at the University of Akron features an “Unclass” series as part of the new Experiential Learning program, including a class entitled “Reinventing Place: Place-making and the University-City Interface.”
As the title suggests, the class is centered around reconsidering the relationship between the university and the city. This is a cross-disciplinary class with faculty and students from various educational backgrounds coming together to initiate conversations around this topic.
Last week, the class (and community partners) borrowed bicycles from Summit Cycling Center at Lock 3, biking up King James Way to Mill Street, and eventually to the Quaker Oats Complex.
The group is currently formulating proposals to improve Akron, including bike loan projects, a possible diversion trail off the Towpath up Mill Street (connection to UA), and a project aimed at repurposing parts of the lower levels of the Quaker Complex into a UA student display space.
The group aims to soften the seams between downtown and the University of Akron by initiating an exchange among the seemingly segregated sides of the city.
How do we get the public on campus, and how do we get students into downtown? As a senior painting student, I put forth the idea to bring work from the Myers School of Art into unused parts of Quaker, putting Myers closer to the Akron Art Museum and Summit ArtSpace, and making it a part of the Akron Art Walk program.
Wednesday was the first walk-through of the factory buildings, and they proved to be in better shape than anticipated. Due to its massive areas of unused space, Quaker Square became a site of interest, in desperate need of revitalization.
There are a surplus of exciting things happening at UA and Myers, but a lack of places for them to be seen. The city of Akron developed into what it is today through repurposing. As a city, we’ve reinvented our identity numerous times, from canals to oats to the Rubber City, and now as a postindustrial community. Why not repurpose the unused space the university already owns by working with its own students?
The space is rich in character and historical context — all one could ask of a potential display space. The post and beam construction allow for easy installation of artificial walls, giving students freedom to continually reinvent the site.
It would be the first of its kind in Akron, a student-run display venue in a non-traditional setting, providing for both the downtown public and those at the university. The factory buildings of the Quaker Oats Complex are a historical gem and one of the last remaining sites reminiscent of Akron’s long developed aesthetic character. We prefer to continue this rich tradition rather than opt for continued dormancy in the shadow of demolition.
The class also included Peter Niewiarowski (Biology), Matthew Kolodziej (Art), Carolyn Behrman (Anthropology/EXL Center), Andy Davis (Social Science/Psychology/Education), Carol A. Murphy (Community/Arts Activist) and Petra Gruber (Architecture/Biomimicry) are involved as well as other visiting faculty.
My classmates and I plan to keep you posted on any updates as these projects move along and become realized. Anyone interested in getting involved should contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will get you in the conversation. Support is needed to make this project manageable.