Big Love is a Transformational placemaking community festival in the heart of Akron led by artists, gardeners, musicians, community leaders and healing practitioners. This festival is a glimpse at the vibrant, thriving community Akron can become.
The name Big Love comes from the value of a greater community love, for a whole city in all its diversity. Big Love is a civically engaging arts festival that uses arts and culture to involve its participants in broader community building initiatives. Every aspect of this festival is interactive and participatory, from art installations, to vendor tables, to community-building workshops, to sustainability efforts, to cooking demos. What makes this festival unique is the hands-on atmosphere our community facilitates in creating a microcosm of Akron’s perfect city for a day. In years past with a crew of around 150 people (paid artists and volunteers), we have created spaces for a full days program of wellness, music, art, food and a wide variety of community engagement workshops. Big Love Fest’s strength comes from its inherently collaborative nature on everything from the music, art installations, workshops, and myriad of organizations finding new ways to create something together. Part of the beauty of this experience is allowing people’s creativity to grow while uniting their creativity to a common theme.
The theme of “Building Bridges” will permeate the majority of the festival artistically through the programming of the day. The interfaith wellness room connects individual’s faith to a more united worldview. The zero waste efforts build awareness of our individual and communal use and waste of materials. The art installations and activities bring together people of all generations, ethnicities and backgrounds. Another bridge occurs with collaborations across artistic mediums and between businesses and organizations. One major co-created space features the four sides of Akron represented through two artists of different ethnicities celebrating their side of town with local area nonprofits doing hands-on activities. This area features a stage where there will be workshops and performance art. The main stage/ third floor of the festival will connect the past with the future as a tribute to the old Howard St. Jazz District while creating a space that allows for fun, creative input on the redevelopment of Route 59. The past and the future are also connected through our mentorship/ leadership development initiatives at all stages of planning, designing and implementing the festival and ongoing projects.
Every aspect (music, art, community, etc.) and phase (planning, day of, post-fest) of this festival generates collaborations that oftentimes lead to meaningful partnerships throughout the year. This happens artistically with visual artists and musicians i.e. collaborative gallery shows, additions of new members to bands and award recognitions. Zero waste efforts have inspired businesses to adapt compostable products as well as inspiring other events to focus on their own waste efforts.
All this leads to a larger network of people that are invigorated to work on and facilitate neighbor-led placemaking design throughout Akron’s neighborhoods. This will be done with the help of Portland, Oregon’s The City Repair Project. Big Love Fest is a catalyst to promote and celebrate the beginning and expansion of this exciting undertaking.