There was a lot to like in Joe Nocera's June 2nd opinion piece in the New York Times, titled "Is Motown Getting Its Groove Back?" The piece paints a cautiously optimistic assessment of the city's resurgence, thanks in no small part to local manufacturers that decided to resist the siren call of cheap overseas labor and instead reinvest in the Motor City.
Of course, there are many factors at play when it comes to urban renewal, and another one that Nocera hits on is the importance of getting people not only to move back into the city, but once there, to take an active interest in its well-being. It's not rocket science, but someone—anyone—needs to take the necessary step of establishing anchor institutions that, more so than a restaurant or movie theater, consistently bring people into the city.
This point isn't lost on the Knight Foundation, especially in Akron, a city very near and dear to their hearts. Knight's doubling down on its commitment to the city with a $5 million pledge for a Center for Choreography that will be launched by the University of Akron and DANCECleveland.
Building on a partnership begun in 2006 between the university and the performing arts group, the National Center for Choreography will select national choreographers and dance companies to participate in residency programs that give them full access to the facilities of the university's Center for Dance and Theatre.
This give represents more than your run-of-the-mill urban renewal investment (not that there's anything wrong with that). By committing $5 million to the new Center for Choreography, Knight aims to put the city of Akron on the national dance radar.
"The University of Akron is already known around the nation and the world for its excellence in areas including polymer science and engineering," university President Scott L. Scarborough said. "With the addition of the choreography center, we will become one of few institutions with a national presence in both the sciences and the arts."
You can add the Center of Choreography to a long list of compelling anchor institutions that are thriving, thanks to Knight's support. As I noted in a recent post titled "Here's Why Knight's Commitment to Akron is Paying Impressive Dividends," the city now boasts at least three Knight-funded entities: The Akron Civic Theater, Akron Art Museum, and Tuesday Musical.
Who will be next?