AKRON, Ohio — An Akron landmark just received a big facelift. Akron Civic Theatre officials unveiled their newly renovated Grand Lobby and entry arcade Friday morning as the space has been restored to its 1929 grandeur.
"As beautiful as it is, the Akron Civic Theatre is much more than a historical and architectural gem of the city," said Candice Carlyon, current president of the theater's board of directors. "It's a very active regional cultural center and a vibrant and valuable community asset. The board has been championing this project from the beginning, and our expectations have been exceeded."
The lobby’s renovation is part of the $9 million “Staging the Future” campaign, which also included the following projects:
- A new three-window box office has been constructed with access from the entry arcade.
- The renovation of the historic Whitelaw building, now renamed the John, James and Clara Knight Stage, is complete. The new 200+ capacity venue will open this summer and increase programming and community engagement opportunities.
- The renovation of the Whitelaw building includes new administrative offices on the Canal 2 level of the building.
- An unanticipated available space on the Canal 1 level has become a third performance and event venue called Wild Oscar's.
- Spectacular murals on the north- and south-facing walls of the Civic were completed in fall 2020 by nationally renowned muralists El Mac, Aiseborn and Ouizi.
By mid-2021, the remaining elements of the project are on track to be finished, making the outside of the theater as much of a community asset as the inside:
- A large outdoor video wall on the south side of the Civic will feature live-feed performances from the main auditorium stage and Knight Stage and additional arts and culture content gleaned from local, regional and national sources.
- A deck overlooking Lock 3 on the south side of the Civic will be the site of gatherings before and after events in the building as well as a space for unique programming and entertainment.
- A donor wall created by nationally recognized glass artist Nancy Gong will be installed on the exterior wall of the elevator shaft along S. Main St., and additional public art will be featured in exterior and interior sites around the Civic campus with a goal to showcase the best of our local and regional artists.
The theater’s grand reopening celebration is scheduled for the week of Aug. 9-15.
“The Staging the Future campaign was supported early on with a $4 million lead gift from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which leveraged an additional $5 million from over 1,000 gifts, including a $1 million grant from GAR Foundation,” Akron Civic Theatre officials said. “92% of the project funding was raised from private sector sources; 8% ($675,000) came from a capital award from the State of Ohio. Significant in-kind support was provided by the City of Akron, County of Summit, Development Finance Authority of Summit County and Ohio and Erie Canalway.”
Within the first three years of its reopening, officials estimate the Akron Civic Theatre will generate $8.9 million in annual economic activity.