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Akron Art Museum's 90th anniversary year crescendos with a pledge of a major gift
Front: Bruce and Susanne Rogers. Back: Rick and Alita Rogers. Photo: Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum.

AKRON, OH.- At the conclusion of its 90th anniversary year, the Akron Art Museum announced a pledge from museum supporters Rick and Alita Rogers as the lead gift for the design and construction of its long awaited outdoor sculpture garden. The completed outdoor gallery and multi-use space will bear the name of Bruce and Susanne Rogers, Rick’s parents, who are among Akron’s most devoted community boosters.

Dr. Mitchell Kahan, who is retiring next week after 26 years as director, praised the generosity of the Rogers family. “We are all so indebted to Rick and Alita for making it possible to undertake this next step in the museum’s growth. The new space will be an enormous contribution to Akron’s urban landscape and is something that our visitors have sorely missed since we closed the old Myers Sculpture Garden in 2004.”

The new space will be a place for art, for concerts and for a variety of community activities.

Alita currently serves on the board of trustees of the Akron Art Museum and is chair of its Governance Committee. Rick was president of the board when the museum broke ground in 2004 for the celebrated John S. and James L. Knight Building. B. W. Rogers Co., located in downtown Akron, is the economic engine that makes this gift possible. Started in 1928 by Rick’s grandfather to mainly serve the rubber industry, it has grown steadily over three generations.

“We are happy that this pledge will return money made in Akron to the community that helped make our success possible,” said Rick Rogers. “This is also an opportunity to say thanks to Mitchell before he retires, for the impact his creative vision and courage has had on the museum’s stellar reputation.”

Board President Dianne Newman said, “What a generous gift to our city during this holiday giving season! It is so appropriate that this will honor Bud and Susie Rogers, who have been lifelong volunteers and donors to Akron charities. This gift from Rick and Alita and their children is a multi-generational commitment to the art museum and the community at large. It demonstrates the key role of generous individuals in advancing Akron’s arts.”

“Under Mitchell Kahan’s direction, the Akron Art Museum has become a civic focal point for our residents, and its offerings continue to receive worldwide recognition,” said Mayor Don Plusquellic. “Now, thanks to the very generous and substantial gift from dedicated Akronites Rick and Alita Rogers, the museum’s future sculpture garden and multi-use outdoor gathering space will certainly be a thrilling addition to downtown Akron.”

Planning will begin in 2013 after a new museum director is appointed. As the full scope of the project unfolds, museum trustees will raise additional funds to operate and endow programs for the space. In the meantime, related activities are planned as part of the project’s development.

The first event is a student exhibition opening August 10, 2013 in the museum’s Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation Gallery. During the 2012 fall semester, Kent State University’s third-year students in the School of Architecture were given the assignment of examining the site for the museum’s future sculpture garden and asked to develop concepts based on a program established by museum staff. From 80 student proposals, approximately 20 will be featured in three-dimensional models, elevations, plans and electronic media.

The second event will be a symposium in fall 2013 to be called “The Urban Sculpture Garden in the 21st Century.” Noted thinkers in the design field will come together to offer a vision of the next step in the evolution of a building type that extends through centuries in different forms: from the royal gardens filled with statuary at Versailles to the 20th century version exemplified by the Museum of Modern Art’s courtyard filled with bronze figures. “Akron Art Museum will pioneer the development of a new model for outdoor sculpture appropriate to the internationally acclaimed Knight Building and the dramatically changing environment of the 21st century,” noted Kahan.

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