Mapping Akron project encourages meaning of community within its neighborhoods

Angelia Kellhofer, Reporter

The Wick Poetry Center is a credential resource for students to express their voice and work towards a goal of better understanding of what it means to be a part of a community.

Wick currently conducts a program called “Mapping Akron,” where it demonstrates the meaning of home, community and belonging within neighborhoods in the Akron area.

“’Mapping Akron’ is a Wick Poetry Center project funded by the Knight Foundation that seeks to foster conversations

Carrie George, project manager for Mapping Akron with the Wick Poetry Center. (Courtesy of Kent State University)

about home, place, and belonging in the Akron area,” Mapping Akron Project coordinator Carrie George said. “The project began with poetry and expressive writing workshops in schools and community centers. Now, there is an interactive website where people all over the city can add their own perspectives of home and read others.”

George said Mapping Akron encourages participants to reflect on their place in the city they’re from. Akronites come together in libraries, classrooms and art spaces to “illuminate similarities and differences of what it means for different individuals living in the city.”

Wick received help from assistant geography professor Jennifer Mapes who helped develop a map-making lesson for participants to visually explore their communities to eventually be posted on a “Mapping Akron” website.

“We’re collecting all their responses to different prompts to map their community through writing or art,” Assistant Director Charles Malone said. “The outcome is that we will have them on the website where you can see neighborhood by neighborhood, street by street through all these different responses.”

Charles Malone, assistant director at the Wick Poetry Center.

Malone said that it’s important to hear stories about participants’ communities, neighborhood by neighborhood, down to the streets that they grew up on and what they had considered to be “home.”

“Some of our prompts do really well in teasing out complexities, while others are more personal,” Malone said. “I like to see the complexities because if you think about the place you’ve been or the places you’re from there’s never an easy answer to that.”

By Fall 2023, Wick plans to bring Mapping Akron kiosks to community centers across the city. The kiosks will include a screen with the Mapping Akron website. People can engage with the kiosks through reading poems and browsing the poetic map of their city.

“The kiosks will be another evolution, inviting people to interact with the project more casually, rather than sitting in an hour-long workshop,” George said. “I hope as more folks discover the website and the map, they will contribute their own poems to the conversation, allowing the project to evolve even more through participants’ voices.”

Angelia Kellhofer is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].