Barbara A. Feld at 711 Johnston Street
Tell me about you!
I’m 73 years old and grateful that my family left St. Louis in 1978 and moved to Akron, Ohio. With my husband Denis and our two children: 8-year-old Rebecca and 3-year-old Lucas, we left everything – family, friends and a marvelous neighborhood – for this unknown place called Akron. For the past 40 years, I have been most closely aligned with the arts and culture scene in Akron, retiring as Executive Director of Tuesday Musical Association after a 24-year career there.
What has been your biggest accomplishment?
Professionally, I am extremely proud of the work I did there, taking this august organization to a new level of artistic achievement, educational outreach, and visibility on the local, national and international scene. But anything I accomplished was done in tandem with my family and others from Tuesday Musical and the community who had a passion for great music, a respect for the long-honored tradition of civility, and a constant vision of the future and the students who would take us there. That job empowered me, opened doors to other exhilarating experiences, and led to my serving on other arts boards and being board chairs of several. My network was growing exponentially with every year.
What have you done in your life that has made you feel most empowered?
I have felt empowered as a person, regardless of gender. I have been accepted for who I am, the talents I have, and the work I do. Women still have glass ceilings and I REALLY, REALLY wanted my vote for the first woman president to be the one that won the election. As we know, it didn’t, but maybe my granddaughter’s will. That’s being empowered.
Do you feel included/invited in civic discussions? Do you feel that women are given opportunities in positions of influence in Akron?
The doors have always been open when I wanted to meet with community, business, or government leaders. I have been included in civic discussions and these are often led by women. While I will always mourn the untimely death of Summit County Executive Russ Pry, I salute and applaud Ilene Shapiro’s victory.
How do you envision the reuse of the empty spaces downtown?
I’m very excited about the reuse of empty downtown Akron spaces. For our downtown to come to life, there must be a vitality with residents living there, retail space, artist studios, a grocer, and walking/biking access to the incredible trails and pathways that define the quality of life we have. I want a robust artist-in-residence program in downtown Akron and believe that will happen.
What obstacles do you face now in realizing your dreams?
I don’t sense any obstacles to the role I can play in this community. Everyone knows that if I am asked to do something, I will. My strongest desire is for inclusivity of ALL WOMEN in decision-making roles, whether they are union activists or the future female presidents of our major industries/businesses. And it will happen. There has been a great cast of women role models to follow: Suzie Graham, Christine Amer Mayer, Marie Covington, Mary Ann Jackson, Ann Brennan, Jackie Silas-Butler, Emilia Sykes, Toby Ann Weber, Linda Conrad, Teresa La Grair, the late Ann Gates plus so many, many more. However, more are needed. The wealth of women ready to step into leadership roles is staggering. All of us must do due diligence to see that their work is recognized and their dreams become reality.
What was the property originally?
A. Schrader & Sons built the building in 1921. August Schrader invented the pneumatic valve in Manhattan, NY and built it in Akron to be close to the tire industry.
What did it become/what is it now?
Apex Electric Headquarters operated for many years at this location. It is currently Akron Building Closeouts and a few local craftsmen and artists call 711 Johnston home.
What is the vision for the building?
We are currently in the process of having the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The next step will be to apply for Historic Federal and State Tax Credits. We are considering developing apartments and art studios/workshops.
How does the vision tie in with downtown and the rest of Akron as a whole?
The property is very visible and easily accessible at Akron Central Interchange and near the border of the University of Akron Campus.
What are the obstacles to realizing this vision?