President & CEO, ArtsinStark, the County Arts Council
When Robb Hankins arrived in Canton from Eugene, Oregon, in 2005, he and his wife, Claudette, drove around downtown and observed the Palace Theatre, a single art gallery called 2nd April, and a few pieces of public artwork.
“I sensed that there were a lot more opportunities for artists and art organizations to help with downtown revitalization,” said Hankins, president and CEO of ArtsinStark.
In the ensuing nine years, downtown Canton has developed significantly, with art galleries, restaurants, music clubs, public artwork and the popular monthly art celebration called First Friday. And for nine consecutive years, ArtsinStark has reached its fundraising campaign goal—$1.75 million in 2014.
Q. What do you think makes you one of Stark County’s most influential people?
A. “When people say I’m influential, in my mind that means when someone wants an arts program in their school, or a piece of public art in their downtown, or a way to raise money and they need some ideas, we connect them to artists and arts organizations. I’m a connector.”
Q. What achievement of yours makes you the most proud?
A. “A lot of things stand out, but the one I’m going to mention is this. Last weekend, I was downtown at the Palace Theatre, and it was packed, the restaurants downtown were all full, and the emcee from the stage was talking about how great it is to shop at galleries downtown. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘It’s all working.’ The arts were the magnet that brought all the people downtown.”
Q. How do you explain the financial outpouring in Stark County for the arts?
A. “There are two things behind it. People who didn’t grow up with the arts don’t really know what the arts can do, but suddenly there’s a SmArts program in their schools and test scores are going up. They go to downtown Canton or Alliance or Minerva, and there’s galleries and public art and restaurants and excitement, and they say, ‘That’s fabulous.’ And programs like ‘Kimono’ at the art museum bringing in 100,000 people. The second one is, over the last nine years, we’ve had the best, most influential people in the county chair this (arts) campaign. These are the mountain movers in the region, and they’ve all stepped up.”
Q. What are you like away from work?
A. “Outside of my job, I watch movies. I love movies. It’s my escape. And I beat endlessly on my guitar, sometimes while I’m watching movies.”