(upbeat music) – Hey out there Akronites Welcome once again, to Around Akron with Blue Green And we have a jam packed episode ahead of us today On this episode, I’m gonna head over to North Hill and visit the NoHi pop-up restaurant I sit down with a NASA photographer Jef Janice And I meet with mayor Dan Horrigan to talk about the reopening of main street and all the amazing things that are going on down there Now to kick this show off today, I’m gonna head over to North Hill, and meet up with Katie Beck, the executive director of the North Hill Community Development Center And we’re gonna talk all about the amazing things that are going on there Let’s go see what Katie Beck’s all about – The Exchange House opened in 2017 from a Knight Cities Challenge grant by the Better Block Foundation with the goal of taking advantage of excess housing stock in order to create a multi-use community space and international hostel I started there in 2017 when it first opened as an AmeriCorps VISTA It was sort of a blank canvas with an idea to work for, about and with community So, a lot of my first year was spent building relationships, learning about the history of the different communities that are within North Hill, and just getting a better understanding of what the needs are of the community Over the last three and a half years, the Exchange House has hosted you know, over 200 in events a year before COVID We’ve had sewing classes for women, Black Hawks theater performances, community meetings, spiritual gatherings, personal parties, really everything you could think of that the community wants to use the house for The second floor has three rooms on Airbnb, where we have a lot of travelers from out of town, come and stay here, and it’s a really exciting opportunity because we get to recommend different stores and restaurants in the neighborhood So it’s sort of like cultural tourism, and it also helps us to generate enough revenue to pay for the overhead expenses of the house (calm music) When the Exchange House first opened in 2017, this backyard space was a parking lot, with a fence and bushes So one of the first things that happened was we tore down the fence so that there would be a clear thorough fare for neighbors to walk through Then about a year later, we built out the backyard with benches, a stage, market stalls in order to accommodate the needs of the community So we’ve had festivals here like Hot Pepper Fest and North Hill Music Festival We’ve had markets here, wedding receptions, and one of my favorite programs called Multi-lingual Meals Multi-lingual Meals was in conjunction with On The Table Greater Akron Initiative And so our spin on it was to host conversations in nine different languages, where community members could come and have those same conversations that were happening throughout Akron in English, but do it in their native language So we hired facilitators or cultural brokers as we like to call them, to lead those conversations and then got the notes from what they talked about in English So a lot of that feedback that we received from our Multilingual Meal series helps to inform the decisions we make as a community-based organization (bright upbeat music) And then our third space that we’ll be opening next year is called the Market House And it is going to be a micro business incubator for women owned and women led businesses We are partnering with some organizations in order to augment curriculum for aspiring entrepreneurs, to assist specifically New American women with starting their own businesses or building on businesses that they’ve been working on for a while And the market house will be open to all female entrepreneurs, but specifically for that programming we’re trying to augment that curriculum in order to fit their needs because there are different barriers specifically within the New American community On the second floor there will be three office slash studio spaces for rent, and then the third floor will be a makers space So on the first and third floor we’re gonna have some different equipment like laser cutter, a 3D printer, that kind of thing So folks from the community can come and make things together and spend time together in an intimate space (bright upbeat music)

Before COVID we had a ton of different community events and gatherings inside the house and in the backyard But when the pandemic hit, we had to cut that back and only allow Airbnb in the Exchange House However, we did reallocate a grant in order to compensate community leaders but also we were able to call on those young leaders in the neighborhood in order to step up and provide a service that wasn’t being provided at the time When COVID first hit there weren’t documents that were translated in languages, specifically in Akron And so by creating those videos and making it really more of a personal video from a community member it turned out to be very effective where a lot of folks throughout the State of Ohio ended up using those in order to communicate with their own New American communities (calm music) So we came up with the idea of NoHi pop-up, especially in the face of COVID, as an opportunity for food entrepreneurs to sell their cuisine in a space that cuts red tape and can also be safe by offering carry-out only and curbside service And this was all inspired from those relationships and partnerships that we had from the community in the past When the idea first came up, I had four people in mind that I knew personally, that I knew would jump on this opportunity So, when we got the keys to the space we had to sort of assess what was in the kitchen and decide how the programming structure would work We’re still in the process of making that program structure perfect It has been a journey in terms of experimenting, failing, trying again, but we’ve been overwhelmed with the support from the community, buying the food and really financially empowering the food entrepreneurs who come through – Now we’re gonna visit the NoHi pop-up restaurant And I’m gonna sit down with Hsa Myo Win and talk about his journey to the United States and the food he loves to prepare – I was born in Thailand refugee camp, but my parents are from originally from Burma, Northern West Myanmar They moved to Thailand refugee camp because of war in back in Myanmar They cannot, they can’t stay there because of I’ll call it ethnic cleansing because the government dictator kind of wanted to take over the Karen land that they have to, the Karen people have no choice but they had to flee their homeland and move into Thailand refugee camp I came to America in 2011 with my mother and my sister I was brought to America by numerous reason primarily to find better life, a better career, a meaningful career and a place that you can call home (somber music) Back in refugee camp we, I didn’t have had opportunity to go to school The only way that my family care it comes by selling food So when I was younger I used to help my mother and my grandmother in the kitchen preparing food, and sometimes to go shop in the market to get the fresh ingredients and yeah Growing up in refugee camp was very challenging for me because refugee camp is not place that we can get free education, health care opportunities, to get good jobs And also refugee camp is not a place that you can call home (bright piano music) I learned to cook from my mother and my grandmother I, when I was younger, I watched them cook it the kitchen and when I came to America, I started to cook when I was about 16 years old I know that like I’m getting a little bit older so I have to take responsibility for my families So I, sometimes my mother, when she gets home from work, you know, she kinda like, she doesn’t have time to cook So I wanted to take a responsibility to make sure that you know, she gets something to eat when she get home I usually after that, I know that in Akron, I have passions of cooking because Akron is very diverse place in Akron

So I want to make sure I want to share my traditional cuisines to the Akron communities So it made me kinda, you know, wanted to, this is why I joined the NoHi pop-up restaurant I want to make connection with the community I believe that food is another way, it’s like a universal language, that way you can bring all people together by just sharing food with each other (orchestral music) What is in our delight we focused on like four flavors We’ve got four focused on salty, sweetness, spicy and sour So this added the key ingredient that always has to be on the current cuisine Like we’re about those flavory like we make the foods that is very well and balanced So, working at the NoHi pop-up restaurant gave me a good opportunity and connections I know that I always like to cook in my house with tiny kitchen, at NoHi pop-up restaurant it’s like castle big commercial kitchens like get more space to move around And yeah, I like the bigger the space like, you know, like when I was, when I started working there for the first time it was insane because you know, I never had a chance to work at commercial kitchen but I would say it was a great experience and opportunity for me to cook for other people here in Akron (orchestral music) So our NoHi pop-up restaurant is like a carry-out, NoHi pop-up restaurant offers artists in Akron a opportunity to cook for the community here And also we’re gonna do in rotations, like it’s gonna rotate every weekend for each different artist to come like use the kitchen, and to cook their cuisine share with the community – Next, we’re gonna meet up with a space man of sorts, well actually he’s a photographer He’s an amazing photographer that works for NASA Let’s go see what Jef Janis is all about – I was given a camera by a teacher in junior high school and it was because I draw and paint and do other things Being a little in them times we wouldn’t have called it ADD, but I couldn’t stay still So she would give me a camera and told me to take pictures to have reference to draw and paint when I sat in class So, the camera kind of came about at a young age just to kinda be able to have things when I got in class to take the pictures and sit there and you know, draw them or painting them But the love of that kinda came from sitting on my grandmother’s lap looking through albums She had a lot of, you know, family albums and we have a very extensive family but it was something she would love to do is sit there and go through the old albums And I kinda loved where it would take her (bright upbeat music) They’re all pencils You’re just writing with light I don’t care if it’s a Nikon pencil or a Fuji pencil, or a Canon, it’s just a pencil There’s graphite, there’s charcoal, there’s a different pencil for each job as a tool Don’t get caught up in, “oh I gotta have the best camera to do this or the best camera.” I should be able to give you a disposable camera, and you should be able to do great pictures with it It’s just a pencil If you can’t understand that basic tool, having one with all the bells and whistles you know, not gonna make you a better, if I put Jordan’s on I can’t dunk (orchestral music) A lot of the portraits come from friends, from people I know I find it a lot easier to photograph people once there’s already some sort of connection or some sort of interest for me So a lot of it are people that I find interesting especially when it comes to musicians and other artists If I love the music, if I love what they’re doing, if I love their poetry, it’s easier for me to be almost infatuated with the person You know, you wanna capture them And I’m a big fan of the moment in between photographs So, generally when you’re taking a person’s portrait, we all kinda tense up when we see the camera I like that moment after that (orchestral music) I teach as a teaching artist at the Cleveland Print Room

They see, especially young inner city, young people of color, seeing another person of color being successful at something of that nature It gives them you know, a little bit more hope in my eyes I mean, it, I didn’t, I didn’t find Gordon Parks and other black photographers until college I didn’t know about Basquiat or any of those people You’re not gonna hear about those, you know, in your normal travels So, to meet people that you can look at their IG and I can be a bridge between them and other studios and other artists and other types of things It’s important you know, I mean, if you, why learn all of this and not give it back It’s not a secret, it’s not something that I wanna keep to myself, I wanna pass it on I mean it’s not like me teaching another young photographer how to do what I do is going to lessen what I do It’s only gonna keep it going If there’s no more people to know dark room, dark room goes away There’s no more young students that learn 4 by 5 and 8 by 10 field cameras it goes away And we don’t want it to go away (spooky music) There are only three of us at NASA, that are NASA photographers, the you know, photographers at NASA And within the three of us, there’s a certain amount of at each base So, those positions don’t come up very often just because who’s given their job up at NASA So when the position became available, I applied for it, and through a strenuous process, I was lucky enough to become a photographer at NASA and never would have saw it coming I mean, as something as a kid, we know NASA Glenn is here, we know Plum Brook is down in Sandusky, we know those places are there, but they seem a little out of reach And being a kid, growing up a Trekkie and knowing the stores and all that types of stuff, the idea of even getting to see things that I see or photograph those things didn’t even seem like something I’d ever do in my career So, to be this late at life and get to do that is pretty awesome you know I mean, before all of this started the last thing I worked on was taking pictures of the Orion shuttle, you know, in Plum Brook Station standing in the room with it, you know And you know, every time I pulled onto base, I had to pinch myself you know (calm slow music) Everything that we take we are credited with and everything ends up as part of, you know, it goes into our archives it’s forever So, you know, that’s probably the coolest part as a father, knowing that things that I do will end up in the Smithsonian, they’ll end up on you know, is part of our history Like I, you know, I captured, I document history for NASA Like, that’s exactly how I view it You know I walk into rooms and I shoot things that are going on that will be a part of history You know the first day I was there they handed me moon rocks And they was like, “if anybody ever asked you, you let them know that you held actual moon rocks We did not fake it we went to the moon.” And like, they’re joking about this stuff and they have a sense of humor but the realization is that you’re holding rocks that came from the moon man Like I saw suits, spacesuits that went to space, that stuff is there I’ve stood in the vacuum chamber in Sundusky and it’s the biggest vacuum chamber and, you know, it’s where we test everything Nothing goes to space without coming through Ohio And I don’t think people realize that, you know, nothing’s gonna leave, unless it comes through us testing it here It has to go to Sandusky, it has to come here We do a lot here and I don’t think we’re recognized for a lot of that you know, sometimes How great things are happening in Ohio We do a lot of great stuff here so – Now to wrap this show up I’m gonna head to downtown Akron and I’m gonna meet up with Mayor Dan Horrigan and talk about the reopening of main street and all the amazing things that are going on down there Let’s go meet up with Mayor Horrigan and see what he’s all about – Really the goal was to make it pedestrian friendly, bike friendly, all of that friendly modes of transportation Buses still come down here, you can still drive down here And like I said, it was never our busiest street maybe 50, some odd years ago there was a significant amount of traffic When we looked at flow, we wanted to make sure what the towpath being so close, accessing all of that, everybody having that accessibility when it comes to even even different types of switch, for those that are in wheelchairs and people that are blind, having those audible switches it’s gotta be pedestrian friendly, people friendly to be able to walk easily from place to place That includes, you know, whether it’s from restaurant, or to event or to other event place, designing that and that’s what really took some of that time is how we designed a space that looks like, and people can go from one end to another And I think in an easier way to be able to do that

And that’s what the exciting part, ’cause you can do it, and you kind of see that down here now (upbeat music) It’s exciting ’cause you know, traffic can finally flow It’s a relief to the businesses and now we can get customers down here, even given the pandemic You know, there’s been a tremendous amount of support from the city, County and the Chamber to try to get those CARES Act dollars back into some of these businesses, and many of these residents or many of these restaurants, they’ve gone to extraordinary measures, you know, to make sure that they keep their customers safe and their patrons safe And so to get the traffic back open really is a significant milestone Now that we’re going in the one direction we have one small section to do and we just started so main street looking like this and having traffic and pedestrian flow, it’s exciting for downtown (heavy upbeat music) The roundabout was always, you know, when it first came up, people were thinking “well why do we want a roundabout?” It really is to keep traffic moving And once people get used to roundabouts, they’re pretty simple to traverse See main street isn’t our most trafficked street You know, you get Broadway and High and probably Exchange that have more But we wanted to do a sense to kind of give a central focus point especially with the roundabout and then doing art in the middle Cause public art is important And then the rubber worker project came along and we were, it was easy to get behind that to honor those people that worked in the rubber factories for generations in the city of Akron So to honor them in the city of Akron and in the middle, I thought was an appropriate tribute to them and their sacrifice that they made really for the future generations (bright orchestral music) I’ve seen them all over the country Obviously cities have done this a little bit earlier We had had an idea about a year to go to be able to do it Finally worked through the agreement with Spin to be able to do it And I really see them all over the place They started really kinda small, with the university and just down here But if you’ve noticed now, you started to see them up at Highland square, you start to see him a little bit in Middlebury, you start to see them in North Hill And I think that’s the exciting part because people are using them, to get from one place to another And so it’s just not kind of a novelty People are using that as transportation (bright orchestral music) It’s kind of a unique concept You see this in a lot of other cities where you have event areas where we’re able to go from one place to another and it’s a downtown outdoor recreation area And so we started smaller with those, with the piece down here and how people will move from one end to the other And it could be with an alcoholic beverage it could not And if you notice Lock 3 used to have this fence in here because it was a fenced off area because we had these concerts down here, and you really couldn’t move from one area to another Well, the goal was to kind of expand that area So if you’re in and around Lock 3, you can move around a little bit easier And there was really that restriction on where you could take alcohol Not that we don’t want from one person responsibly, to go from one place to another, but here you can move around a little bit Dayton has them, Columbus has them, a lot of big cities have them We thought it would be a welcome compliment to the, you know, to the future events down here And so we’re excited about the Dora too (orchestral music) That’s the exciting part too is try to design a place where people feel like they can come They feel like they can relax, whether it’s to go to a game, whether it’s just to, this is, you know, Lock 3 is kind of our central park so to speak in a very miniaturized way, but parks are place where it doesn’t necessarily have to be sports-related It doesn’t necessarily have to be event related It can just be where you wanna be to enjoy yourself And I think that’s the important part Is that it doesn’t matter what you wanna do, there should be something to be able to fill that, but it’s also on how better we connect the neighborhoods too and how easily neighbors and people from neighborhoods can get down, get down in and around here, not only have events in their neighborhood, but also down here And that connected part, I think with the towpath and with everything else I think that makes us that much more closer of a city, even given what we have with COVID and having to stay safe and wear a mask to be able to do those things I think eventually gives us good building blocks as to how we expand the city (upbeat music) Let’s remove COVID from the equation too because eventually we’re gonna get past that And we are gonna be able to gather again and fellowship again, have concerts, have those different things What’s the next big thing down here It’s always been downtown living You know people need, we need people to be able to live down here There’s already significant number that do, kind of on the South end down that way, kind of on the North end down that way, kind of over on you know, off the canal in that way in the Landings Now it’s here kind of right in the central in the middle part at the center in the middle part So when you have this and you have the North end and you have the Law building Now you’re really starting to part, start some capacity to be able to really have I think, a lot of people centered down here that make it their home And to me that’s the important part is having people live down here, and converting some of these buildings That’s not even including what Tony Troppe’s done over at the Everett building

and converting some of those to lofts Now you start to create some mass and I think that’s the important part That’s our next step And it’s not even the next step, it’s already happening – Thank you once again for watching this episode of Around Akron with Blue-Green If you have any questions, comments or you just want to drop me an email, you can reach me at www.aroundakronwithbluegreen.c, or you can catch me on Facebook or on Instagram Thank you and have an amazing day (upbeat music)

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