Kent, Ohio

I’ve been wanting to write a piece about Kent, Ohio for a little while now. I have a lot to say about it so I apologize in advance if it gets jumbled.

I grew up in Brimfield but spent a lot/most of my life in Kent. My grandparents owned Smith Lawn and Garden on Lincoln street and lived there for many of years. My band Skies Bleed Black / Dog Days started playing out in Kent and played most of our concerts in Kent. My relatives life and work in Kent and I just opened a business, Downpour Creative, in Kent as well. I love Kent.

I am in no way opposed to towns or cities getting bigger and better. Well, I am opposed to getting bigger without getting better (cough, cough, Brimfield). There have been plenty of times where I have been trying to think of something to do or a place to eat in Kent and have said “been there, done that.” Bringing new businesses into Kent and having it grow is great. I want to see the city of Kent do well. If Kent thrives, I thrive. Right?

I’m not pro or against everything that’s going on in Kent. I’m just writing here and making observations. There are people way smarter than me that need to make decisions on what’s good for Kent.

Over the past “x” amount of years I have watched the town that I grew up in lose a hefty portion of it’s music venues. I don’t blame Kent. There is no one or nothing to blame. The Robinhood was torn down, the Club Khameleon was torn down, The Vineyard is now gone, The Mantis left Kent a long time ago. We are left with a few options. We have the Outpost in Brimfield, The Stone Tavern has started doing a lot of shows (21+), The Gyro and JBs do occasional shows, and the Zephyr has a band or two play every now and then. And while that may seem like a lot of places to go see music, to me it doesn’t mean that there is a lot of music being played or a lot of outlets for music to be played. Maybe it’s because I’ve played in an aggressive band my whole life but none of these are great places to play in mind. The Outpost is a great place to play and has really stepped it’s game up on the show booking end, I love the Gyro but it’s hard not to ruin someone’s day while they’re eating pizza.

So I pose this question. Is Kent losing it’s culture? And not just in music. I mean with everything. I know I mentioned music above but am I blowing things out of proportion here or do others feel the same as me? As Kent becomes more bought out by Kent State and we fill the places around us with hotels and student housing are we losing what made Kent the eccentric place it was? I feel like we’ve lost our once influential music scene. That might not be the cities fault but think about it. We had bands like Party of Helicopters, Harriet the Spy, Hate Theory, NDE, Bonk, Starcrossed, and so many more. Now you might not like all of those bands but at least there were bands and places for them to play and grow.

I don’t mean to make this all about music so I will move forward. I look at the new Acorn Alley building. Yes, it’s great that new businesses and restaurants are coming in. I’m for Kent expanding it’s culture. I’m excited for new places to eat and shot for random things at, but I look at the building and it has no face. No expression, no emotion, no character, no personality. Then again, it’s just a building. The thing that bothers me the most (being a graphic designer) is the signage. Red and gold signage that, it seems, EVERY business must use. While we enable them to use their own logo we limit the color and size and style of signage. To make it more cohesive, I get it. But we’re stripping the excitement and color and vibrance out of Kent by throwing up standard signage, and restricting businesses to use certain colors and sizes so they are in unison.

In the end, I don’t know where Kent is going or what will come of it. Like I said, I’m not against the big change that is coming. I just hope the heart of Kent and it’s personality make it through.

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