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Akron selfie museum owner aims to engage city youth through art, entrepreneurship

Akron selfie museum owner aims to engage city youth through art, entrepreneurship
Posted at 5:31 PM, Sep 28, 2021

AKRON, Ohio — There’s a new museum in Akron dedicated to the art of the selfie, but the owner’s vision goes beyond the creative sets inside.

OH SNAP Photo Lab is a brand new, premier selfie museum in the heart of downtown Akron. It has more than 30 micro-studios and installations unique to the museum.

“In March of 2021 I had a dream, a literal dream,” said owner Tiffany Roper.

Seven months later, Roper’s dream of elaborate backdrops, music, and people taking pictures in front of them came to life.

The museum is located in the Malone Building on South Main Street in Akron. Roper moved into the space on the fifth floor in June and started constructing the micro-studios.

“We've worked with several different local artists all around the community to make my vision come to life,” said Roper. “And so from the moment you get off the elevator you're immersed in this world of art and photography and positivity, and so that was really important in that we use every inch of this space to its best advantage.”

“They're all different. There's nothing like it at any other selfie museum around the country, and we're really proud that we were actually able to employ artists who were really hit hard during COVID With unemployment and the lack of funding for a lot of their projects so we've been able to do some really great work here,” said Roper.

But OH SNAP is about more than just the pictures for Roper.

“I wanted to have a place for youth to come and engage and have a good time because there's no arcades, there's no skating rinks anymore,” said Roper.

Roper and her husband, Kevin, are Akron natives and believe the lack of accessible, youth-focused activities in the city is creating devastating consequences.

“The rise in violence especially gun violence in our community, it's not on the decline unfortunately,” said Roper.

Roper’s plan is to bridge that gap with a program called OH SNAP Academy. She will offer her unique world at the museum as a safe space for youth to thrive in the arts, build their confidence, work through conflict, and develop entrepreneurship skills.

“We've actually partnered with the college and career academies with Akron Public Schools to be a partner with them. We're working with North High School with their entrepreneurship program to be an ambassador for those kids who are interested in entrepreneurship and business ownership and getting them the experiences,” said Roper. “And being the example—we're the example for them and we're kids that grew up where they grew up who look like them who have similar backgrounds that they have.”

“That's important but when you walk in those doors, you're going to feel something different. And when you can make people feel, then they can act. So if we can have that impact on the youth in our community to help them build the confidence to problem solve, to have healthy social relationships, and to experience what it's like to be in a business and know marketing and know accounting and customer service, they can build those things for themselves,” said Roper. “And that's what you know prevention really is: Having a different option. If you can give kids options. That's real wealth.”

Akron mayor Daniel Horrigan visited OH SNAP Tuesday for a tour and ribbon cutting and to learn more about Roper’s mission.

“Anybody that comes through will be duly impressed with not only the vision, but also the commitment to say, ‘Listen, this is the impact we want to have,’” said Horrigan.

Horrigan said the city’s working on addressing youth and community violence with American Rescue Plan funds, and after speaking with Roper and seeing the space, he got right on board.

“There's always out of school time, you know, what are kids doing and it's always been a lot of focus on sports which I think is great because you do learn the value of team and the value of, you know, all of those things. That's not for everybody and that's okay,” said Horrigan. “There also needs to be those other options out there and this could be coding, it could be OH SNAP Academy, it's what the kid wants and that's really us asking the kids, ‘Tell us what you want,’ and then trying to provide those and try to provide those connections, whether it's with school, whether it's with something else. There's a lot of that. This is unique in that respect and I think that it's a great way for us to be able to connect with kids.”

Now that OH SNAP is open for business, Roper is focusing on bringing her next vision to life and she’s excited to make a difference.

“I do want to be a catalyst for positivity in our community, but also building relationships in this space for our kids,” said Roper.

More information about OH SNAP Photo Lab can be found here.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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