Open Forum for Artists Held in Youngstown
By Billy Ludt
Artists from Youngstown and bordering county communities gathered at the SOAP Gallery in downtown Youngstown on Jan. 6 to incite collaboration and discuss the future of the arts in the area.
Tony Nicholas, photographer and executive director of the Artists of the Rustbelt, emphasized a divide between local art communities, despite short travel times.
He illustrated the separation of disjointed art communities, suggesting there is an invisible wall; stopping people from Youngstown from traveling to Trumbull and Sharon to partake in art events.
“We are so close in proximity that we should be nurturing each other,” Nicholas said. “It’s almost the same clear wall between YSU and downtown.”
“The word for me to chew on is ‘collaborate,’” Nicholas said.
A point was raised to have gallery owners promote their peers’ events through social media and maintain similar gallery hours in order to bring more clientele in.
Adam Gregory is the director of the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County. He spoke about the Fine Art Council’s collaboration with county government. The city and the art council have an agreement that a certain amount of wall space in buildings must be occupied by art.
“Warren can’t go it alone; Youngstown can’t go it alone,” Gregory said.
It was suggested that the art community in Youngstown has the potential to garner appeal for tourism in the city, as it has been exercised in larger cities, like Cleveland.
Daniel Rauschenbach is the primary owner of the SOAP Gallery and acted as a mediator for the art discussion.
“There is so much going on in this community that it has spanned beyond just this region,” he said. “I think that’s the cool thing, that we’re able to be very mobile around here. If we’re able to make that a tangible outlet, like, fliers, or anything like that —progressively what that could lead into is art walks regionally that could draw in other bigger communities.”
The discussion was brought back several times to the idea of an arts community calendar, listing all arts-related events in Youngstown and surrounding cities. Audience members discussing the theoretical facets of the calendar stated that it would ideally have the option to view a master calendar of all events and can also be narrowed down by community.
Johanna George, director of the M Gallery, located on the first floor of the Erie Terminal Building, discussed the lack of interest in the arts in the suburbs of Youngstown.
“How do we get the suburbs, or the people that are interested in art, but don’t know,” George said.
Chris Yambar, local artists and comic creator, finished out the discussion.
“If there’s anything I can tell you, it’s that this night makes me very happy,” he said. “You’ll realize that you’ll have a future right here in this room. The power in this room right now is everything you need to build every bridge necessary between you and the public. We cannot afford to hide and take on this isolation theology that has plagued us for so long.
“This town is happening; this area is happening. You can’t go back in time, but you can really look forward in a way that you’re making history. Make it right. When we get our acts together, you’ll get the money,” Yambar said.
The next arts open forum will be held on Feb. 3 at the SOAP Gallery from 7 to 9 p.m.