By Billy Ludt
Daniel Rauschenbach stood across from the Kress Building on West Federal Street. The building was in the process of demolition, but the workers delayed every once in a while to ask Rauschenbach if they could remove another piece.
Rauschenbach was painting as the Kress Building was falling. Piece by piece it was painted and demolished.
Rauschenbach is a Youngstown-based artist and student at Youngstown State University. He is currently earning his masters in American studies with a focus on community development, and holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in sculpting.
“All I want to do with my degrees is make art accessible,” Rauschenbach said.
Rauschenbach, upon graduation, plans to open an art gallery. As he put it, there is no space for art to be displayed that is not attached to a bar or another business.
“We’re the poorest people, but we’re the happiest people,” he said. “We need to figure out how to bring money to this area for the arts. You can’t expect wealth from your art in Youngstown.”
Born in Youngstown and raised in Struthers, Rauschenbach has made Youngstown his mission and subject. He spends much of his time painting various landscapes within the Youngstown area.
Rauschenbach works in watercolors, oils, pottery, printmaking, sculpting and leatherwork. He said that in the future he’d like to try his hand at glass blowing as well, depending on the safety of the work.
“I have successfully made a Youngstown-living off of my art,” Rauschenbach said. “The coolest part of my day-to-day is to say, ‘I’m an artist in Youngstown, Ohio.’ That’s the bee’s knees right there — to be able to wake up and be like, ‘How sweet is this?’”
When asked what artists he looks up to, Rauschenbach listed other Youngstown based artists: Chris Yambar, Eric Alleman, Christopher Leeper and Tony Armini.
“Growing up we all said we’re getting out of here as fast as we could,” he said. “And I did. But then you get away and you go, ‘I want to go back to Youngstown.’”
After earning his first degree, Rauschenbach spent time traveling — visiting New York City, Boston and abroad in Europe. He contemplated studying for his masters in London, but ultimately returned to Youngstown.
“In Youngstown we’re not small fish, we’re not big fish,” Rauschenbach said. “We’re very colorful fish in a black and white area — or in a rusty area.”
Rauschenbach shares studio space with Lauren Lenio-Miller and Maryssa Moczan at the Ward Bakery Building, located at 1024 Mahoning Ave. The Ward Bakery is an old bakery turned residential artist space.
“When you go to other cities and people struggle for space — we have ample amount of space,” Rauschenbach said. “That’s what we have: tons of space here in Youngstown. The only thing preventing you from doing something creative is yourself. I think that’s the coolest thing.”
Rauschenbach said he has an addiction to watercolor. Its appeal comes from the challenge of painting with watercolor and its ability to travel. Rauschenbach has traveled around Youngstown, working under a social theme — as he put it, “Realism in Youngstown, Ohio.”
“You get a sense nationally that art is just something, but in Youngstown it means something,” he said. “When you’re going to see art in Youngstown, it’s a whole community event. We have to make our own beauty.”
From a young age, Rauschenbach was asked what he would like to be when he grew up. The answer was an artist. His answer is still the same today.
“To paint in Youngstown — to paint or depict Youngstown — I don’t need a crazy concept,” he said. “There’s mass chaos around me.”
Rauschenbach’s work can be found on his website, rauschenbachart.com.