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Power of the Arts at the YSU Summer Festival of the Arts

Shout-out to the artists who came down to add to our beautiful continuous, contiguous chalk drawing at this year’s Festival! Many people stopped to watch and take pictures, and admire the unfolding, Festival-long work. These artists took half-hour blocks to work on the drawing: Jennalee Butch, Lillian Lewis, Missy McCormick, Jackie Bader, Grace Cummings, Dragana Crnjak, Sara Ciccarelli, Marcie Roepke-Applegate, Daysha Williams, Sara Oliver, Jenna Hudock, Ashley Dillon, Kristie Gearhart, Kelly Bancroft, Amber Beall, Royce Umberger, Craig Latchaw, Thomas Welsh, and John Elias. We loved our “neighborhood,” near artists, other community nonprofits, drumming circles, and popcorn and gelato stands. Thank you to Lori Factor and the Festival, our tent volunteers, the chalk artists, and to our many, many visitors for a truly great weekend.  

Youngstown Playhouse Boffo Hairspray

Hairspray will go down as one of the Youngstown Playhouse’s best-ever productions. It has always done consistently good to very good community theater.  Since its operation was taken over by Jim McClellan, there has been a noticeable uptick in the quality of the productions and its promotions.  But I raised my eyebrows when I saw it was performing Hairspray.  It is not an easy production.  It fields a large cast.  It is a high-performance musical which goes non-stop from beginning to end filled with complicated choral pieces, close harmonies, and large dance numbers.  Its characters are iconic.  And the lead is on stage for almost the entire piece.  Last night I was blown away. I want to apologize because I lost my program and cannot give the names of this outstanding cast.  So I will make references to the character names.  Where they found their Tracey Turnblad I don’t know, but this gal performed non-stop at sustained energy levels like I have never seen in a non-professional…and she was good!!   Edna Turnblad was played by Robert Joki who is well-known to those who do community theater in the area…perfection.  Seaweed and Penny were spot-on.  And Motormouth Maybelle could give Queen Latifah a run for her money.  I don’t intend to slight the rest of the cast by not mentioning them…because ALL OF THEM performed at levels I have not seen at the Playhouse before. There were many memorable moments.  The audience erupted when Seaweed broke into the “Run and Tell That.”  Motormouth’s “I Know Where I’ve Been” brought the house down and gave me chills from my head to my toes.  For my money…”You’re Timeless to Me” is one of the greatest love songs ever written that acknowledges all of our imperfections…and Edna and Wilbur nailed it last night with a tear in my eye. Everything from the costumes to the lighting to an outstanding pit band that sounded like there were twenty when there were only five to the unbelievable choreography (the synced tap dancing during the opening number of the second act is particularly notable) to the impeccable timing of the entire production demonstrates once again that this area is brimming over with talent.  The Youngstown Playhouse is alive and well and running on steroids.  Good Job!!!  Its run is limited.  Call now for tickets as last night’s performance was sold out. Mark G. Mangie

Arts, Neighborhoods, Education, and Safety

New Study Links Art Access to Better Health, Safety, and Education in Lower-Income Neighborhood / Artsy Editorial by Isaac Kaplan… reveals a quantitative relationship between the presence of cultural resources in a neighborhood and key aspects of social wellbeing, particularly in less advantaged neighborhoods.  READ MORE HERE  

Hamilton Coming to Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announced Hamilton: An American Musical is making a stop at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh during the 2018-2019 season.  Season ticket holders from the 2017-2018 PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh season will have first access to Hamilton tickets when they renew their subscription for the 2018-2019 season.  Link to WPXI.com for more information here.  

March 19 -Today the Butler Institute of American Art, in a “Meet the Artist” meet and greet, showcased the work of American artist Tobi Kahn The exhibit runs through April 20th .  Tobi Kahn is a painter and sculptor whose work has been shown in over 40 solo exhibitions and over 60 museum and groups shows since he was selected as one of nine artists to be included in the 1985 Guggenheim Museum exhibition, New Horizons in American Art. Works by Kahn are in major museum, corporate, and private collections. Mr. Kahn is an extremely personable man whose enthusiasm for his work and art in general is palpable.  Much of his work is rooted in his Jewish background.  His belief that great art must have vision was evident as he described the process and inspiration for the works currently on display at the Butler.  The exhibit is part of his more general collection entitled Ceremonial Objects.  The work on display at the Butler is primarily sculpture and objects.  Each powerful.  Each beautiful. Each resonating the richness and power of faith that crosses all belief systems. He was particularly enthusiastic about being at the Butler Institute of American Art as he listed all the names of American artists whose work is displayed at the Butler and that he has known and with whom he has interacted over his career. This Exhibit was sponsored by local businessman Ben Z. Post.  Ben’s late wife had a long history with the Butler where she was a docent for many years.   We thank Ben for his efforts in helping to sponsor this exhibit and his continued interest in local institutions such as the Butler.