Local Arts Groups Form Cultural Alliance

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Several of the area’s top arts organizations have joined forces to form the Cultural Alliance.

The new coalition seeks to advance the arts, encourage collaboration, support local artists and enhance funding opportunities.

The founding members are Ballet Western Reserve, The Butler Institute of American Art, JAC Management Group (which operates Covelli Centre, WD Packard Music Hall and Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre), Youngstown Playhouse and Youngstown State University, including the Cliffe College of Creative Arts, Dana School of Music, Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts, McDonough Museum of Art and WYSU.

The group was introduced at a press conference Friday at Covelli Centre.

“[The region] boasts a proud history of a strong and vibrant arts and culture environment,” said Dr. Chester Amedia Jr., alliance president. “The alliance seeks to build upon that history, bringing together all parts of the arts and culture community to further amplify the important role that diverse arts and cultural activities play in the continued vibrancy of our region.”

YSU President Jim Tressell said the new group can help unite and invigorate the region, “building relationships, fostering growth and encouraging cultural connections.”

The idea for the alliance dates to July 2019, when YSU hired a consultant to assess the region’s cultural and creative sectors. The study found that despite significant economic challenges and population decline, a strong base of arts and culture remains intact and performs in both modern and historic venues.

YSU then convened a group of arts and culture leaders to begin planning the coalition. The group conducted additional research and interviews with groups around the country to look at best practices, and in February 2021 adopted formal mission/vision statements and bylaws.

In May, the group earned nonprofit status from the state and is now pursuing federal tax-exempt status. In addition to Amedia, the officers of the alliance are:

  • Vice president: Chuck George, CEO of Hapco and vice chair of the YSU Board of Trustees.
  • Secretary: Bonnie Burdman, a member of the board of Ballet Western Reserve.
  • Treasurer: Ken Bigley, vice president of JAC Management Group.

“Much groundwork has been done to this point,” Amedia said. “We now look forward to addressing our various goals.”

Those goals include:

  • Promote awareness, appreciation and engagement in cultural initiatives and the arts.
  • Support local artists, creative small businesses and arts and culture organizations.
  • Amplify and promote the positive cultural brand of the region.
  • Work to increase public and private investments in cultural institutions and artists in the region and support policies that create a steady stream of funding for arts and culture entities.
  • Support policies that strengthen the power of artists, cultural organizations and creative small businesses to drive workforce development and economic resilience.

The alliance has developed a website and has secured an event calendar, said Phyllis Paul, dean of YSU’s College of Creative Arts.

It also is in the process of developing strategies to support:

  • Shared fundraising.
  • A common ticketing platform.
  • Public/private advocacy for cultural funding.
  • Regional economic development to support artists and arts/culture/heritage organizations.
  • Shared services to augment member functions.

Alliance membership is open to nonprofits, businesses, organizations and individuals who support, coordinate or facilitate cultural or artistic venues, presentations, festivals and other activities that are intended to engage the public and enrich the artistic or cultural life of the region.

Those wishing to join the alliance can find contact information on the website.

Background image by Rob Laughter on Unsplash

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.