Mahoning Valley Arts Venues Get $1.3M in State Funding

YOUNGSTOWN – A handful of Mahoning Valley entertainment venues will receive a total of over $1.3 million from the state to help pay for projects that are either in progress or ready to begin.

The $1.315 million represents more than a third of the $3.7 million allocated for all projects in Mahoning and Trumbull counties from the $2.1 billion state capital appropriations budget for fiscal years 2021 and 2022. State capital budget appropriations are awarded for the renovation, reconstruction and construction of state buildings and projects of regional importance.

While the COVID-19 pandemic put a severe strain on state spending, the arts venue projects were seen as ways to immediately stimulate the local economy, create jobs and improve quality of life, said Guy Coviello, president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber Foundation.

Appropriations include $275,000 for The Butler Institute of American Art to upgrade its environmental control system. The museum’s priceless art collection is subject to damage or degradation if temperature and humidity isn’t monitored and maintained.

Suzanne Barbati, executive director of Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology.

Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology will receive $350,000 for its $4 million renovation project, already in progress, that will reorganize the building and move its main entrance to Market Street. The state appropriation will specifically go toward the renovation of the lower level, said Suzanne Barbati, executive director of Oh Wow.

Stambaugh Auditorium will receive $350,000 toward its $5 million renovation project that will replace the 95-year-old building’s monumental exterior staircase and promenade, add lighting and improve other exterior and interior elements.

Of the $340,000 going to the City of Warren, $200,000 will be used to replace concrete areas and handrails at the Warren Community Amphitheatre that are crumbling because of erosion. The remaining $140,000 will be used to replace the roof of Packard Music Hall. The 25,000-square-foot roof is over 25 years old and at the end of its serviceable life.

The appropriations were announced at a press conference Monday morning at Stambaugh Auditorium. State officials in attendance included state Sens. Matt Dolan, R-24 Cleveland, and Michael Rulli, R-33 Salem, as well as state Reps. Michelle Lepore-Hagan, D-58 Youngstown, and Michael O’Brien, D-64 Warren. Sen. Dolan is the chairman of the General Assembly finance committee, which oversees the capital appropriations.

Coviello and Dolan praised the local legislators for securing the funding in a year in which the state had to cut spending because of the drop in revenues caused by the pandemic.

“A coalition of state leaders and the Mahoning Valley delegation got together and figured out how to make it happen,” said Coviello, who replaces Tom Humphries as president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber effective March 1. “The facilities that were hardest-hit by the COVID pandemic were put forward by our state representatives.”

Guy Coviello, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber

Since March 2020, all entertainment venues have been either closed or their usage sharply curtailed. Sen. Rulli pointed out that Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties “are tied together.” Promoting culture, he said, makes the Valley a “destination” and encourages young people to stay.

The capital appropriations were threatened this year by the “kick in the gut” that was the COVID-19 pandemic, Rulli said. Legislators “put restraints on the purse strings… [until] the economy came out of hibernation.”

The arts play a key role in contributing $143 million in annual wages in the Mahoning Valley, said JoAnn Stock, director of development for Stambaugh Auditorium, citing a 2018 study by the Ohio Arts Council. The projects that will be aided by the capital appropriations will also provide immediate jobs for the building trades, she said.

Matt Pagac, chief executive and operating officer of Stambaugh Auditorium, noted that the monumental stairs and promenade that are a hallmark of the stately building lasted nearly a century.

“I keep telling the architects and engineers that [the replacements] need to last another 100 years,” Pagac said.

Pictured at top: $1.3M in state capital appropriations funding will help pay for projects in progress or ready to begin on area arts facilities, including Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.