State Awards Program Seeks Mahoning Valley Art Champions

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Nominations are being accepted for statewide recognition of the Mahoning Valley’s most impactful artist, art educator and art advocates.

CreativeOhio is presenting the Mahoning Valley Champion Award and will honor the recipients at an Oct. 20 luncheon at The Lake Club in Poland.

It will be the first in a revamped format for the Champion Award.

CreativeOhio – formerly Ohio Citizens for The Arts – will present its Champion Award in a different city every year, with Youngstown being the first. Next year it will be in a different Ohio city and honor people in that city.

Nominations are open now until June 15, with the winners being announced July 14. Downloadable nomination forms are available at and can be submitted via email to

CreativeOhio was founded 45 years ago and has become the leading statewide advocacy group for the arts sector. It seeks to raise awareness for the arts and their economic reach.

The Champion Awards were started 10 years ago, with all previous ceremonies taking place in Columbus.

The idea to move it to a different city each year, starting with Youngstown, stemmed from a conversation between Angela Meleca, executive director of the organization, and Eric Ryan, who is a board member. Ryan, of the Youngstown area, is the founder and president of JAC Management, which operates Covelli Centre, The Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre and Packard Music Hall, and its promotional arm, JAC Live.

The Champion Awards honor Ohioans who enrich their communities through art.

Awards will be granted in the following categories:

  • Arts Educator Champion, to an individual who has made a significant impact on arts education.
  • Artist Champion, to an individual who has made a significant impact in the creative arts sector.
  • Individual Advocate Champion, to an individual who has increased public awareness of the importance of arts advocacy.
  • Business Advocate Champion, to a business that has increased public awareness of the importance of arts advocacy.

The awards do not carry a cash prize; they are part of CreativeOhio’s efforts to expand its recognition of advocates around the state, and its advocacy efforts.

“Advocacy is most effective when it’s in the communities, not the halls of the Statehouse,” Meleca said. “So why not honor the state’s biggest arts cheerleaders in their own community?”

Ryan said the selection of the Mahoning Valley for the first such award is exciting.

“Our Valley has many potential nominees who have dedicated much of their lives to the creative arts sectors,” he said. “When we started discussing this idea, I immediately thought of the Valley. I can easily think of 10 deserving recipients and 10 businesses who sponsor events.”

The arts are a powerful economic engine in Ohio. Meleca said the sector has a $55 billion annual impact on the state’s economy, with $15 billion of that amount going for payroll to the 330,000 people employed in the field.

“We don’t often think of arts as a workforce,” Meleca said. “But the pandemic was a real eye-opener. We were the first to be shut down and had the highest unemployment of any sector.”

She noted that arts and culture is important for job creation and retention, as companies prefer to move to cities that have vibrant theaters, museums and performance troupes.

For information about the awards, nomination process, sponsorship opportunities or reservations, go to or email Phoebe Breckenridge, Mahoning Valley coordinator, at

Pictured at top: Eric Ryan and Angela Meleca are spearheading the first of the revamped CreativeOhio awards program. Ryan, president of JAC Management of Youngstown, is a member of the CreativeOhio Board, and Meleca is executive director.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.