Impact Makers

TAG Displays the Art of Partnerships

By Jeremy Lydic

WARREN, Ohio — On the last day of Summerfest 2019, five students sit at a table in the lobby of the Trumbull Art Gallery in downtown Warren, putting the finishing touches on their projects – knightly shields made by using paper, crayons and markers.

For 14 years, the Trumbull Art Gallery, or TAG, has hosted Summerfest in partnership with Warren City Schools, says Jill Merolla, supervisor of community outreach and grant development for the district. Warren City Schools has worked with TAG for at least a decade, she adds.

“We’re trying to build students who are future patrons of the arts,” Merolla says. “And who knows? We might challenge someone to become an artist or architect.”

Providing arts classes to children, although just one facet of the TAG mission, is critically important, says Executive Director Patricia Galgozy, because some of the children have no other creative outlet.

“In today’s society, look around you,” Galgozy says. “Young people need inspiration, need one-on-one things that they can love and enjoy. And that’s what we’ve got here.”

Last year, 14 students had scholarships for Summerfest, she says. Earlier this year, TAG hosted an art show that included schools from throughout Trumbull County.

“That’s all part of our outreach programs that we do here,” Galgozy says. “We work with the teachers directly and they do with us.”

The Trumbull Art Gallery is “growing, growing, growing,” says Patricia Galgozy, who has guided the nonprofit for 40 years. 

Galgozy has been with TAG for 40 years and sits on the executive board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Any Given Child initiative in Warren City Schools, one of 25 districts selected nationwide last year for the program. It’s the only district in Ohio to be chosen and Any Given Child involves all four preK-8 schools in the district.

TAG programs aren’t a replacement for art education in the classroom, Merolla emphasizes. Instead, TAG works with the district to develop its art curriculum to supplement academics, which benefits students who have “a different way of thinking,” she says.

“Instead of being more logical, they might learn from the more artistic side of the brain,” Merolla says. “It’s important to recognize that. We have many problems in our world and that artistic mind has a different way of seeing things and solving those problems.”

Partnerships with community organizations are at the heart of the TAG mission to support local artists and to be a part of the community as an art center. Since its founding in 1957, it has pursued that mission while “expanding tremendously,” Galgozy says.

“We’ve been growing, growing, growing,” she says. “This has been my vision for Trumbull Art Gallery, for Warren and for Trumbull County and surrounding communities. The quality of life is very important in our area and this incorporates all of that.”

That growth includes the renovation of its building at 158 N. Park Ave., where it has been since 2014. Over the years, TAG has served thousands, providing classes for all ages and skill levels. It also offers a space for community artists to display and sell their works and it hosts events for organizations. Public openings of artists’ work each draw about 200.

The gift shop brings in foot traffic from Courthouse Square, she says. Art is sold on consignment and “changes constantly,” Galgozy says.

Classes and programs attract area artists as well as from out of town, she adds. Clay@TAG has been especially popular since beginning in January 2018. Led by instructor Jesse Wilson, the clay classes have drawn people from as far as the Akron area. Wilson has spearheaded the renovation of the basement, where TAG also holds its painting classes and will soon offer black-and-white photography courses. 

Betty and David Scheck from Medina have taken the clay class since December, they say. They started around the holiday season to make Christmas trees “and we got hooked,” says Betty Scheck.

“It’s a nice getaway,” Scheck says. “Plus, I don’t know of anything like this in the Akron area.”

Generating out-of-town interest benefits the downtown community, Wilson says, because the students stay at the Best Western Park Hotel downtown and eat at nearby restaurants. Clay@TAG serves 16 to 25 students monthly for four-week sessions, he says.

Students pay $120 if they’re TAG members and $135 if nonmembers, which covers Wilson’s fees, clay, glazes and firing time. The art gallery ends up breaking even, he says.

“There are similar facilities in other communities,” Wilson says. “A lot of them are for-profit organizations, so they have a different focus. Here, we’re not trying to make a profit. We’re just trying to make the community better in someway.”

Students can take advantage of open studio time during the week and in the evening, which creates a social aspect to the program. “It’s not class time. You come in; you hang out; you talk,” he says.

Having the clay program would be difficult without TAG supporting it, he says. “It’s a very different kind of medium” and requires a full facility, he says, and TAG is able to write the grants and court the donations for what is needed.

Eight of TAG’s nine pottery wheels were purchased with grant monies from The Raymond John Wean Foundation, he says. 

On May 1, the Ronald McDonald House Charities donated $10,605 for four kilns that use smart technology, which allows Wilson to monitor and operate them by smartphone. 

“We didn’t have enough kiln capacity to offer more classes for kids other than what we were already doing,” he says. “These will enable us to have more students, offer more classes for kids and young people.”

This year, TAG and Warren City Schools collaborated on a day-long event that introduced more than 400 kindergarten students to all aspects of the organization; the pottery room was the most popular spot. Starting this month, classes for students younger than 12 will begin, he says.

Summerfest students, from left, Charlie Gamichia, Jaden King, Lennyn Huff, Nicholas Graham and Chase Davis work on paper shields in the TAG lobby.

“If we can get clay and art in their hands instead of guns and drugs, that’s a good thing,” Wilson says.

TAG is funded entirely by grants, membership fees and donations. Annual expenses change depending on the cost of utilities. TAG holds no debt on its building and rent is low because of the renovation work the organization has done, Galgozy says.

“That was my vow, that we would not owe money here,” she says. “So far we’ve been able to do that.”

Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership lent a hand during the remodeling phase of the TAG build-out, Galgozy says. “This was all boarded up,” she says. “The whole ceiling was furnaces and duct work.”

TNP organized volunteers to help renovate the space and remove the scrap, she says. In return, Galgozy opens TAG to TNP and other community organizations for speaker programs and meetings.

In its 10-year history, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership has collaborated with TAG on several projects, says its executive director, Matt Martin. In the early years, when the partnership ventured into public art, “TAG helped us with that process,” Martin says. 

TNP organized a competition to have artists submit renderings for murals to be displayed downtown.

TAG held a wine-and-cheese gallery-style public opening to view the proposals and helped the TNP understand “how to be present in the arts community and how to engage residents with public art,” he says.

“If we hadn’t partnered with TAG in our early going, I don’t know that we would have been able to incorporate art and public art into our neighborhood revitalization to the level that we do now,” Martin says. “The community is just better for having them in it.”

While it’s easy to show how many houses have been renovated or how many blighted properties have been razed, “It’s a little harder to measure the impact of putting a mural up next to that house that you renovate or putting a mural on a vacant building and eventually having that property become a renovated commercial project,” Martin says. 

However, community feedback is positive, he adds.

“I can tell you in no uncertain terms that it’s priceless to have [a mural] adjacent to our work,” he says. “In a time with diminishing resources, in an area that has a lot of challenges; these organizations, we have to work together. And it just so happens we work together very well.”

As for the future, Galgozy would like to expand TAG into the building next door or into the building at 410 S. Main Ave. that was renovated and is owned by Dave Bell of Bell Construction Inc., Girard, she says. TAG used to have studio space in that building, which formerly housed the Artisan Cafe, and some of its members are considering options for the space.

“We were a major part of that when we did Dave Grohl Alley,” she says. “There’s lots of potential there.”

How You Can Help

Community members can make a contribution to the Trumbull Art Gallery by volunteering their time, making a donation or becoming a member and attending classes.

“We always need volunteers here,” says TAG Executive Director Patricia Galgozy. Volunteer opportunities include working in the gift shop or assisting during art openings and special events, such as Summerfest or the current photojournalism exhibit, “First Three Songs, No Flash: From Hometown Heroes to Hall of Famers,” which opened July 13 and runs until Aug. 24.

TAG has as many as 100 volunteers at any given time, Galgozy says. She recommends the News and Events page at TrumbullArtGallery.com to keep an eye on volunteer opportunities. 

To make a donation or purchase a membership, residents can contact TAG at 330 395 4876 or visit its website. 

Donations can be put toward the upkeep of the building, funding educational programs for children or scholarships.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.