Our Towns

Valley’s Talents on Display at Summer Festival of the Arts

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As a native of Youngstown, Justin Reese finds inspiration every time he visits the Summer Festival of the Arts. 

Although the potter has been in other shows – the Columbus College of Art and Design show, the winter fair show at the Butler Institute of American Art and the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh among them – the Summer Festival of the Arts, held this past weekend at Youngstown State University, is always at the top of his list. He’s appeared in the juried art show six times.

“We have artists driving from Florida, Tennessee, all these places outside of the Youngstown region and that alone speaks for itself. This is one of the greatest shows in our region,” he said. “It’s inspirational when I see the growth, the transformation and the willingness of all these families to bring all their friends, their kids and just make it a big communal event.”

As the owner of JPR Studio, the sheer volume of attendees – a figure this year helped by friendly weather – makes the two-day arts festival a good source of supplemental income.

“Sales have been great and I’ve been awarded the Best of Show this year, which is also great,” he said. 

Reese’s favorite part about making pottery is the hands on process and not being limited to just two dimensional art. He is able to create three dimensional canvases that he can also paint underglazes on and add any type of process to his art. 

“It’s utilized in the interior design world for home decor, functional wares and installation art,” he said. “It’s a well versed medium. I love supporting the efforts of creating this art culture in Youngstown. I love doing everything I can to participate.” 

This year’s Summer Festival of the Arts featured 80 artists selected by a panel of judges, as well as live entertainment. It was held alongside the Youngstown Wine & Jazz Festival, Youngstown Gospel Festival, Youngstown Flea and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Summerfest.

“Patrons get the opportunity to have high quality artwork that they know is handcrafted, and I think that’s really important for a show like ours,” said Lori Factor, director of the Summer Festival of the Arts. “We’re pleased that we have so many returning artists. That means they are making some money, liking the atmosphere and we’re a lot about the hospitality of our artists.”

Among those artists was Jody Cerone, better known as the “Clock Man,” who turns old studio lights from local television stations and theaters into clocks and thermometers. After working with studio lighting for more than 30 years, Cerone saw the rise of LED lighting and, as the old equipment was set aside, started toying with ideas for how to use them.

“I came up with the thought of refitting them,” he said. “I think I first made a plant holder out of one and then I got the idea of clocks and thermometers because they’re much more universal.”

Over the years, Cercone has sold pieces to the Youngstown Playhouse, WYTV and WKBN. Maintaining contacts within those venues assisted him with his studio light artwork. To start making a piece, Cercone removes all of the mechanical pieces from the studio light. 

Jody Cercone turned more than 30 years of experience with studio lighting into an arts business.

“I take out the socket and the wiring,” he said. “I strip the fixture down so it doesn’t have as much weight. The lens actually has the most weight, so once you get all the weight down, you’re looking at a pretty light, hollow body at that point.” 

From there, Cercone said it is only a matter of fitting whichever device into the studio light that works best, whether it is a clock or thermometer.

“On average it takes a good half hour to 45 minutes,” he said. “I started tinkering around with them five years ago and I’ve gone through several hundred of them. … I probably have 75 fixtures here,” he said. “It’s pretty good time intensive to set up that magnitude of a display.” 

Cercone was not the only artist working with clocks. Prior to creating art with cutting boards and kitchen utensils, Ralph Teets was a furniture and clock maker. When he retired, he would make various cutting boards from his leftover materials.

“I gave them away as Christmas gifts,” he said. “People said you shouldn’t be giving these away, you should be selling them, so I still wanted to work but only on a part-time basis. With my wife being a graphic designer, we decided to start a cutting board business.”

A prototype piece is always made based off of a preliminary sketch for every board the Teets make. 

“We look at it and set it aside for a couple of days, then we come back to look at it again to make sure we’re happy with it,” he said. “I may make three or four groups at a time, so I’ll take three or four days and do nothing but cut, then the next few days is getting all thickness planned so they’re all the same thickness.” 

Depending on the quantity, design and color, Teets said it could take up to three months to finish several groups of product. His inventory is built up from early January so everything is ready to go by March and April. 

“We do four to six shows a year as just a part-time thing to keep busy,” Teets said, noting it is the couples’ fourth time being selected to participate in Summer Festival of the Arts. 

While Andrea Calevro initially focused on arts education after graduating from Bowling Green State University in 2008, she today dedicates much of her time to her art shop, Mystical Creations, making fairy houses, candles and wax tarts.

Andrea Calevro learned candlemaking from artisans in Toledo.

Calevro learned the candle trade from artists based in Toledo, who have been making candles for 20 years. All of her wax products are made of just wax, dye and the fragrance scent. She chooses which scents she likes and then she creates her products from that. For a pound of wax she makes the tarts into, it roughly makes 24 tarts with 10 scents made in addition. The process usually takes four hours. 

Among the scents she’s made are Lily of the Valley, Falling Leaves, Blueberry Cobbler, Passionate Kisses and English Garden. Her fairy houses are made out of all natural elements – sticks, barkwood, gems and moss. After she decorates them, she sprays them with glitter and polyurethane so they can be indoor or outdoor decorations.  

Although her fairy houses take more time than her candle work, Calevro says she finds the entire process therapeutic. She participates in art shows throughout the whole year, so as long as she has stock available, it is a smoother ride to share her work with the community. 

“I have my candle cave in my basement and as long as I have stock, I just box it up and ship it in the car,” she said. “My first year doing this show was in 2014. People enjoy how much time I put into it. Some people don’t believe I do it with my left and my right hand, but I do.”

Pictured: Potter Justin Reese won Best in Show in his sixth appearance at the Summer Festival of the Arts.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.