Our Towns

Yo-Yo Ma Visit Stresses Importance of Local Arts

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The visit to the Mahoning Valley by one of the most acclaimed cellists of the modern era reflects the power and importance the arts has in even small communities, say area leaders.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma will join New York Times columnist David Brooks along with selected arts, government, business and civic leaders at a lunchtime forum at the Butler Institute of American Art on Monday in advance of his performance later that evening in Warren.

The event is part of Arts Across America, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ initiative, which is an effort to explore how the arts are used to enhance the quality of life, creativity and cultural excitement within smaller communities.

“The Butler Institute is pleased to be a host in this important dialogue sponsored by the Kennedy Center that involves the role of the arts in our society,” said Lou Zona, director of the Butler.

The program presents an opportunity for artistic ambassadors such as Yo-Yo Ma and executives from the Kennedy Center to explore the cultural treasures of the Mahoning Valley.

“It is a great opportunity having representatives from the Kennedy Center and those involved in this initiative to see the Butler Institute and its remarkable collection housed here in Youngstown, Ohio,” Zona said.

The lunchtime session will kick off with a talk led by Brooks, a New York Times columnist and executive director of the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C. Brooks’ participation is part of the Aspen Institute’s Weave: The Social Fabric Project.

Brooks, a conservative columnist who has become highly critical of the Trump Administration, has recently focused his attention on the power of localism and how small communities can have more of an impact than federal or state bureaucracies.

The Social Fabric Project seeks to work with community groups across the country to help repair divisions within society and forge a common identity.

Also joining the conversation Monday will be Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center, and David Rubenstein, chairman of the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees.

The noon discussion panel is closed to the public and media.

However, the public is invited to a kick-off celebration beginning 10 a.m. at Quinby Park in Warren with the unveiling of two sculptures along with an announcement related to funding for more park improvements.

Ma and Brooks will not attend the morning event, according to organizers.

The afternoon session will consist of a roundtable discussion and breakout sessions that will examine how collaboration can support development within the community.

Then, the renowned cellist will perform a private concert with students and their families at the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center in Youngstown.

Capping off the day at 6 p.m. will be a 45-minute performance by Ma at the downtown Warren Amphitheater along with members of the Youngstown Symphony and the Warren Philharmonic orchestras.

The performance will be followed up by a discussion on arts and culture hosted by City Club of the Mahoning Valley and moderated by The Kennedy Center’s Rutter. Panelists include Barb Ewing, CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator; William Mullane, Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County, and the Rev. Dr. Lewis Macklin II of the Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church.

“It is the perfect time in this community to have this conversation about the influence of arts,” said Becky Keck, president of Students Motivated by the Arts, or Smarts, a nonprofit community arts school in Youngstown. “I think it it’s very fortunate to have Mr. Ma and the Kennedy Center here to talk about it.”

Keck said the arrival of such high-profile artists is likely to draw more focus on the importance of the arts in education.

“As an Any Given Child community, and with Smarts leading the way in arts education, we know this will help us in the conversation about the quality of arts education and teaching the whole child,” she said.

Pictured at top: Yo Yo Ma performs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in June 2014.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.