SUMMER FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS Collaboration pays off

Traditional events and new features will compete for the attention of thousands attending the festival.
YOUNGSTOWN -- After 18 years of an annual summer event, what's to get excited about? Plenty, if you listen to participants in this year's Summer Festival of the Arts.
The festival began its life as "Walk on Wick" and evolved into an all-encompassing celebration of the arts attracting over 10,000 people.
The 4th annual Summer Festival of the Arts, presented by YSU and The Arts Council of Youngstown and Mahoning County continues to grow with each year, benefiting the arts community with a diverse array of artists and performers.
Karen Wilson, executive director of The Arts Council of Youngstown and Mahoning County, said the festival has had nothing but positive effects.
"We're proud and pleased to be a part of the festival," said Wilson. "It's a wonderful experience because it gives us a connection with the university."
Wilson also explained that the decision to partner with YSU in 1999 was a significant factor in the success of the festival. "The partnership was a wonderful opportunity for the event to grow, and bring artists more exposure," she said.
Louis Zona, executive director of The Butler Institute of American Art, hopes the event will continue to bring people into the museum. "The festival has had a positive impact on the Butler, and is positive event for the community," Zona said.
He added that even though Wick Avenue will be closed off for the festival, there will still be access to the museum's parking lot to accommodate museum visitors.
"The Pig Iron Poets," a featured poetry performance group from Youngstown, has been participating in the festival since the beginning, when it was "Walk on Wick." Continuing the tradition, 13 poets and writers will perform poetry and read short prose selections they've written.
Jim Villani, managing editor of the Pig Iron Press, said the festival provides a great chance to mingle with other artists, and talk to people in the community. He added that the festival also helps spark people's interest in his organization.
"I get a lot of people who call or come to the office who were not really aware of Pig Iron Poets," said Villani.
Some festival events may be riding a wave of history. But others are being offered for the first time.
One new feature is "Schoolhouse Rock Live!", a revived 1970's children's television show presented by the Oakland Center for the Arts and YSU's SMARTS (Students Motivated by the Arts) program. The show contains a cast of local youth who use a variety of musical styles to teach kids subjects such as math, grammar, and science.
Director Alexandra Vansuch said the musical is great for the whole family, not just the kids, because parents are more familiar with the 70's TV show.
"It's a lot of fun, catchy songs," Vansuch said. "The parents know more about it than the kids, so they enjoy it."
Vansuch explained that a composer for the "Schoolhouse" musical came up with the idea for the show after seeing that his kids could remember rock 'n' roll songs better than they could remember their school lessons.
Tickets for "Schoolhouse Rock" -- $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $5 for children -- can be purchased at the SMARTS booth at the festival. Performances will be in the Chestnut Room of Kilcawley Center.
Another highlight of this year's festival is the Festival of Nations, a colorful mix of ethnic foods, displays, and performances, sponsored by the Ohio Cultural Alliance. Over 17 nations will be represented. All performances by member ethnic groups will be held on the plaza between the Butler Institute and Maag Library.
Forte on the Fifty, featuring a smattering of popular local bands and a fireworks show by B.J. Alan, will be held at Stambaugh Stadium on July 13.
Parking for the festival is available in the Wick Avenue Parking Deck and is free until 6 p.m. on July 13, and free all day on July 14. There is a $3 parking charge for those attending Forte on the Fifty.
XFor a schedule of performances, go to The Vindicator will publish the official program for the festival in Tuesday's paper. It will include maps and a full listing of events.

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