Festival makes art accessible to all ages

The director hopes the two-day event will draw 15,000 visitors.
YOUNGSTOWN -- When the seventh annual Summer Festival of the Arts, a $45,000 event, began Saturday on the campus of Youngstown State University, festival director Lori Factor felt the outcome of a year's work was worth the cost and effort.
"The wealth of art and the diversity of the creativity and the people in this area is absolutely amazing," she said.
More than 65 juried artists are showcasing and selling their works at the two-day festival, which is presented by YSU, Wick Neighbors Inc. and the Arts Council of Youngstown and Mahoning County.
The festival is free to all visitors and funded primarily by sponsorships and artists' fees. It also includes a 5-kilometer race in Smoky Hollow, a Festival of Nations display, 60 musical and dance performances, an All About the Arts tent, the Tri-County Youth Art Expo, art activities for children and a variety of food vendors.
Something for everyone
Both guests and participants enjoyed themselves.
Liberty resident Carolyn Graham brought her pin-collecting sidekick, her 6-year-old granddaughter, Madison, to scout the artists' tables for good buys.
The two said they especially enjoyed the Festival of Nations area, which featured displays, food and crafts from about 20 ethnic groups.
Graham, who has visited the festival in the past, said she likes the mix of artwork and culture in the open setting of the show.
"We like the flow of it," she said, as Madison nodded in agreement.
For Youngstown resident Chris Mshar, the opportunity to get his 4-year-old daughter, Anna, out of the house and entertain her free of charge was too good to miss. Mshar said he enjoys the family-oriented atmosphere so much that he told customers at his paint store about the festival, and advised them to try it out this weekend.
Anna was thoroughly absorbed in her favorite activity of the day -- painting a spot on the Re:Create wall sponsored by The Green Team recycling group. She said she liked some of the festival food, especially the french fries.
But area children weren't alone in their enjoyment.
Wyatt Nyman, a 12-year-old resident of Asheville, N.C., spent Saturday sitting next to a mixed-media wall hanging inspired by a self-portrait he drew. His mother, Rhanna, used the picture as inspiration for one of her colorfully stitched and painted pieces.
Most of the guests at Rhanna's tent Saturday heard a similar story from her young salesman, who said he has enjoyed his trip because they got to visit friends.
Rhanna said they were not likely to return to the show next year -- it would depend on circumstances and the other thing on most artists' minds: sales.
Greenville resident Alexandra Kahn said she likes coming to the festival to sell her jewelry because of the university setting and the friendly volunteers, but that only sales would determine if she would come back.
The performers enjoyed the festival, too.
Youngstown resident Keyonna Church, 13, said she likes to share her culture through performances.
Church performed with the local African dance group Harambee and said she got especially excited when the crowd seemed to connect with the show.
"People need to know about African culture," she said.
Saturday's events were followed by Forte on the Fifty, a musical show at Stambaugh Stadium featuring the Dana All-Star Band and Come Together, a Beatles tribute band. And fireworks by B.J. Alan Phantom Fireworks of Youngstown ended the show with a bang.
The festival will continue today from noon to 6 p.m.
In total, Factor said she hopes 15,000 guests will attend the event, and she expects the festival to expand in both attendance and artist participation in the future.
But she said the purpose of the art show will remain the same no matter how big it gets.
"It's to make the arts accessible and less intimidating for all ages," she said.
Factor illustrated her point by referring to a casually dressed family sitting nearby on the grass and listening to a musical performance.
"That's what it's about," she said.

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