Artistic light rising from Youngstown's darkness

YOUNGSTOWN -- Two Halloween-themed events downtown are showcasing local artists of all types, providing many outlets for people in the Valley.

On Monday, Cedar's Lounge, 23 N. Hazel St., hosted artists, musicians and writers for a fundraiser, while Tuesday night, the Oakland Center for the Arts, 220 W. Boardman St., will host a vaudevillian style open-mic night for a variety of performers.

Youngstown Art and Entertainment District Association's president, Dennis Roller, said he was "overjoyed" about the events being downtown this week.

"I'm really glad that they're happening and hopefully they'll keep happening," Roller said. "I want more and more people to start participating."

On Monday, Youngstown State University's Student Art Association and the Penguin Review, YSU's literary magazine, held the fundraiser at Cedar's. Students from YSU's art program painted to live music and more than 30 pieces of student art were sold in a silent auction.

Mary Gallagher, president of the SAA, said this is the second year that the group worked with the Penguin Review.

"We're kind of building a bridge between the Student Art Association and the Penguin Review, working together, where the final result will be much more interesting," Gallagher said.

A fundraiser by the two groups last year was also held at Cedar's.

"[Cedar's] is our heartbeat. They support artists whenever we need them. Even when they're closed. Like tonight, they're usually not open," Gallagher said. "It's a welcoming feeling."

"I'm thankful to Cedar's and these people. I'm overjoyed by the things going on downtown," Roller said.

Karen Schubert, Penguin Review editor, said she thought there's a lot of talent in Youngstown, much of it dealing with Youngstown's history.

"I think the creativity that comes out of a place that really suffered is tremendous. Humanity relates to darker experiences," Schubert said.

This year, the Penguin Review is accepting submissions for the magazine from the general public, to be released in April. Poetry, prose and photography can be e-mailed to

"The Penguin Review is the place where new writers first get published. It's for people who don't know they like creative writing and it's a chance for them to discover what it's about," Schubert said.

Gallagher described the talent in Youngstown as "wonderful," and said she never doubted its existence in the area.

"Tonight shows there's talent in visual arts and literary talent," Gallagher said.

Schubert agreed.

"There are a lot of writers in Youngstown who've come through YSU. I've seen their work published in journals and other places outside academia," Schubert said.

Additionally, Tuesday night will be another Halloween-themed night showcasing local artists. The Oakland is hosting "Stage Fright," the mixed-performance open-mic night. One coordinator of the event, Brooke Slanina, said the activity downtown with the arts is good for the city.

"Everyone just wants to complain about Youngstown without really looking at it," she said.

She said she saw the Oakland as being a wonderful venue for actors, but wanted to extend the atmosphere of the space beyond those in the world of dramatic arts.

"I am doing it at the Oakland because I think the Oakland is a great space and it's been a home away from home and it's always been that way for me," Slanina said.

Slanina said she wanted to give more people the opportunity to experience the facility, but "theater's not for everyone," she said.

"I wanted to do something more expansive to bring more people in," Slanina said.

The open-mic night will include an encore performance of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" songs by local band The Zou, following a weekend of performances of their act. There will also be comedians Murrad Shorrab and Ryan Clausen, tap dancer Brandon Martin, and novelist Chris Barzak.

Also, Steven Andrew, a staffer, will screen his original film, "Zombie Land." Andrew said the short film has been shown only to friends and family, and this will be its official premiere.

"Stage Fright" will begin registration at 7 p.m. with performances to start at 8 p.m. Local film company DSK Productions will teach special effects make-up techniques in the gallery at 7 p.m. Admission is $3 at the door.

"We want people to keep [downtown Youngstown] in the back of their minds and keep doing things downtown," Roller said.

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