Murals add splash of life to downtown

Since 2000, at least 50 murals have been hung in the city.



YOUNGSTOWN — Jack Carlton likes art. He teaches art at three schools, and when he wasn’t in the classroom, he was creating the latest installment to The Murals Project: Museum Without Walls.

The Youngstown-Hollywood connection is the theme of the reproductions that now hang on the Paramount Theater at the corner of Hazel and Federal streets.

Carlton began the hanging Friday morning with two former students from Youngstown State University, Jason Vaughn and Sean O’Neill.

Five murals will be hung on the Federal Street side today. Carlton planned on having the Hazel Street side finished Friday, where seven murals were hung.

Since the murals are hanging on a theater, all are theater-related. The selections have to do with the Paramount Theater, the Warner brothers and their theater in Youngstown, and vaudeville actors, actresses and the music.

The mural photos

He acquired photographs from the Historical Society of the Mahoning Valley, The Vindicator and private collections for these murals. Some of the photographs were increased to near-life-size and all are printed on vinyl.

This way, the murals are weather resistant when hung outside.

Carlton couldn’t talk for too long, because once his help arrived, it was time to begin the hanging.

And once it was up, he couldn’t contain his excitement.

“Oh my, it’s beautiful,” Carlton said.

The first mural that Carlton and Vaughn hung was quite special to Carlton. His step-uncle created the original.

It’s a copy of the inaugural program for the Warner Theater premier. It is red, white, olive green and black, with a carp and a mermaid entwined. It is hung in one of the recessions on the wall that were made for theater advertisements.

The creator, Barney Carnes, had an office on the first floor of the theater.

Graphics of regionalism

There is a second Carnes program, photographs of the Shagrin brothers who were involved in the theater business, photographs of area establishments, and tickets and programs to events. Included are the opera house, a Buffalo Bill poster and P. Ross Berry, an architect who designed many downtown buildings and the court house, along with others.

David Colts, a local independent curatorial consultant, stopped by the hanging as he was walking downtown.

“I’m a firm believer in regionalism, and I think this project is so visually graphic,” he said.

The graphics of regionalism are what Carlton likes, and he hopes to renew community interest downtown.

“I want to make [the mural] look the best we can,” he said, noting some areas that still need some paint.

He wants to make improvements to downtown. He moved to Massachusetts from Youngstown, and when he returned here in 1993, he did not like what he saw.

“I came back to a downtown area that was in blight,” Carlton said.

Revitalizing the city

For the last 10 years, Carlton has been working on revitalizing Youngstown. During the bicentennial celebration, he hung work from regional artists on empty storefronts. But he ran into problems when the artists wanted their works back.

“And you can’t blame them for that,” said his wife, Paula Jasper.

So Jasper and Carlton came up with something new.

The murals changed to photographs of historical photos and art from The Butler Institute of American Art. Since 2000, 50 murals have been hung downtown.

“These don’t have to move,” Jasper said.

Grand Venues, an Illinois company, and Louis Grangos, president of USA Parking in Cleveland, purchased the theater in April, which will be 90 years old next year. Carlton said whenever they are ready to take down the boards in front of the facade, he will take the murals down.

Right now, he is content with the murals he has hung, which officially open at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

“It tickles me to death,” he said.

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