The art of unwinding: Head to the bar after work to create

For years, Poland native Kristen Olsen has been teaching after-work art classes in restaurants, cafes and bars in Cleveland as a sort of artsy alternative to the typical “drinks after work” socializing.

Starting tonight, she is bringing this unique concept to her hometown. Olsen will have her first painting class for adults at Imbibe Martini Bar, 124 W. Federal St., downtown Youngstown, from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.

The rest of her scheduled dates so far look like this:

Imbibe: Oct. 3 at 8:30 p.m., Nov. 7 at 8:30 p.m., and Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. (includes art show).

Wittnauer’s Cafe, 120 S. Main St., Poland, Sept. 19, 6 to 8 p.m.

Cafe 422, 8586 South Ave., Boardman, Oct. 1, 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Olsen, a graduate of Poland Seminary High School and the University of Cincinnati, has a master’s degree in art therapy from Ursuline College. She is the owner of The O Gallery in Beachwood.

The success of her classes in Cleveland — she gets about 40 each session — got her thinking about Youngstown. “I realized that nobody is doing it in Youngstown,” said Olsen. “I think there is a need for it as a creative outlet. There has been a big increase in cultural awareness there.”

The classes are aimed at anyone who is drawn to art, regardless of their skill level. Olsen doesn’t teach everyone in the class to do the same painting, but instead encourages each participant to express themselves. “By the end of the class, people are curious to see what the others created,” she said.

The class costs $15 at the door. There is no need to bring supplies or pre-register — just show up ready to paint.

Olsen’s art outreach dovetails into her use of art as a form of therapy. Toward that end, she is organizing an art excursion to Italy next year.

“Art has a natural way of drawing emotion and facts out of people,” she said. “That is the therapy. And the travel aspect, well, when you remove yourself from your everyday routine, you get to see the bigger picture, a new perspective.”

To learn more about Olsen, go to

WaterFire Sharon returns for Round 2

The second WaterFire Sharon will be Saturday and — if it’s even half as popular as the first — will be another raging success.

The free arts event in downtown Sharon, Pa., will run from 11 a.m. to midnight. Taking place under the auspices of an organization based in its founding city of Providence, R.I., it’s hallmark is a series of wood-burning braziers placed in the Shenango River.

Saturday’s theme will be World Fire Expo, and the food vendors and arts demonstrations will reflect it. The event also will include an international ceramics display at the Winner Arts and Culture Center.

To learn more, go to

Rock festival will raise cash to rebuild park’s beach club

A three-day music festival will take place at Conneaut Lake Park this weekend to raise money to rebuild the Beach Club, which burned down last month.

Rock to Rebuild will feature 40 bands on two stages on the lake-front lawn area. It will be Friday through Sunday, with admission $14 ($11 in advance) per day or $35 for a weekend pass ($31 in advance).

Youngstown’s The Hern Brothers will play Saturday. Go to for information.

Ghost Lake takes stab at the record book

The Ghost Lake Halloween attraction at Conneaut Lake Park will try to scare its way into the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest walk-through horror attraction in the world.

Last year, Ghost Lake had eight Levels of Fear. This year, there will be 13.

It will take more than two hours to get through every foot of the attraction, according to Dominic Baragona of Mid America Events, producer of Ghost Lake. By the way, the 13th level is the Blue Streak “Ghoster” Coaster.

Currently, a haunt in Japan known as Dead or Alive holds the record. It is more than 4,235 feet long, but Baragona believes he has it beat.

Ghost Lake opens Sept. 20 and runs through Nov. 2. Go to


Cool stuff that can be found on YouTube and purchased from online music retailers:

“I Love the Yo,” local hip-hop artist Rufus Blaq’s tribute to Youngstown. The music video was shot on Hillman Street, between Warren and Evergreen, on the South Side.

Actor Ed O’Neill, star of ABC’s “Modern Family” and a Youngstown native, has posted a 30-second video touting the new album by his old pal Mark Buccilli, a Youngstown jazz man who goes by Bambo Kino.

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