Heed Yo-Yo Ma’s message to Valley: Arts mean business


On Saturday, Youngstown made history by drawing the largest crowd ever – more than 19,000 people – to a concert in the city when Y-LIVE presented the superstar duo Florida Georgia Line to a packed-to-the-gills Stambaugh Stadium. Today, the city of Warren steps up to the plate for its own exciting history-making cultural event.

Classical music superstar Yo-Yo Ma, internationally acclaimed cellist and humanitarian, will bring his boundless talent to the Warren Community Amphitheatre for a free performance with the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra and the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra as part of the Arts Across America program. That program is sponsored by The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the national cultural center of the United States.

As part of that initiative, Ma also will participate in a series of other events in the Mahoning Valley today, including a public celebration of art this morning at Warren’s Quinby Park, a closed-door lunch dialogue and strategy session at the Butler Institute of American Art, a tour of the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center, the concert and a post-concert community forum at the amphitheater featuring luminaries from the Kennedy Center.

The Mahoning Valley should consider itself honored to be a part of the exciting program, the second stop of a 36-city tour. We hope thousands turn out at 6 tonight to show their gratitude and support for the mission of Arts Across America.

That mission is a noble one, and Greater Youngstown clearly fits its mold.

According to the Kennedy Center, Arts Across America is “a recognition campaign that uplifts and celebrates the unexpected, undiscovered and everyday communities that are committed to using the arts to promote connection, a strong creative economy and increased cultural citizenship.”

We are pleased that a man of Yo-Yo Ma’s stature and an institution of the Kennedy Center’s prestige will discover firsthand today some of the unexpected arts gems in the Youngstown-Warren metro area, namely the YSO, the WPO and the Butler.

USE ARTS AS DEVELOPMENT TOOL

We’re pleased as well that a serious public conversation will begin toward better entwining this region’s treasure trove of arts and cultural assets into the overall community fabric of economic revitalization.

To be sure, the arts sector of the American economy wields tremendous impact. It contributed more than $763.6 billion to the American economy in 2015 – more than the agriculture, transportation or warehousing sectors, according to data released this year by the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts.

In Ohio, that impact translated into 174,125 people employed in the arts sector, making $10 billion in collective income and injecting a $17.5 billion boost to the state’s economy.

Clearly, the arts are big business as well as sparks for new business. That’s why it makes perfectly good sense to study all means possible to integrate the arts more fully into the local economy for the betterment of both the cultural institution and the larger community in which it resides.

We hope the conversations that begin in earnest today continue long after Yo-Yo Ma leaves the Valley.

For today, however, we hope record crowds turn out at the Warren amphitheater for a historic concert that not only will put the talents of Ma on full display but will also heighten public awareness of the high-caliber talent and broader potential of our two home-grown philharmonic and symphony orchestras.

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