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Arts organizations in Mahoning get $240K in funding

Six Mahoning County arts organizations will receive money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in awards announced Thursday.

The federal funds were designated for the arts and culture sector by Gov. Mike DeWine and state legislative leaders and administered by the Ohio Arts Council.

“This investment will go a long way in supporting the recovery and resilience of Ohio’s creative economy, which is among the pandemic’s hardest hit sectors,” according to OAC Executive Director Donna S. Collins.

The six organizations will receive more than $240,000 combined, with the Butler Institute of American Art receiving the majority of funding with an award of $148,400. Other recipients are: Ballet Western Reserve, $42,300; Etruscan Press, $13,300; Lit Youngstown, $4,500; Opera Western Reserve, $12,000; and Stambaugh Chorus, $24,500.

“This will help keep our instructors employed,” said Katherine Merrill, executive director of Ballet Western Reserve. “We’ve never had one layoff for our instructors. We’ve been able to keep them actively working during the shutdown.”

Organizations did not request a specific amount, Merrill said. They were required to fill out a questionnaire, and OAC determined the amount the applicant would receive.

“We are blessed that we have never shut down our program,” Merrill said. “We’ve kept our dancers engaged from the moment the shutdown was announced and we continue to do so. We have classes in studio and are offering online Zoom classes for anyone who doesn’t feel safe coming into the studio but still wishes to participate. And we are able to keep the tradition of ‘The Nutcracker’ alive for our student dancers by reimagining our traditional structure and creating a filmed production that will be presented as a drive-in movie performance (Dec. 18-20 in the Eastwood Field parking lot in Niles).”

Christine Legow, business manager for Opera Western Reserve, said the money will help offset the additional expenses incurred by transforming a planned live production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” into a recorded performance that debuted online last week.

“We focus on regional singers, at least from Ohio, but because of the requirements of this opera, we had to seek out two main singers who cocooned together,” she said. “We usually only have one main singer; this time we had two brought in from Iowa.”

Instead of having the guest artists stay with volunteers, OWR had to pay for housing with kitchen facilities for the real-life husband-and-wife leads, and there also were additional costs for recording sessions, and special singer’s masks that the performers could wear while recording and rehearsing.

“The value of this grant is really significant,” Legow said. “We’ve never had an OAC grant this large, and it really means a lot to us to ensure our audience can continue to see opera in this format even though they can’t see the production live.”

No Trumbull County arts organizations were included among the awards announced Thursday. Stage Left Players in Lisbon, which received $6,500, was the only arts organization funded in Columbiana County.

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