Summer arts fest thrives despite rain

Jody Cercone (a male) of Boardman, from The Studio Workshop, holds up a large lens from a stage light that magnifies his face...Cercone was one of the vendors at the YSU Festival of the Arts Saturday..Cercone uses different vessels like old stage lights to create clocks which he than sells...by R. Michael Semple

YOUNGSTOWN — Anyone who spends any time with Jody Cercone likely never will need to spend time asking him the time.

“I repurpose stage and studio lighting fixtures, including one from WKBN that’s at least 50 years old,” said Cercone, who runs The Studio Workshop from his Boardman home.

After removing the items’ reflectors, socket wires and part of the circuitry, he often refits the apertures to hold clocks of varying sizes, as well as thermometers, Cercone explained.

His eye-catching unusual clocks under one of many white tents indicated it was time for Youngstown State University’s 23rd annual Summer Festival of the Arts, which kicked off Saturday morning in Wean Park downtown with the unveiling of the long-awaited Shuba-Robinson Commemorative Statue.

The juried arts fest continues 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in the park.

More than 70 area and regional artists, artisans and performers are part of this year’s festival, noted Lori Factor, event organizer. Many have returned — after last year’s cancellation because of the COVID-19 pandemic — to sell numerous pieces of handcrafted and original jewelry, pottery, wood, textiles, glass and sculptures.

Cercone recalled having used a flowerpot for his first such project, which his daughter sold online. He soon sought something more universal to fit the lens diameters of the fixtures he acquired, which led to the decision to refit them with clocks he buys online, at garage sales and elsewhere.

“I take the mechanics out of the equation,” Cercone said, adding he’s been practicing his craft about seven years.

Charlene Pallante’s forte is far more abstract, however. Her specialty is using a variety of brushless mediums and ways to create colorful acrylic paintings on woodblocks, coasters, pieces of ceramic tile and glass.

Many of her works are courtesy of the combination paint and airbrush, hair dryer, palette knife and cake spinner, said Pallante, who runs Bellcamp Art of Niles.

While doing her best to dodge raindrops, Pallante’s daughter, Jessica Pallante of Columbus, also was doing her best to busily assemble a staircase-type shelf with five of her mother’s works that were to be sold.

Little is abstract, though, about Mary Umbaugh’s artistic field.

“I took evening art classes and summer classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art,” recalled Umbaugh, who started Clay Connection in Hiram.

Umbaugh, a former administrator who’s been an artist nearly 30 years, called herself a “production potter,” meaning she often makes duplicates of designs she’s created on bowls, mugs, saucers, sake sets and other items.

She uses a large wheel and kiln as well as medium- and high-fired stoneware clay, which is microwave, dishwasher and oven safe, Umbaugh noted.

Despite intermittent heavy showers Saturday afternoon, numerous people took their time enjoying the return of a wide variety of artists, performers and food. Among them were Anissa Perrin of Poland and her daughter, Gabbi Perrin.

“We’re just glad to be here. It’s nice to be out after COVID,” Anissa said.

Gabbi, who bought a glass-painted pumpkin and a mug, added both also are grateful to support local artists.

Neither the health crisis nor Saturday’s wet weather have deterred those in the festival from moving forward, Factor said.

“After two years, it’s so nice to see the artists bringing their crafts and artwork,” she added. “Artists are a very resilient bunch.”



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