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Youngstown women drawn to art

YOUNGSTOWN — Heather Seno and Steph Blair of Youngstown, co-owners / gallerists at Art House on Elm in Youngstown, have been involved in art shows since college.

Throughout the years, they have been creating house shows around the area to expose the creative variety that Youngstown’s cultural art community has to offer. Seno and Blair then established an artist collective that traveled shows to various arts venues around Youngstown, which they did for about three years.

“Some of these shows displayed artwork of more than 50 artists in the area. Heather had experience due to being employed at the McDonough Museum of Art during college and gaining art handling and installation experience,” Blair said.

The experience of curating shows and showcasing area artists inspired Seno and Blair to open Art House On Elm in April 2021. Their intent was to draw attention to artists from the Youngstown area and provide them with a space to show a fully realized body of work.

Seno always has been a creative thinker who has been drawn to art and creating things. Throughout the years, Seno has engaged in drawing, printmaking, ceramics, photography and graphic design. She now works in fiber art.

“While in college, I was inspired to create large-scale printmaking work when I saw the work of Taryn McMahon when she installed a piece in the McDonough Museum of Art. It pushed me to think bigger and moved me into printed textile work. Currently, I am creating domestic objects from yarn, and I believe my influences are still printmakers, paper collage artists and painters. I create artwork because I don’t really know any other way to be. We are an arts family and even when we aren’t physically making work, we are always surrounded by it,” Seno said.

Seno said her parents are both from the Youngstown area and grew up in Liberty, and their families still live there. Seno attended Youngstown State University for printmaking / painting. She then completed her time there as an interdisciplinary artist, using a bit of every skill she had acquired for her final project.

“Art has always been something that relaxed me and calmed me down. During times of stress and anxiety, I often turn to creating work as a way to cope with these feelings. I do not have a favorite medium of art. Every time I learn something new, it becomes my favorite medium for a while, and I use that knowledge to create other pieces of artwork. Currently, I’m creating punch needle work with yarn ,” Seno said.

Blair started out in graphic design and attended Trumbull Career and Technical Center in high school for its graphic arts program. Along with her experience with graphic design, Blair also has had experience working in sculpture, ceramics, photography and printmaking.

“As a teen, I went to TCTC for graphic arts, and I went to YSU for art education and while there, I focused first in sculpture. I have always consumed art and wanted to know more about artists. My primary art influences are Andy Warhol, Thomas Campbell and David Carson. I feel like Heather inspires me to create, and the life we have is surrounded by artwork, artists and art shows. There are rarely moments when we are not working on our own artwork, conceptualizing future projects or critiquing pieces in progress,” Blair said.

Blair said that her father’s family is from the Youngstown area and her mother’s family is from Tennessee. One of Blair’s artistic inspirations was her mother’s creative nature.

“I grew up with my mom always making things for her business. She creates folk art pieces out of wood and metal, and I always helped her and learned how to use tools from that experience. I currently create my prints on wood panels that I frame myself. I think many of those skills come from this time period in my life,” Blair said.

For Blair, she said she does not view art as a creative outlet, but more of a lifestyle that is constantly happening around her.

“I love art in general, but I like photography and turning my photos into prints. Lately I have been creating still life visual art and photographing them to incorporate into my large scale screen-prints on wood. I think this mode of working allows me to use all of my skills to create a piece,” Blair said.

According to the women, what makes Art House on Elm unique to the area is its display and intimate layout. Art House on Elm hosts opening receptions the first Friday of every month featuring a new artist.

The gallery is located on the first floor of a house on Elm Street. Many artists, including Ronnie Levak, Robyn Maas ,Georgia Tambasis, Malorie Martin, Tony Armeni, Lynn Cardwell, Tracy Segreti, Stacy Rubinic, David Wheeler, James Shuttic, Van Hoang, Michael DeMarco and Gary Taneri, have shown their work at Art House on Elm, which also has hosted two group shows featuring about 25 artists each.

“Running Art House on Elm this year has been a rewarding experience. Artists and art lovers coming together around art and discussing art is always a great way to boost creative energy. We have a lot of skilled and talented artists working in the area right now ranging in age, educational background, and medium,” Seno said.

“We are working with a lot of the area galleries and art spaces to bridge the gap between Youngstown and Warren artists. Last year, we were part of an art hop that connected several galleries in Youngstown and Warren. We hope to continue more work like that this year. It’s a really great time to be creating here, watching our community expand and building new relationships.”

Art House on Elm will be closed during June so the pair can rest and recharge their creative spirits.

“Art shows will reconvene on July 1 with a group show featuring several area artists, and we will follow that in August with a show highlighting the artists behind the beer labels for Modern Methods Brewery,” Seno said.

news@vindy.com

To suggest a Saturday profile, contact Features Editor Burton Cole at bcole@tribtoday.com or Metro Editor Marly Reichert at mreichert@tribtoday.com.

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