In July 2019, Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel directed the University to engage Jennifer Cole, Chief of Staff at The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University, to conduct interviews and a general assessment of the region’s cultural and creative sectors to prepare for the creation of a new, organized cultural coalition. Cole conducted numerous in-person interviews and facility site visits with representatives of the arts and culture sector including nonprofit, university and for-profit leaders. Cole then benchmarked the Youngstown Area with other similar-sized communities around the country to complete a Cultural Asset Report and series of recommendations.
Based on her in-depth research, Cole found that Youngstown and its environs, a beautiful and active community with a rich history of industrial and manufacturing strength, has experienced a series of economic downturns leading to significant population decline and challenges to workforce retention, land use and economic vibrancy. But despite these difficulties, the community has maintained a strong arts and cultural heritage with world-class, historic venues, anchored by Youngstown State University’s Cliffe College of Creative Arts, home to the internationally renowned, Dana School of Music.
Specifically, the region has outstanding facilities for cultural participation, including a wide range of performance and event venues such as the Covelli Centre arena with a capacity of nearly 6000 seats, Ford Theater and Spotlight Arena at YSU, Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, Packard Music Hall, Youngstown Playhouse, Warren Community Amphitheatre, DeYor Performing Arts Center, Robins Theatre, Stambaugh Auditorium, and numerous other event spaces that play host to cultural and arts festivals throughout the year. These festivals highlight the strong, diverse and proud ethnic heritages of many who call the region home.
Based on Cole’s findings, YSU convened a group of community arts and culture leaders to begin planning for the creation of a collaborative, community coalition to determine how best to leverage these regional strengths and to amplify the positive cultural identity of the entire community. The group conducted additional research and interviews with groups around the country to look at best practices in supporting wide networks of organizations working to support, scale and amplify regional arts and culture.
In February, 2021, formal mission/vision statements and bylaws were adopted and the Cultural Alliance was born. In May 2021, the group received recognition from the Ohio Secretary of State as a nonprofit entity and is pursuing its federal tax-exempt certificate. YSU has agreed to provide administrative housing for The Cultural Alliance as it goes through this start-up phase of operations and planning.
Officially, the purpose of the Cultural Alliance is to collaborate in the coordination of diverse and exciting cultural offerings; promote an increase in public and private investments in cultural institutions and local artists; evaluate and facilitate opportunities for shared services and expenses; support policies that strengthen the power of artists, cultural organizations and related small businesses that will drive workforce development and economic resilience in the region; and promote and support initiatives to allow the region to evolve and thrive as a cultural destination for visitors and residents.
In short, the Cultural Alliance is designed to enrich the economic vitality and overall quality of life in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Come join us!