Category Archives: Ohio

Lit Youngstown Event Sparks Local Creativity

The community of Youngstown is still alive with creativity, as a recent Lit Youngstown event demonstrated. The organization’s April reading, dubbed “Five Funny Guys,” featured poetry readings from five writers and then an open mic session. The theme for the reading was comedy, in the spirit of April Fool’s Day.
Founded in January of 2015, Lit Youngstown is non-profit literary arts center, striving to engage the community with literary arts. They offer writing classes, as well as monthly readings, which are held the first Wednesday of each month and feature different writers.
“There is a long tradition of writing in Youngstown, from Michael McGovern, the ‘Puddler Poet’ to contemporary writers, presses and programs,” said founding director Karen Schubert. “Lit Youngstown will strive to create a space for writers to be heard, to improve their craft and to be in community with other writers.”
The event was held on April 1 at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts on Phelps Avenue. Liz Hill, one of three founding directors of Lit Youngstown, started the night off, welcoming the audience and introducing the guests.
For the first half of the evening, the “Five Funny Guys” each took a turn entertaining the audience, sharing poetry and prose. First, Jim Rogers read work from E. Hallaman, author of “Doctor Zhivago on Belmont Avenue.” Next, Roger Jones, founder of Fireline, Inc. and author of “I Get Caught up in Things.” Then, Youngstown State University professor Stephen Sniderman took a turn reading his poetry. Jim Villani and Bill Koch followed, also sharing some of their original writing.
Audience members then took the stage and read some of their own work. This month’s open mic session was moderated by Couri Johnson, president of YSU’s Student Literary Arts Association. Johnson is also the head editor of the SLAA magazine, Jenny, named after Youngstown’s historic Jeannette Blast Furnace.
In a recent report from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the YoungstownWarren-Boardman, Ohio-Pennsylvania region was rated as the least ideal place to live in the country. This is an auspicious title for a community that continues to struggle to reinvent itself in the face of deindustrialization. Can organizations that focus on the arts help to revive a notably downtrodden area?
Yes, says Johnson. “I think that Youngstown, being the city that it is, has a chance to develop intense and interesting stories. It is a unique area that has suffered a lot of hardship, but that also opens the doors for a lot of creative energy. Creative endeavors, producing something beautiful and sharing it with others, makes people feel validated. It makes wellness out of the
Jim Villani reads poetry to a crowd at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts.
unwell. So I think that getting involved with the arts, be they literary or other, will help people feel more connected to their area, to others, and to the world.”
According to Lit Youngstown founding directors Karen Schubert and Kris Harrington, creativity can help unite the community, and they want to contribute.
“We believe that writing fosters understanding between people,” said Harrington. “Sharing our words and our stories breaks down barriers, strengthening the common unity within the community. To this end, we plan to collaborate with other area arts non-profits as well as human services non-profits on both developing workshops and on community events.”
Lit Youngstown has a variety of workshops in spring, summer and fall that generally run six weeks and cost $25 for the whole session. Schubert adds, “One of our goals is to help support writers in the community, so 100% of the enrollment fee is given to the facilitator.”
Despite the recent bad press about the region, there may still be hope for Youngstown. Schubert thinks so.
“The arts are thriving in Youngstown, and contribute to quality of life as well as economic impact,” she said. “Think of the live music, galleries, public sculpture, two incredible art museums, as well as YSU programs in music, visual arts and creative writing.”
The next reading will be held May 7 and will feature Youngstown poet Nin Andrews reading from her new book “Why God is a Woman”, and the open mic will be moderated by urban farmer Sophia Buggs.