REA+CH

REA+CH is a residency program sponsoring Art + Community = Collaborations The residency program advances the role artists and community members play in addressing human and social issues in the Mahoning Valley. It functions as a think-tank for community development wherein artists, community representatives, experts and students benefit from an enriching exchange of ideas and skills.

2003 Whenever I see the Moon, Blake Cook
Blake Cook, a Cleveland, Ohio resident, was the first artist to participate in REA+CH, an artist in residence program that provides opportunities for abused, neglected, and dependent children in Mahoning County to work directly with artists both conceptually and physically. Blake received a BFA in Painting from Edinboro University and an MFA in Painting and Sculpture from Indiana University, both located in Pennsylvania. He is currently the Gallery Director at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland where he holds additional positions as Program Coordinator and Art Instructor. Blake works in various media such as painting and sculpture, and recently has been focusing on drawing, installation, and performance.

Blake’s piece, Whenever I See the Moon I’ll Think of You, was the major influencing factor during the program, as the children created moon-inspired works.  Specifically, Blake’s piece is a lament in three parts and is the artist’s response to the death of his mother.

He described their weekly visits as spontaneous and rewarding, “we would talk and/or engage in various art making activities, ranging from drawing to sculpting in plaster in preparation for the building of the final work.  The workshop was focused in such a way that the most intensive art making activities took place leading up to the closing reception for the exhibition. For the final activity, the students made portraits of someone they missed, which related to the theme of the show and resulted in very powerful works that were included as part of the exhibition.”

The two-month process of creating this installation was open to the public. Visitors to the Museum could view the various stages in progress and interact with the artist and the youths. When the piece was completed, we celebrated with a “closing reception” that was attended by over 200 people including friends and family of the youths who participated. One of the most memorable occurrences that evening was watching the youths give tours of the show to the visitors and sharing with them their experiences over the last two months.

The Ursuline Sisters’ Casa Madre Children’s Program is a facility on Youngstown’s South Side for children’s programming that offers support services such as tutoring, child advocacy, crisis intervention, life skills, and recreational activities.

2004 The Underground Railroad, Tony Armeni
The Underground Railroad Project was an Art + Community Collaboration with YSU’s History Department, the Western Reserve Historical Society, and the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library. The second REA+CH resident, Tony Armeni, worked together with these three entities and 20 inner-city youths to create their own freedom station within the walls of the McDonough Museum. They joined in the celebration of over 60 Freedom Stations throughout the United States that were identified by the new Freedom Center that opened in Cincinnati in 2004.

The two-month process of creating this installation was open to the public. Visitors to the Museum could view the various stages in progress and interact with the artist and the youths. When the piece was completed, we celebrated with a “closing reception” that was attended by over 200 people including friends and family of the youths who participated. One of the most memorable occurrences that evening was watching the youths give tours of the show to the visitors and sharing with them their experiences over the last two months.

2005 The Puppet Parade Project and Drum Circle
Boris Chesakov, Christina Veneron, Todd Greene and Nathan Douds
The Puppet Parade Project and Drum Circle were Art + Community Collaborations with YSU’s Department of Art, Dana School of Music and SMARTS. In the first have of this year’s residency program, 20 inner-city youths worked with sculptor Boris Chesakov and musician Christina Veneron to build wearable puppets that referenced junk foods and poor nutrition. They performed in a parade during the Summer Festival of the Arts and many of them took time out to converse with the crowd about the purpose of the parade. The second half of the residency was dedicated to music and performance. The kids were introduced to a wide range of percussive instruments and participated in a series of drum circles at the SMARTS Center. Musicians Todd Greene and Nathan Douds recorded the youth playing various instruments and reciting poems that they wrote during one of the sessions, with assistance from Christina Veneron. Douds mixed the recordings on a computer introducing the group to the various uses of technology in production.

The final product is a complex rap featuring the voices and musical performances of the youth. In addition to developing their creative skills through the program, the young participants continue to gain confidence and increase their overall social and communication skills.

2006 My People, Phyllis Wharton
Phyllis Wharton, professional photographer, and YSU photo graduate Angela Pandolph were our artists in residence this past summer for the Museum’s outreach program for inner-city youth. This was our fourth year of partnering with the Ursuline Sisters Ministry. The new program was entitled “My People: a Photo Exploration of Connectivity and Community.” Inspired by Langston Hughs poem, “My People,” the objective was to memorialize the people to whom the children felt particularly connected and who had meaning in their lives. Using the traditional medium of black and white photography, twenty youths were given their own camera and instructed in its use, methodology, and printing processes.

The final works were featured in an exhibition at the McDonough Museum, which opened during the Summer Festival of the Arts. The opening was attended by many of the friends and family that populated the images. It was easy to see the pride each of the participants took in not only having their images on display at the museum, but also being able to show their families the end product of their newly acquired skills. The success of this program was also evidenced in the images selected by the students. These tender and revealing portraits offered the public a view into their private, complex, and challenging young lives.