Center hosts local art, SOUP

YOUNGSTOWN – Local art, local food and a helping of grassroots support was on the plate Sunday evening at the inaugural Youngstown SOUP event and the coinciding Rust Belt Theater Company’s annual REpurposed Art Sale in the Calvin Center for the Arts.

Erica Speer, of Youngstown, was at the show selling the steampunk and gemstone jewelry pieces she makes with Sarah Friedenberger.

“I wanted to get into the art world, but it just wasn’t in the cards,” Speer said.

That was in 1993 when she was graduating from high school. About 14 years later, though, she hit her stride with the handmade jewelry pieces for Dream in Color.

“People would see the jewelry we made for ourselves and say, ‘Oh! Where’d you get that?'” Friedenberger said.

Several hundred people cycled through the show, according to organizer Robert Joki, who uses his creative recycling skills to create costumes for the Rust Belt Theater Company and jewelry pieces.

“It seems a shame for it to go to waste,” he said.

Cherry Robinson surveyed Mary Ann O’Leary’s handmade jewelry pieces with her granddaughter Ashanti Allen.

“I buy local whenever I can,” Robinson said.

The two women viewed the artwork before heading into the adjoining gymnasium for the first Youngstown SOUP event. About 120 people attended the microfunding dinner, for which $5 bought a bowl of soup and a vote for one of five community-enhancing projects presented.

“It started in Detroit in 2012 and was wildly successful, and then their were two events held in Warren that were our local inspiration,” Phil Kidd, member of the Youngstown SOUP committee said. “The goal is to raise money for grassroots organizations and to support local food.”

The event’s food was also donated, ensuring the $700 raised through ticket sales could go fully to the organization that won – The Mahoning Valley Circle of Friends, a project aimed at helping those with and without developmental disabilities to build the social skills necessary for forming friendships.

Michael Keller, who attended, said he believes supporting local organizations is vital.

“Because that’s where you derive your energy and inspiration. It’s where your pride is at,” he said.

Among the other presenters were the MORE Project, a tutoring program; the Crandall Park Project, a park revitalization effort; the Friends of the Mahoning River Riverfest, a children’s outdoor craft event; and Operation Learning Community Program, an early childhood initiative.

The next Youngstown SOUP will be held 7 p.m. July 27 at the Calvin Center. The next Warren SOUP will be held 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Mahoning Valley Hope Center, 3217 Surrey Road S.E., Warren. For both, tickets will be $5 at the door.