Oakland plans expansion with Living Room

The Oakland Center the Arts wants folks to come visit its Living Room … and kick in a few bucks for its renovation.

The second floor of the Morley Arts Building, home to the community theater and Ballet Western Reserve for the last decade, is being transformed into an intimate performance space, The Oakland Living Room.

The project is being spearheaded by board member Jaye Mills, who said the board was interested in converting the space, which previously had been used for prop storage.

“The idea just kind of came to me, let’s do a performance space, but let’s do something different, vintage, comfortable,” Mills said.

The room will be able to accommodate about 75 people, and it could be used for everything from comedy shows and concerts to poetry readings and movie screenings.

“Anything too small for the main stage, we’re going to throw it on down there,” he said.

One outside group already is interested in using the space. Tommy Bruno, general manger for the Akron-based public radio station The Summit (which is simulcast in the Mahoning Valley on 90.7 WKTL-FM in Struthers), said he and his staff met with Mills last week.

“We did a tour of the facility and think it shows promise to showcase regional and national talent for our Summit members,” Bruno said.

The Summit has a studio at its Akron location where station members can see mini-concerts by touring artists. In recent years, such acts as The Civil Wars, Fitz & the Tantrums, G. Love and Red Wanting Blue have played Studio C sessions in Akron, and Bruno said the station would use its contacts in the music industry to bring acts to Youngstown for member concerts in the Living Room. And with The Summit recently signing an eight-year extension of its simulcast agreement with WKTL, the station is looking to do more outreach and events in the Warren-Youngstown area.

The space will be decorated with vintage furniture from Greyland Curiosities in downtown Youngs-town. That furniture also will be for sale, and the second-hand shop will rotate in new pieces when others are sold, Mills said. The room also will feature turntables with vinyl records and vintage console TVs playing older shows as a lounge for patrons to use before and after Oakland performances.

“It’s not your typical sports bar or coffee shop,” Mills said.

While the furniture is vintage, other expenses are required to transform it into a performance space, including the purchase of a PA system and stage lighting. The projected cost for phase one of the renovation is $2,200, and the Oakland board is trying to raise the money through an Internet campaign via indiegogo.com (search Oakland Living Room).

Organizers have until Monday to reach their fundraising goal.

If the drive is successful, Mills said they hope to open the space on April 26, but he said it was too early to announce what the first event would be.

“We have to make sure we’re able to hit that goal,” Mills said. “It will be a combination of different types of performances, maybe a comedian, maybe a band. We’d like to get someone high profile, but we’ll see.”