Valley arts, culture groups awarded $22K

Four Mahoning Valley arts and cultural organizations will receive more than $22,000 in federal funds to help with expenses during the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Trumbull County, the National Packard Museum received $9,959, and the Upton Association received $3,613. In Mahoning County, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society received $5,231, and Lit Youngstown received $3,800.

“We were so excited when we were awarded that grant,” Mary Ann Porinchak, executive director of the Packard museum, said. “It’s really going to help fill the gap of three months with absolutely no income.”

Basic overhead costs at the museum, not including salaries, are about $5,000 per month, she said. Insurance alone on the Warren museum and its collection of vintage Packard automobiles is $2,700 per quarter.

“Whatever bit may be left will be used for store items, things we are able to turn around into revenue,” Porinchak said. “There are things we ordered (before the pandemic) that we couldn’t pay for.”

The Upton Association also lost its revenue sources when stay-at-home directives were issued in March, said Upton Association past president Janet Schweitzer, who wrote the grant application.

“We had to cancel our moneymakers, renting the building for showers, receptions and things like that,” she said. “We had to cancel some of our luncheons and events, so we didn’t have that income. Meanwhile, utilities and the cost of keeping the place maintained continue.”

This was supposed to be a busy year for the Upton Association, which honors the life and legacy of Warren’s Harriet Taylor Upton, a leader in the women’s suffrage movement. She brought the headquarters of the National Women’s Suffrage Association to Warren in 1903, and the city hosted its national conference in 1904. This year marks the centennial of women getting the right to vote.

The Upton House will reopen for tours beginning Wednesday, and the organization is coordinating activities with other suffrage-related historical sites in the area through the website www.neohio suffrage.org.

The federal money was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which became law March 27, and is administered in the state by Ohio Humanities.

Dave Ragan, communications director for the MVHS, said the money will be used to improve its programming online, where the society has shifted the bulk of its programming since mid-March.

“We’ll purchase a digital camera and editing equipment to enhance how we put together presentations,” he said. “Right now we have very limited equipment, so this will be a huge help to us.

The Tyler History Center in downtown Youngstown will start its reopening process July 10, and the Arms Family Museum on Wick Avenue is slated to reopen Aug. 7. The new equipment and software will be valuable whether the physical sites are open or not.

“We will be able to edit into presentations other key information and video clips — things we couldn’t do before.”

Lit Youngstown will use its money to make up for events and fundraisers that were canceled.

In a press release last week, Lit Youngstown Treasurer Liz Hill said, “It was devastating to cancel readings, community projects, other events in a very busy spring, including a celebration of Walt Whitman and a party marking our first five years. … As Ohio Humanities Pat Williamson noted in the award letter, Ohio’s cultural organizations have survived crises in the past, and we will survive this, too.”


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