Project will turn poems into sidewalk art

Thursday, February 1, 2018

By GUY D’ASTOLFO

dastolfo@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Excerpts of poems by four Ohio residents will be embossed into freshly poured concrete sidewalk squares in the downtown area this spring.

It’s part of the Words Made Visible project, a literary and visual-arts collaboration sponsored by Lit Youngstown.

The project will take center stage Saturday when a month-long exhibition of artwork, inspired by the written word, opens at Soap Gallery, 117 S. Champion St., downtown. An opening reception will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Contributing writers will read from their works included in the show at 3 p.m.

“Words Made Visible is a multifaceted project that bridges the visual and literary arts,” said Karen Schubert, Lit Youngstown’s director. “Our hope is to highlight the work of Ohio-affiliated writers and artists in both traditions and bring their work to a wider audience through public art.”

The project began last year when Lit Youngstown – a local writers group – issued a call to Ohio-affiliated writers for poems and prose. From the hundreds of submissions it received, a few dozen were chosen to be turned into works of visual art: posters, broadsides (poetry printed in an artful fashion) and sidewalk art.

Seventeen of those writers will attend Saturday’s reception and read from their works. They are:

Caitlyn Ryan, Cleveland; David Lee Garrison, Dayton; Dianne Borsenik, Elyria; Jeanne Bryner, Newton Falls; Jennifer Hambrick, Columbus; Juliet Cook, Medina; Kari Gunter-Seymour, Albany; Kayla Jeswald, Youngstown; Kerri Trautman, Findlay; Laura Grace Weldon, Litchfield; Mari Alschuler, Youngstown; Paula J. Lambert, Dublin; Robert Miltner, Canton; Steve Brightman, Akron; Robert Smith, Sandusky; Ari Sheik, Youngstown; and Jeffrey Murphy, Youngstown.

All of the visual artwork that will be on display at the exhibition was inspired by the written works.

The art includes poetry broadsides letterpressed by Jason Vaughn at The Cranky Pressman; posters created by graphic designer Laura A. Garvin; art created by Youngstown State University students under the supervision of Professors Chris McCullough and Dragana Crnjak; digital art by the students of YSU Professor Dana Sperry; and sculptural works by YSU Professor Missy McCormick’s students.

This spring, Words Made Visible will take on a more permanent presence in Youngstown, as excerpts of four poems from the selected writers will be stamped in downtown sidewalks.

The works were written by Bryner, Murphy, Garrison and Weldon. The stamps are being designed and created by Michael Staaf of Steel Valley Signs.

“We will be assigned sites by the city and will stamp the poems in right after the concrete is poured,” said Schubert. The locations have not yet been determined.

Schubert said similar projects have already been installed in sidewalks of other cities.

“The project has the green light from the [Youngstown] Design Review Committee, and now we are waiting for warmer weather,” she said.

Funding for the project includes a matching grant of $1,258 from the Ohio Arts Council.