SOAP Celebrates Youngstown

By Gabrielle Fellows

The SOAP Gallery in downtown Youngstown is hosting a new exhibit titled “Celebrate Youngstown,” opening on June 3 from 6-9 p.m.

Daniel Rauschenbach, owner of The SOAP Gallery, said that this exhibit was meant to bring a fresh perspective to an otherwise overly negative perception of the city.

“It’s about 12 artists showing art that gives a positive reflection of Youngstown,” Rauschenbach said. “It’s not going to really be a nitty gritty, hard times exhibit. That’s every day around us, we already know. It shows the livelihood instead. It’s a good vibe art show.”

The exhibit will feature 12 different Youngstown artists ranging from the hard hitting, familiar local artists such as Tony Nicholas and, possibly, Chris Yambar to some fresh younger artists like Georgia Kasamias and Crystal Beiersdorfer.

“Celebrate Youngstown” features the work of multiple Youngstown photographers, one being David Pokrivnak. He recently had a show with painter Heather Anderson at the M Gallery titled “You Make Me.”

Pokrivnak is exhibiting four framed photography prints in the SOAP Gallery’s new show. He said his love and passion for Youngstown stems directly from his daughter.

“I want this area/region to be ready for her when she is older,” Pokrivnak said. “I want her to see creative and economic opportunity with no cap on her potential.”

His pieces don’t create a positive image of the city as much as they observe positive aspects of an otherwise unpleasantly perceived area Pokrivnak said.

“In some of the pieces, I tried to find unspoiled, un-tired frames of our city itself. I thought that if I could shoot something that looked like a new perspective, that it may disrupt feelings of staleness, complacency…” Pokrivnak said. “Unlike some artists in the area, I see our city as a living organism, not a crumbling monument of ‘what was.’”

RJ Thompson, an assistant professor of interactive and graphic design at Youngstown State University, is showing three posters he created for his “City of You” Youngstown rebranding campaign at the show.

Thompson said he got the inspiration for his work by being around ambitious Youngstown citizens, who seek to improve their community.

“I think what is really important to me is to expose all of the good changes people are doing on individual levels, be they large or small, and ultimately why these people are doing what they do,” Thompson said.

While Thompson lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he said he feels like a resident of Youngstown and feels a greater passion for Youngstown than he does for his current home.

He said the posters he’s displaying in “Celebrate Youngstown” are meant to inspire all of the city’s residents by sharing stories of locals who are going out of their way to improve the area.

Rauschenbach said that on the opening night of “Celebrate Youngstown” he encourages visitors to not only check out the exhibit, but also venture out into the downtown area to experience the other local events and businesses that offer local food, drinks and entertainment.

“We want to make sure people come downtown for fun. There will be vendors outside, food and shops like Grayland open,” Rauschenbach said. “There’s a taste and a culture to Youngstown and people need to get out and go see it.”