Something for Everyone at the Summer Festival of the Arts

By Frances Clause

Warm weather with clear skies made the 21st Annual Summer Festival of the Arts the perfect time to celebrate a dynamic weekend of visual and performing arts on Youngstown State University’s campus on July 13 and 14.

Diverse music and the smell of funnel cakes greeted approximately 13,000 visitors as they experienced the work of over 80 local, regional and national artists. 

Returning artists such as Ed Wentling of Bayou Blues Guitars has been selling his cigar box electric guitars for five years at the festival, with curiosity driving his inspiration.

“I was looking for parts for an old guitar I had on eBay, and this guy had a three-string cigar box guitar that he had a video of,” he said.

After watching the video, Wentling said he became amazed and had to make one for himself.

“The first one that I made still hangs on the wall at my house, and it was horrible,” he said. “But, that’s OK because I still had fun with it and gave the second one to my daughter.”

Photo by Frances Clause/The Jambar

Wentling said his desire to keep creating built on from that moment and that there is no goal for the sound of the guitars.

“Some of them are screechy, cranky and other ones are happy and mellow, and other ones scream like a banshee,” he said. “My goal is for them to sound how they want to sound.”

Along with returning artists, new artists and activities were a large part of this year’s festival.

Lori Factor, coordinator of the Summer Festival of the Arts, said the Student Art Association’s silent auction, an author’s tent stressing the importance of the literary arts and a pipe organ crawl were among the new additions.

Sean Baran, executive committee member for the American Guild of Organists’ Youngstown chapter, said bringing the pipe organ crawl to the festival was the perfect plan to raise awareness about the “King of Instruments.”

“What we really hope people learn is that pipe organs aren’t just church instruments, and that more people will take interest in them,” he said.

Photo by Frances Clause/The Jambar

Baran lead the tour to Youngstown’s three pipe organs, traveling to Bliss Recital Hall, St. John’s Episcopal Church, and St. Columba Cathedral.

Usually hidden behind the curtains of the Bliss Recital Hall stage, the sound of the pipe organ was enjoyed by the audience as they learned about the many mechanisms that comprise it.

“The organ is unique because one person can control an entire orchestra sound,” Baran said. “There is no other instrument where you really have that capacity that is a true acoustic instrument.”

From organ crawls to browsing vendors’ works and testing the wide range of food, Factor said her favorite part is the casual atmosphere.

“If we’re going to bring children up to appreciate art, then we have to give them venues that they can run around and they can be casual and they can create something,” she said. “We have all of that here.”

The expansion of festival weekend activities concluded at the new Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre with the Wine and Jazz Fest July 13 and a gospel concert July 14.