Youngstown’s Creative Launchpad

By Mary Rodack
Jambar Contributor

Youngstown’s Joseph Napier, Michael Cotton and Autumn Ellis want to make Youngstown’s art and cultural scene rival that of New York, Charlotte and Los Angeles. They hope to accomplish this through their group, the Youngstown Creative Collective.

The Youngstown Creative Collective began with the purpose of acknowledging creatives’ gifts in 2017, according to its founder, Napier. Two years later, the collective now networks and helps other creatives showcase their abilities.

“We really wanted to find ways to invest in the people we knew, and find ways to help them. We wanted to invest in the community around them,” Napier said.

Another member of the YCC, Cotton, said Napier and the organization gave him a thirst for trying new artistic forms and serving the community with his many talents.  

Cotton said the YCC has a spot for everyone, and the group centers around support and love.

“It’s all about what we love to do and helping others,” he said. “It’s pretty much about giving back.”

Ellis, an author and painter in the collective, said the group wants all creatives in all career fields to feel welcome in the organization. Jobs not typically associated with creativity such as entrepreneurs and caterers, are welcome to join the group.

“It’s bringing people together,” Ellis said. “They can be open and be themselves.”

“We push the culture. It’s a platform of freedom where there is no judgement,” Cotton said.

Ellis said people can join the collective if they appreciate the arts or need someone creative to work for them.

“It’s a networking collective, as well,” she said.

Napier said the collective is currently working on creating a directory of everyone involved so people can look through to find the talent and artists they need for work or events.

Ellis said many creatives tend to work in isolation, but working with a collective helps the creative process.

“It really nourishes your own creativity and brings that out … You get to bounce your ideas off them and get feedback,” Ellis said.

Napier said students at Youngstown State University can get involved with the collective by presenting their ideas, volunteering at events or collaborating with projects. Ellis added the collective helps promoting other creative’s events and do not just focus on their own projects.

“Right now, [Youngstown Creative Collective’s] purpose is like a launchpad. Youngstown is a small city and resources are limited,” Napier said. “If we come together, we can share each other’s resources collectively.”

Napier said although Youngstown’s art scene might seem small today, it has the potential to grow into a hub for creatives. He explained many talented artists from Youngstown become successful in major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Napier said he hopes with the collective creating more artistic opportunities, successful creatives will feel like Youngstown could be called home.

“We educate. We reinvest. We empower,” Napier said.

YCC is not incorporated, so it cannot take cash donations. Ellis said it welcomes people who would like to donate venues or buildings for events, sponsors or food.

“I don’t do it because I want to make a profit from it,” Ellis said.

All events and projects are funded out of pocket by members.

Napier said the collective would like to pass down a better art culture in Youngstown to younger generations and hopes to make connections with such local schools as YSU.

“We don’t appreciate how the arts make a city,” Ellis said. “It creates beauty.”

To join the Youngstown Creative Collective, contact the group via email or fill out the application on the YCC’s website and through Instagram. Cotton said to apply to the collective, a talent is the only requirement.
Napier said the best way to reach the collective is through its social media pages. Instagram and Facebook accounts can be found under the handle @theyoungstowncc. Interested parties can also contact the group through [email protected] or (330) 397-8097.