By Zach Mosca
Lit Youngstown teamed up with Youngstown State University this semester to offer a class where students paint a commemorative mural on Andrews Avenue. This mural is dedicated to the city’s history and the memories of its residents.
Art professor Dragana Crnjak is in charge of the =mural and site-specific painting class, and she oversees the project. Crnjak said she got ideas from many different local organizations and lifelong Youngstown city residents.
“It’s truly a community project. Students really worked with a lot of different community members,” Crnjak said.
One unique aspect of this mural is the major influence the people of Youngstown have on it. Rather than simply going with the history of the town itself, business owners and residents are encouraged to submit their stories to make the mural truly a reflection of the residents.
Karen Schubert of Lit Youngstown said this mural captures all generations of Youngstown, offering a wide variety of memories and perspectives on the city.
“We wanted to hear from all generations: those who remember a thriving, bustling downtown and those who grew up during the emptying out. Part of the idea is that we are disconnected from a mythic past and are struggling to conceptualize a future, and memory is a critical element in this identity,” Schubert said.
According to junior interdisciplinary arts major, Lauren Linger, one notable memory submitted for the mural was of the Strouss building, an old department store chain from Youngstown which operated from 1875-1986.
“We had a lot of people who wrote about how they enjoyed going to the Strouss building to meet people and to talk, and I think that was just one of the really big memories,” Linger said.
Another student working on the mural, senior media communications major Chloe Miklos, said she’s glad to help create this mural for the community and have the opportunity to be involved with such a big project.
“I’ve always wanted to be part of a big mural installation, so it’s kind of just awesome to get to work on something that the community can enjoy,” Miklos said.
Crnjak said she’s very impressed with the hard work and dedication of her students. Some even worked after-hours without complaints.
“Sometimes we would have long days and get really tired or frustrated with something that’s not going as planned. But just getting energy from students back, and their enthusiasm and readiness to work over the class time … has been really, really fulfilling,” Crnjak said.
This project will not be complete in just one semester. Crnjak said she plans to continue to offer this class to fill in the gaps in the mural unable to be completed this semester. She also said students are proposing ideas for future murals as well.
“Students are now starting to develop their own individual proposals for murals. They’re learning all the steps to develop and build professional, meaningful proposals,” Crnjak said.
With the community submitting so many memories for this mural, this project will bring the past and present generations of Youngstown together.