The visit of famed concert cellist Yo-Yo Ma is a big event for the Mahoning Valley. It’s the second stop of a major effort to see how the arts can improve communities around the country.
On Monday, he was the center of a community discussion in Warren on the arts.
“He’s all in,” Mayor Doug Franklin said. “He’s very engaging, he believes in helping the underserved communities and people who are struggling. It was a very emotional and productive gathering today.”
The idea was to see how culture can contribute to the community. Yo-Yo Ma is on a 36-city tour — Arts Across America — and spending a day in each town to start the conversation.
“He talked about the importance of the arts,” said Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Carla Baldwin. “People say all the time that children are geniuses from the age of 2 to 4. How come we’re not capitalizing on that?”
Artists and performers provided live entertainment and hands-on art exhibits Monday morning at Warren’s Quinby Park. There were also special art projects for the kids.
Two public art pieces were also unveiled. One was a bird bath and the other, a trellis. Both were commissioned by local artist Tony Armeni.
Material programs, such as feeding people and tearing down vacant homes, matter but the arts enhance how people feel about their community.
“What we’re trying to do is be part of a community-wide initiative to make it more user-friendly and used by more residents, frankly,” said Matt Martin, with the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.
The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. celebrates communities committed to using the arts to promote connection, a strong economy and increased cultural citizenship.
“There are common issues about using the arts as a way of finding a common language, a common space and we think that’s where the power lies,” said Robert Van Leer, with the Kennedy Center.
Yo-Yo Ma’s 6 p.m. performance at the Warren Community Amphitheatre is the highlight of the day’s activities. Ma will be joined by members of the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra and the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra. There is also some warm-up music, which starts at 5 p.m.