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Arts Council member takes tour, pleased with direction of city

May 24, 2023

Aug 5, 2023

ART CRAWL — Patrick Roehrenbeck, left, organizational programs coordinator for the Ohio Arts Council in Northeast Ohio, stopped to inspect one of the city’s painted catfish statue.-- Christopher Dacanay

STEUBENVILLE — An Ohio Arts Council representative who has helped multiple Steubenville groups with grant funding for the arts was thanked for his services with a tour of several downtown art hotspots on July 27.

Patrick Roehrenbeck, organizational programs coordinator for the Ohio Arts Council, was brought on a whirlwind sightseeing trip that transcended various art mediums and offered him a chance to speak with local persons of influence in regard to the arts.

Roehrenbeck said of the visit, “It was great to witness the work being done throughout the downtown area by arts and culture leaders and advocates to enhance the quality of life for the residents of Steubenville and Jefferson County.

“Whether it be the restoration of the Grand Theater or the events and activities produced by the Steubenville Cultural Trust, including those centered around Nutcracker Village and spaces along Fourth Street, visiting organizations and individuals we support is always energizing and encouraging, and my visit to Steubenville was a shining example of that.”

The arts council is described on its website as “a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically.” As a member of the council, Roehrenbeck said he oversees the Northeast Ohio district, where he serves as a resource for nonprofits to help them “throughout the OAC grant application, award and reporting process.”

Roehrenbeck had the opportunity to see the city’s catfish displays, stopping at times to take pictures of them. He also spoke with Judy Schmidt, president of the Steubenville Art Association, and Judy Bratten, director of Historic Fort Steuben and the Steubenville Visitors Center, about their respective organizations and their projects.

Schmidt greeted Roehrenbeck upon his arrival at Historic Fort Steuben. Waiting for him there was a curated exhibit of works from the SAA, which accepts members of any art medium.

Schmidt said the association — a nonprofit that hosts art shows spotlighting local artists — received a $3,024 grant from the OAC’s ArtSTART program, money that will fund projects through June 30.

This was the second grant the SAA has received from the OAC, Schmidt said, with the first being a $2,500 grant from the Fund Every County Initiative. The OAC’s website says the initiative “is designed to support projects in 31 previously unfunded Ohio counties in the arts and/or arts education in a variety of ways,” including arts activities at local festivals.

“With this grant money,” Schmidt said, “the SAA plans to get more involved with the communities and their fundraisers to benefit the local nonprofits. We’ll be holding art shows, workshops, paint-n-sips, art sales and several other visual arts-type activities to help others meet their goal.”

Schmidt said the SAA is grateful for Gov. Mike DeWine; state Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction; and state Rep. Ron Ferguson, R-Wintersville, and their support for the arts in Jefferson County. She also extended “big thanks” to Roehrenbeck for his assistance with the grant application process.

Bratten said of Roehrenbeck’s visit, “We are truly grateful that Patrick has taken an interest in helping develop the arts in our area through the Ohio Arts Council. We hadn’t realized what funding and support is available until he came and spoke with us about opportunities last year.”

Bratten said the OAC has funded projects at the fort, including Christmas at the Fort and the 2023 Summer Concert Series. Additional discussions regarded possible funding to further Steubenville’s title as the City of Murals.

Bratten said the visitors center would like to see funding for a new mural portraying the Lewis and Clark expedition, as Steubenville is historically recognized as a location visited by Meriweather Lewis during his preparation for the journey. Funding also would contribute toward creating a guide booklet for the city’s murals, which she said are a major attraction.

Additionally, Bratten said, a new source of revenue to fund maintenance of the murals is needed since a portion of the city’s lodging tax revenue — part of which pays to maintain the murals — was lost when the Sleep Inn and Suites was purchased by Franciscan University of Steubenville on July 21.

“We look forward to seeing the OAC help other organizations and artists in the area as we continue to recreate Steubenville as a cultural center,” Bratten said.

Roehrenbeck said, “The arts are crucial to a community’s vitality. Engagement in the arts creates an authentic shared identity, fostering a lasting sense of place and state and local pride. Ohio Arts Council looks to investment in creative capital that flows throughout Ohio’s communities.”

The arts are a significant driver of the economy, Roehrenbeck said. He added the arts are “one of our state’s greatest selling points” because they increase tourism, attract new businesses with a skilled workforce, create more revenue from taxes and generate and keep jobs.

Roehrenbeck wa sable to take a tour of the Grand, which was led by Scott Dressel, chairman and president of the Steubenville Historic Landmarks Foundation.

Dressel showed Roehrenbeck around the lobby, mezzanine, seating area and ballroom of the former vaudeville theater on Fourth Street, which Dressel said would be complete and open in roughly two years if the remaining $6 million to $7 million in funding can be obtained.

Even with the theater undergoing renovations, Roehrenbeck called the building impressive and said, “Once this is done, it’s going to be a shining example of what you can do (in Steubenville.)” Roehrenbeck also met with Mark and Gretchen Nelson, president and vice president of the Steubenville Cultural Trust, a nonprofit centered on developing Steubenville’s cultural district.

The Nelsons brought Roehrenbeck through Drosselmeyer’s Nutcracker Shoppe and a separate storage location, where Roehrenbeck was able to see a portion of the Steubenville Nutcracker Village’s more than 200 human-sized nutcrackers.

Roehrenbeck, who said he loves nutcrackers because of his mother’s appreciation for them, recalled his first visit to Steubenville, when he met Mayor Jerry Barilla by chance at the visitors center. The two began talking about the best methods to revitalize Rust Belt communities.

“It’s not praying that the coal mines or steel mills come back,” Roehrenbeck said. “It’s arts, culture (and) that hospitality service industry that really brings it back, and you (the Nelsons) are proof of it. It’s the creativeness of stuff like (the nutcracker village) that is bringing people back.” Gretchen Nelson said the cultural trust first became involved with the OAC after the former had achieved nonprofit status in 2021, opening it up to grant applications through the efforts of the Nelsons’ daughter, Therese Fedoryka.

Fedoryka, who now lives in Front Royal, Va., and does work for the cultural trust, said she connected with Roehrenbeck in February. She said he was instrumental in the grant application process, helping the trust obtain in June a $5,000 ArtsRISE grant to pay for the catfish statues and reimburse their artists, and a roughly $4,000 ArtSTART grant to help fund the trust’s fall and spring exhibition series.

“It’s important to (the OAC) that the support is going to those who need it and that are doing great work,” Roehrenbeck said to the Nelsons during the tour.

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