Ah! The english language – the first subject that I was involved with in school that I excelled at… but also probably one of the worst subjects I was involved with. Unlike many other languages that have a basic format that can be used time and time again and make perfect sense, English continues to confuse people and students alike. In many circumstances, there are different spellings for the same place or thing (grey vs gray, disc vs. disk, ax vs. axe, etc.). For theater (or is it theatre), there are two spellings, but what are the rules when using them? Continue reading
by Colleen Cook
As a graduate student studying arts administration, one of my professors posed a question that has stuck with me ever since:
“Why do the arts matter?”
The professor argued that, if we couldn’t answer that question, we should change our degree track. Every day of our professional life, we’d be answering that question in one way or another, whether we were seeking funding for a program, trying to sell a ticket to a show, or simply sacrificing higher pay in Corporate America for a meager non-profit salary. Yet, despite the fact that everyone in the room had been engaged with the arts for decades, the question is not exactly an easy one to answer.
Many of the students began to answer by sharing our own experiences with the arts. The spoke of high school musicals, favorite pieces, art shows, and friendships formed as a result of creating art together. Nearly every person shared a memory of a relationship formed through the creation or experience of art.
As we drilled down beyond “why do the arts matter to me?” the conversation turned to, “why should the arts matter to anyone else?” The conversation revolved around the economic benefits of the presence of arts in a community, what the arts can do to support education, healthcare, tourism, and business. Every one of those conversations felt like it gave greater weight to the conversation, however, it still seemed incomplete.
Here’s why I believe the arts matter:
The arts are unique in their ability to put us in touch with our own humanity, and the humanity of others. Because the arts communicate through story, and the human brain is hardwired for story, we are able to learn and grow when we experience art – be it visual, dance, music, theatre, or writing. The arts have the power to change what we think, how we feel, and lend us a perspective outside of our own paradigm.
When we experience these paradigm shifts, we applaud it and we eagerly share that experience with those we love. (“You have to read this book/see this movie/get tickets to this play!”) The arts offer us a point of connection to those around us, a sense of belonging, and a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. In a divided world, the arts knit us back together.
That’s something worth sacrificing for, worth tirelessly working towards, worth investing in.
Colleen Cook had no plans to leave the Renaissance Theatre.
After being on staff for six years and serving as the theatre’s director of marketing and communications, it was – and still is – a job she loves. Along with planning and overseeing all promotion of the Renaissance, Cook also manages the Renaissance podcast, blog and social media accounts.
So when Scott Williams, president and founder of Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, first approached Cook about a job, she quickly shut him down.
“I told him to buzz off because I like my job,” Cook said with a laugh. “But as time went on it seemed like a really cool, exciting opportunity.”
Months went by, full of thoughtful conversations with friends, prayers for guidance and many journals full of pros and cons. Finally, Cook decided to listen to a small voice inside saying it was the right opportunity, and officially accepted a position as director of operations for Vinyl Marketing.
“I don’t think it’s good to get too comfortable in your career, and at the same time I’m grieving that level of familiarity and comfort,” Cook said. “And there are exciting opportunities for growth for me as a professional.
“I feel like it’s going to challenge me in new ways and that scares me and excites me.”
Vinyl Marketing is a digital inbound marketing firm based in Ashland that focuses on full-funnel marketing. It’s a concept that distributes helpful and free content to consumers while they are still deciding what to buy, then building a series of channels that seamlessly attracts those consumers back to the business.
“You can take people from not even knowing your business through this funnel until they become raving fans of your company,” Cook explained. “Rather than saying ‘buy our stuff’ from that first interaction, we show you what we can do. It helps the client but also positions the business as the expert so they start to build a relationship with their customers.”
In fact, it was Williams’ suggestion for the Renaissance to create a podcast and a blog so that customers could engage with the Renaissance brand in ways other than purchasing tickets and attending shows.
In her new position, Cook will work with both local and international clients to see their vision with Vinyl comes to fruition, as well as working internally with the Vinyl team and leading marketing efforts.
In addition, she has the opportunity to become a part-owner of Vinyl Marketing, which also helped tip the scales towards her next career step.
“When I look at the people who really inspire me, all of them have one thing in common, and that’s that they are business owners,” Cook said. “And looking at what they have been able to do for a community to affect change, I want to be able to do that in my career.
“I’ve been able to do that a lot at the Renaissance, but I’ll be able to do it exponentially more.”
Before coming to the Renaissance, Cook worked with Americans for the Arts and Shenandoah Conservatory Performances while obtaining her masters degree in Arts Administration at Shenandoah Conservatory, where she also completed graduate work in Contemporary Commercial Voice Pedagogy. Prior to that, she taught vocal and general music in Wapakoneta City Schools, after graduating with a degree in Music Education from Ashland University in 2007.
Cook lives in Ashland with her husband and three daughters, which makes the transition seamless. But she still plans to stay involved in some capacity with Richland County.
“It would make me sad if I didn’t; I’m just not sure what that will look like yet,” Cook said. “We’ll figure it out as we go. The Renaissance is no less important to me, it’s maybe even more important to me now because I want to make sure things continue to grow and move forward.”
Cook will officially leave her position at the Renaissance in mid May. During her tenure, Cook helped arrange grant funding to repair and renovate the theatre, helped redesign the Renaissance logo and developed a more cohesive brand for the business.
The hardest part about leaving the Renaissance? The people.
“I have really close friends here on staff, and I love the donors, the performers, I love the people that flock to the Renaissance,” Cook said. “Those are my people. It will be hard to say goodbye.”
by Colleen Cook
When I was in graduate school, I was fortunate to take an intensive course on fundraising for non-profit organizations. I distinctly remember one lecture, in particular, where my professor was unpacking the various reasons why someone chooses to give to an organization. At the time, my husband and I were living in a studio apartment an hour from D.C. on one meager income while I was a full time graduate student, so it was understandably hard for me to wrap my mind around being successful enough that paying the bills wasn’t a big challenge.
“When a person has reached a certain level of success in their personal and professional life, they are no longer just surviving, they’re thriving,” the professor taught. “They’re looking for ways they can positively impact the world around them.”
Admittedly, I’m further down the road than I was at the time, but with three small children at home, I wouldn’t say I’ve “made it” yet. But, I have been so fortunate to learn from many people further down the road than me in the past six years I’ve been on staff at the Ren.
When a person is successful and can look around their world and assess that they have what they need and what they want, they have the privilege to ask themselves, “Now what?” They have been fortunate to have time, talents, and treasures, more than they can use in one lifetime, they can overflow into the world around them. That might mean that they pour into their families, into an individual protégé, a charity, or perhaps they choose to share their success in a meaningful way with their community.
In just the last couple of years at the Renaissance, we’ve been able to witness successful individuals, families, and their designated foundations making a significant impact inside our doors. Just a few things that have happened as a direct result of donations:
- We’ve been able to offer sensory-friendly musicals at no cost to families with special needs.
- We have been able to repair, replace, and restore crumbling parts of our facility, shoring it up for the next generation to ensure that the Renaissance can continue to be a cultural hub.
- We are drastically expanding our footprint to remove blight on our block and expand our programming, with the purchase of two buildings adjacent to our theatre.
- We have offered reduced-priced tickets to every show in our season, free tickets for those in need, and supported dozens of community fundraisers with ticket donations
If you’re looking for ways to make a lasting impact on your community, connect with our Development Office and we can help you channel your success into significance.
This blog is written reposted from Richland Source’s Rising from Rust: SXSW series, and was written by Chelsie Thompson, our organization’s President and one of 15 individuals attending the South By Southwest Conference in Austin with the intention to bring back ideas and to reimagine Richland County. To read more SXSW blogs, click here.
On more than one occasion, I’ve made the mistake of telling my boss that I value professional development more than anything else in a job… and then have had to quickly walk back that statement to make sure he knows I like getting paid, too. But it’s true — I love learning, and for someone who values it so much, this week in Texas at South by Southwest has been the experience of a lifetime.
We started our journey at SXSW as fifteen (mostly) strangers. Every one of these incredible Mansfielders brought something different to the group, and having the chance to get to know them all has only made me admire them more. We’re leaving as friends, comrades who survived the trenches of SXSW, with a shared vision and purpose for the work ahead. We’ve heard from speakers from around the world, celebrities to federal officials to multi-million dollar marketers, and there is so much to bring back to our home city from each of them.
In six days, I tackled nearly two dozen of SXSW’s most promising sessions, and remarkably, every single one somehow touched on a common theme: the cities that are successful throughout the world are the ones that are minimizing the differences that separate them and embracing their shared humanity instead. They ask questions, listen to every voice and involve their citizens in the action. Take these comments from chef and “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern on the experience of his addiction in early life and how it shaped this perspective for him personally.
“I had to go to places to sleep at night, I had to go places to get meals because I was living on the street. I was the guy you crossed the street to avoid,” he said.
“After getting back on my feet and cooking as a nobody in restaurants, I kept feeling like I had to find a way to teach the world about patience, tolerance and understanding because I kept noticing throughout each restaurant that the way people talked about culture was only in terms of the ways that we were divided… In listening, one gains an understanding of the world. We all have to think about ourselves and how we fit into this, but the minute we get out if our heads and ask more questions, it’s a powerful experience.”
In everything he said, both Zimmern and his co-panelist, fellow chef José Andrés, emphasized respect for our fellow human beings. So often, we believe that we know what’s best for others, and without stopping to listen to what people actually want or need, we implement our solution. Andrés cited his trip to Haiti to aid after the 2010 earthquake.
“Beans, beans, everything there is black beans and that’s all we had. I thought, how terrible, there’s only beans, and this village hasn’t eaten in days. So I added rice, and gave them this bean and rice dish,” he said. “When I’m serving the stew I made, they all gathered around the translator… What do they want to tell me? That the beans are no good. It turns out they like their beans like a purée.”
In Andrés’s words, “It’s not helping when people impose what they think you need,” yet the loudest voices are often those who haven’t stopped to listen.
In a keynote with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, I learned about how the moral arc of a city bends towards chaos, not justice, and how social media has made it too easy to spread negativity far and wide. Whether they admit it or not, people say things that they wouldn’t otherwise say to someone directly under the guise of “honesty” without thought of respect. For those that hide behind this, there may never be change — and that’s okay — because their voices become minimized when the rest of the community comes together. But for those brave enough to step out from under this cloak of anonymity and participate in dialogue that is open and well-intentioned, they play a part in a larger cause, one that has the potential to impact tens of thousands in the place that they call home.
Ira Glass said, “Every good story has forward momentum of events.” This is our opportunity to be part of that momentum, to have a voice in our future, to step out of the negativity that has pervaded Mansfield for too long, and to propel the city forward. Our city has a story to tell, and this is just the beginning.”
With an eye to the future and a commitment to the present, the Renaissance Performing Arts Association is undertaking a reorganization in leadership intended to set the stage for a second century of providing arts, education and entertainment to Mansfield and surrounding communities.
Michael Miller, who has served as the Renaissance Performing Arts Association’s President and CEO since 2010, will become the CEO of the non-profit organization effective March 1. Miller will represent the organization in the community and focus on broadening the base of support for the Renaissance.
Responsibility for day-to-day operations of the Renaissance will shift to Chelsie Thompson, who has been on staff at the Renaissance since 2010 and most recently served as Executive Director. Thompson has been promoted to President of the Renaissance Performing Arts Association and will lead the staff in its continuing efforts to provide meaningful arts, entertainment, and educational experiences for the North Central Ohio region and beyond.
Miller stated, “As we just celebrated our 90th Anniversary, this restructuring will allow me to concentrate on locking in the support and resources we will need as we strive to achieve our vision. I have full confidence in Chelsie’s leadership of the staff and operations of the Renaissance and am excited to see the Renaissance further live into its vision.”
“I am thrilled to accept this new assignment, but at the same time humbled by the trust and support of the Renaissance Board in making this change,” said Thompson. “I believe that my education and experience, as well as my passion for the performing arts, all combine to prepare me for this opportunity,” she continued. ”We have a lot of work to do, but I believe that our outstanding staff is ready to take us to the next level.”
Rand Smith, President of the Renaissance Board of Directors, added, “It’s unusual for an organization of our size to have two such talented and capable leaders. Our Board members fully support Mike and Chelsie in their new assignments and will work closely with them to secure our future.”
Whether you’re celebrating with your friends or with a significant other, the week of Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a lonely hearts club. Mansfield is packed with great options for a fun night out, especially if you’re looking for something creative. Audra and Colleen have programmed two great evenings for you to spend out this Valentine’s Day Weekend!
Audra’s Night Out
When my friends and I first got our driver’s licenses, we thought the only place to have fun in this area was in Ontario. Cinemark, Target and Menchie’s took over our lives until we realized that downtown Mansfield had copious amounts of joy and fun to offer.
Some of our favorite memories in recent months are full of hours spent downtown. We have so much fun exploring all Mansfield has to offer us. Here’s my suggestion for an awesome “Galentine’s Day” out with your girlfriends:
Shopping at Old Soul Vintage Attire and Records
One of my new favorite places downtown is Old Soul Vintage Attire and Records. The store just celebrated its one year anniversary and their selection is remarkable. When you first walk in the door, a selection of rings, bracelets and necklaces are on your left. As your walk further into the store, you see vintage attire on your left and records on your right. Both types of items range in price, but are quality and fun to sift through. My friends and I rave about this place and have all purchased shirts and records from it. I have even given a few items as gifts!
Dinner at City Grille
My love for flat bread pizza intensified after my first visit to City Grille and Bar. A restaurant specializing in American cuisine, the menu is diverse and absolutely phenomenal. I am partial to the spinach and bruschetta flatbread, as well as the fried pickles, spinach artichoke dip and the veggie wrap. The environment is filled with great music and enough room for medium sized groups. Grab your girls and go try their daily food and drink specials.
Ice Cream at The Chill
Now I know its winter but, but I sure do love ice cream no matter what the temperature is outside and Valentine’s Day is all about chocolate and sweets. The Chill, an ice cream parlor downtown near Richland Academy of Arts, opened last summer and offers a wide variety of ice cream treats in a modern venue, as it is adjacent to owner Tara Beaire’s floral shop. The ice cream served is Toft’s and I enjoy just a plain mint chocolate chip ice cream cone. Speciality treats are also on the menu, which makes the shop worth it to check out any time of year.
Show at The Renaissance Theatre
Our 90-year-old theatre is the perfect place to laugh, cry and sing with friends who mean so much to you. I have done it a time or two and I will never regret it. Our goal is make sure the Renaissance is a place for those in our community to come together in the spirits of friendship and solidarity for all things art. Our schedule is packed with thrilling, hilarious and heart-warming events to end our season so reserve a seat for a show today and make sure your friends do the same.
Drinks at Martini’s on Main
Those at Martini’s on Main are passionate about giving those who walk through their doors the best experience possible. They are passionate about what they do and offer expertise on what drink will suit you best, and no, they do not only serve martinis. Other offerings include bottled beer, craft beer, mixed drinks options, liquor and wine. The atmosphere is also enjoyable with live music and pizza options that are unique to the establishment itself.
Colleen’s Night Out
When my husband and I were dating as Ashland University students, we had no idea how many fun things Mansfield had to offer. Many of our early date nights were spent browsing the shelves at Barnes and Noble and eating Chipotle – which was lovely and is still something we enjoy doing on occasion, but a far cry from taking advantage of the more unique options available to us in our area.
Some of our favorite nights out in Mansfield in recent years have included evenings spent at some of the locally-owned places that make our region so unique. Here’s my suggestion for an awesome Valentine’s Day night out:
Dinner at Saffron Indian Cuisine
I am more than a little obsessed with Saffron – their food is spectacular, and their owners are delightful. I’m a little timid when it comes to spicy food, but that’s never been a problem there. The owners are incredible chefs who have a good sense of what level of spice appeals to people in our region, and can always dial up the heat if that’s your thing. I recommend the Palak Paneer or the Lamb Saag, but everything’s incredible. Be sure to get dessert and order Gulab Jamun!
Wine Tasting at Cypress Hill
Mansfield and its surrounding regions have some pretty spectacular options when it comes to wine and ale – we even have our own Wine and Ale Trail! One of my favorite cozy spots is Cypress Hill Winery on 4th Street in Downtown Mansfield. The wine is outstanding, the owners are knowledgable, and the ambiance of the location is just right for a romantic night out for two. I’m a particular fan of Cypress’ Dry Riesling, if you like a semi-sweet white wine.
One of the most fun dates my husband and I have gone on in the past few years has been to do an escape room together. These interactive experiences range from spooky to silly as they put you into a live-action game in which you have to search for clues and solve puzzles to find the way out of a scenario. There are several great options in our area, and more are always popping up. We have successfully completed and thoroughly enjoyed the rooms at Exithis and Masterminds.
Drinks at Phoenix
Phoenix Brewing Company is one of our absolute favorite options for a good beer and great environment. They frequently have live music, the beer selection is outstanding, and the beautifully restored space is top notch. Their beer selection rotates seasonally, but we like the Pale Ale 419.
The Renaissance is celebrating a pretty big anniversary this season. In January 2018, the Renaissance Theatre (originally named the Ohio Theatre) will turn 90 years old!
To commemorate the occasion, we’ve partnered up with Mansfield’s favorite vintner, Rick Taylor at Cypress Cellars, to create two exclusive wines: the Renaissance Red and the Renaissance White.
The Renaissance Red is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and sirah. “It’s a dry red with fruit forward,” says Taylor. The Renaissance White is a chardonnay which has been barrel fermented giving it a light oaky, but not overwhelming flavor.
Each wine will be sold at the Renaissance during all shows (except Sundays) by the glass for $6.
Individuals wishing to purchase either wine by the bottle can do so at Cypress Cellars. Renaissance Red is $17/bottle and Renaissance White is $16/bottle.
by Colleen Cook
A performing arts center has a high need for great graphic design. Our product, shows, is constantly changing as we move through the year and a great deal of our marketing is visual. That makes it important to work with a skilled designer who understands the message and the performing arts. At the Renaissance, we’ve been lucky to work with tremendously talented graphic designers both on our staff and contracted out over the years to tell our visual story and promote our shows.
Our Assistant Marketing Director and Graphic Designer on staff is Steven Au. Steven is very good at what he does (and I’m his boss, so I know better than most how true that is!) and is uniquely qualified for his position because he grew up as a musician in our Youth Strings and Youth Orchestra programs.
Nearly every visual thing you see from the Renaissance has come from Steven’s desk, and we’re better for it. I sat down with Steven to learn more about his path to the graphic design field. Here’s our interview:
Colleen Cook: What inspired you to become a graphic designer?
Steven Au: Part of it was my older brother, he was actually involved in graphic design and got the same degree in school that I ended up pursuing. Also, in high school I gained an interest in graphic design from taking graphic arts and photoshop classes. I had a light up tracing table and did a lot of tracing as a kid, and played around with design in Powerpoint too.
CC: You mentioned that you took some graphic design courses in high school. Tell us about your collegiate training.
SA: I graduated from a 2-year program at North Central State College, an Associate’s in Visual Communications and Media Technology. My main track was based on graphic design but also involved some video production, animation, and web design. I also interned at the Renaissance as part of the program, which is how I landed my job.
CC: Do you see graphic design as an artistic expression?
SA: I think it definitely can be. I can be a little obsessive about getting details right. I like the ability to look at the current design trends and use that as inspiration for the Ren’s marketing materials.
CC: What do you enjoy most about your job, and what do you enjoy least or find challenging?
SA: I like being able to design things that I see in places, like on a billboard, that I never would have seen something I created before. I don’t enjoy doing direct mail, and I also find it a little tedious to rework a design for multiple formats. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship with retooling a design. Sometimes it’s really easy to do that, and it can be nice to not have to create something from scratch every time.
CC: How do you engage with the arts outside of your day job?
SA: I am very involved with music outside of work. I also do a limited amount of graphic design for our church. I’m a violinist and I sub with the Mansfield Symphony, and enjoy recording and making videos for my YouTube channel, and I sing with a choral group at church and I also arrange music for our choir, as well as accompany.
If you’d like to learn more about our internship opportunities, keep an eye on our employment page where we frequently post internship opportunities.
Attending the recent Social Theory, Politics and the Arts conference in Minneapolis reminded me just how rich and diverse is the field of arts management and cultural policy. I met with teachers, researchers and graduate students from all over the globe who came together under the conference theme “Creative Disruption in the Arts.” There were presentations on cultural entrepreneurship, cultural planning, museum management and policy, the professionalization of careers in the arts, international cultural relations, and on and on. It’s an exciting and intellectually nourishing time to be engaged with this field. And it is wide open for emerging professionals and leaders in the arts. As a relatively young field (in the US, the proliferation of non-profit, professional arts organizations only dates back to the mid-1960s) it has taken us a while to build up a critical mass of professional employment opportunities as arts makers, producers, researchers, and educators. But now, well into the 21st century, the field is exploding. We can see this surge in the increasing desire of arts organizations to hire only trained management professionals and in the degree to which independent artists and small arts groups are required to be skilled in marketing, social media, finance, fundraising, legal issues, and strategic planning. We also see it in the extraordinary growth of international cultural exchange, international professional touring, and cross-cultural arts projects, much of which has been facilitated by the concurrent rise in connectivity, social media, migration and immigration, and global arts networking.
Showbusiness ain’t what it used to be.
And one of the great drivers of this explosive change in the cultural landscape is disruption. In the area of jobs, this disruption can be looked at through the lens of competitiveness. As the arts landscape has evolved over the past twenty years or so, the demand for an increasing skilled professional workforce has evolved alongside. This demand has, in turn, driven a significant increase in both arts management/cultural policy higher education degree programs and professional development opportunities for those already in the workforce. And thus, the supply of a skilled workforce has grown. It’s the classic supply and demand relationship, except we don’t quite know where the equilibrium lies because the pace of change is so rapid in our field. For the foreseeable future, we can reasonably expect that the demand for skilled, professional arts managers will rise. A large number of senior level arts managers – my pioneering generation who entered the field in the 1970s and 80s — are aging out. This is opening up new employment and advancement opportunities. The rise of entrepreneurial risk taking in the production of art by individuals and ensembles, requiring sophisticated professional skills, is a new strand in the employment fabric. So too is the need for professionals whose skills facilitate global arts connectivity and creation.
Am I optimistic about the opportunities for skilled, professional arts managers? You bet. The pre-requisite for success, however, is training and education (shameless plug: visit su.edu/conservatory for more information about my graduate Performing Arts Leadership and Management Program). I’m particularly keen on the need for artists to get the training and experience they need in order to move their projects forward in this complex world. Artists can no longer simply wait for the next audition. Opportunity must be a self-creation.
Several years ago, one of my graduate students, a young woman from Saudi Arabia, proposed a culminating project for her master’s degree that described the creation of a program to foster the work of Saudi women-crafters. I thought it was a lovely idea and encouraged her to write it up. She returned from winter break at home in Riyadh with approval from the government to create a foundation, seed money, a board of directors, and the first cohort of craftspeople that she wanted to support. I wasn’t so much astounded by her capacity to do all this. It was the fact that she did it in 30 days that blew me away.
Creativity + training + gumption is an awesome combination.