On December 2, 2019, Michael Thomas, Artistic Director for the Renaissance, was honored by Broadway’s and Hollywood’s elite at the Ars Nova Ball 2019. He and his writing partner, Jeff Richmond, co-wrote Melancholy Baby which was the first show produced on the Ars Nova stage in 2002.
Richland county has a special blend of dining options for people of all backgrounds and taste buds! So whether you’re craving Asian, American, or home-style, they got you covered! Here’s a list of places you’re gonna wanna try before attending the next Renaissance event! Continue reading
“And the 2018 Miss Ohio is…” Seems just like yesterday for Matti-Lynn Chrisman being crowned on the Renaissance stage for the 2018 Miss Ohio Scholarship Program. Since then, the Kent State University graduate who holds a Bachelor’s in Musical Theatre (2018) and an ongoing study in Public Communications B.A. (expected to graduate Fall of 2019), has traveled across the state of Ohio impacting individuals from all walks of life and advocating her social initiative impact. Matti was recently seen on the Renaissance stage this past March in Mamma Mia as Sophie.
As Matti’s position as Miss Ohio concludes this week, we wanted to hear her take on how the last year has been as a state-wide celebrity.
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.”