Category Archives: Alliance

Stark County Artist Profile: Stephanie Cargill

by Stephen Ostertag

Our Stark County community is home to many live performance theatres and independent theatre companies. On any given weekend you can see local actors performing at the Kathleen Howland theatre in 2nd April art gallery, the Canton Players Guild, Carnation City Players, the North Canton Playhouse, or in productions mounted by independent groups like Seat of the Pants Productions, Sima Performing Arts Studio, Gilda Shedstecker Presents or Coercion Theatre Company to name a few.

The great thing about having all this live theatre all around our community is the chance to see talented performers in dazzling musicals, classic plays, an new works created and written here in our community. One such talent is the captivating, Stephanie Cargill. Stephanie is a mainstay of the theatre community in stark county having appeared in productions at each community theatre and numerous independent organization throughout several decades.

Stephanie’s need to perform started early, she says “I was that little girl who stood on a stool, chair, or piano bench and sang anytime anyone would listen. I sang when I was swinging. I sang when I was in the bath. I sang when I was supposed to be sleeping. I was in every choir that I knew about. I can’t ever remember NOT singing.” Her passion for music was channeled into theatre after seeing a production of The Wizard of Oz at the Coach House theatre in the Case Mansion when she was a little girl. “I was blessed with parents who let me explore anything that I expressed a desire in, and soon I was in youth theater classes,” with a wry smile Stephanie added, “and dance classes, but those who know me know that those classes didn’t stick!”
When asked about her first theatre performance Stephanie shared a memory from second grade.

“My teacher, Miss Ragazino allowed me to “produce” and “direct” a production of Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. I’m sure you can guess who played the title role! I wore a beautiful yellow chiffon negligée of my mother’s and sang ‘In My Own Little Corner.’ It was bliss!” One of the special things about Stephanie is how she genuinely relishes her experiences in theatre as cherished life events which add texture to her everyday life.

She added, “The first official production I was part of was Gypsy at The Players Guild Theatre. It was starring Ronnie Furman, a local radio celebrity. She was gracious and kind and I loved the strength that she brought to Momma Rose. It is a role that I am still waiting to play.”

Like many actors, Stephanie enjoys the escape theatre provides, she recalled times when “theatre was the ONE place that I could go to the door, drop my baggage, and be ‘whatever I want to be.’ That is still true for me today. The stage door is still magical.” Part of the therapeutic escape of theatre is losing yourself into different characters Stephanie recalls the late Richard (Dick) Rheam: “He was my real-life hero and mentor. He believed in me and believed in what he did. He never left the stage without leaving it all there. Every single time. In his memory, I try my best to do the same thing.”

She offers this advice to young performers, “When you make your entrance, make it with the intention of leaving everything out on the stage. Every time. It will make you a much better actor. Leap and the net will appear. And if it doesn’t, the audience will really believe your performance.”

I was fortunate enough to see Stephanie perform in two of my favorite Stephen Sondheim musicals, Into the Woods at Carnation City Players and Sweeney Todd at the Players Guild. Both performances were captivating and emotionally charged though they were vastly different characters. Listing Sondheim as a musical theatre hero, Stephanie adds “We have a love-hate relationship.” Perhaps this explains why she seems so patient to get around to playing Mama Rose and why Sondheim favorite Bernadette Peters is also a treasured hero.

Stephanie lists playing Mother in Ragtime as one her most memorable experiences, “I loved climbing inside of her for every performance and bearing witness to the transition in her life. The song “Back to Before” speaks to me and my life, especially the lyrics “We can never go back to before.” And why would we want to?” Speaking of Stephanie in the role of Mother, she is the real life mother of some very talented children (now grown.) “Without a doubt,” Her favorite familial theatre memories are of, “A Christmas Carol, the New Musical for two years my five kids and I shared the stage in various roles and I loved it. The role of Belle was written for my voice (shout out to Steve Parsons), and I loved singing those songs. As adults, all of my kids are adventurous, creative beings. I know that being involved in theatre helped to shape them into who they are today.” Stephanie said, beaming with joy and pride.

We all love seeing the sets and costumes when we see a performance and those elements can really aid the actors’ performance. Stephanie’s favorite costume was her Belle gown, “Richard Boczek, who was the costumer at the Players Guild for years, made a beautiful purple and green gown for me when I played Belle in A Christmas Carol that I adored. It fit me to a “T” and I felt like a princess when I wore it.” Stephanie’s costume for the recent Sweeney Todd production was decidedly less beautiful, but equally informative for her performance.

A few years back, Stephanie took on the challenging play Wit which chronicles a woman’s battle with cancer. “That role was life-changing for me in so many ways. I am a singer first and an actor second, so tackling a role in a straight play – particularly a role of this magnitude – was terrifying.” Stephanie shaved her head of thick curls for the production, when asked about this memory she recalls “when I auditioned for the show, I told the director, “I know that some women often choose to shave their head to play this role. I just want you to know that I would NEVER do that.” Three weeks later, I was bald. The play is just so brutally honest about the battle with cancer, that I couldn’t dishonor those who had been through (or were going through) that battle by walking on stage with a full head of hair. Also, I was playing alongside the brilliant Kathleen Howland, who was facing that demon herself. In the end it was not a decision at all; it just was. Internally it made me vulnerable and I think made my performance more honest and real.”

More recently, Stephanie took on another challenging role in Next to Normal a musical about a woman’s battle with mental illness. “Diana in Next to Normal, is a terrifically challenging role and under the outstanding direction of Amy Sima-Dirham, I think that I did that role justice.”

Stephanie credits many directors, instructors, and fellow actors with informing her craft. “Don Curie taught me that EVERY moment on stage is your most important moment – not just the moments when the spotlight is on you. As a matter of fact, the times when the spotlight isn’t on you are probably even more important that the time when it IS on you.” For anyone who saw Sweeney Todd, Stephanie credits Don as the inspiration behind her portrayal of The Beggar Woman.

Actor Greg Emanuelson has shared the stage with Stephanie on numerous occasions, and offers, “She challenges me to rise to her performance level and I trust her artistry well enough to know that, whatever happens on stage, she will make it work so that we both shine.” The two are currently appearing in Songs for a New World for the Sima Performing Arts Studio in Massillon, Emanuelson emphatically boasts “Stephanie is arguably one of the best actors I know, and not just in Stark County. Over the 20+ years in my theater career, my experiences with Stephanie are true highlights I always treasure. It’s a no brainer for me to accept a role in any show she does as I know we all will be better for the opportunity!”

While theatre offers Stephanie an endless line of characters to create, she also finds outlets for her creative nature by working with her hands. “I love beauty. I love creating beautiful things. I look at a beautiful garden and I think about how I can recreate that beauty in a pair of socks. I see the grandeur of an old mansion and it becomes inspiration for my home. I see a magnificent performance and I wonder what I can do to create the same spark inside of an audience member that I just felt. Creativity is just part of my being, and I’ve got this great guy by my side who supports me in any crazy endeavor that I can dream up. I knit and sew, and I like to think outside of the “norm.” For Christmas last year all of our family members got felted slippers – ranging from beautiful fashion items to outrageous monster feet!”

Currently, Stephanie and her husband, Michael Cargill, are in the middle of renovating a 170-year-old home, and Stephanie is in the thick of decorating it. One of her current “outlets” is upholstery. “I’ve taken a few classes (locally) and I will basically tear apart and rebuild any piece of furniture that I can get my hands on.”

As for her stage work, Stephanie confesses that she still gets those butterflies in the stomach before stepping out in front of a crowd. “Fear is the nemesis of live theatre – or at least my own personal nemesis. There are so many unknowns when stepping on the stage, not the least of which is our own brain, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have the jitters every time I step on stage.”

You can catch Stephanie on stage this weekend and next in Songs for a New World, follow the link for ticket information Also be sure to check out what local productions are going up in your area and what opportunities are being offered to educate those interested in becoming performers.


ArtsinStark Campaign Hits Goal for 11th Straight Year

It took to the very last day of an 11-week marathon to get it done, but ArtsinStark’s 2016 Annual Arts Campaign has made goal for the 11th straight year in a row.  At the Victory Luncheon held at Canton Glassworks and the Hub Art Factory in the Arts District on Wednesday, volunteers and arts leaders cheered as 2016 Campaign Chair Jim Porter, CEO/Publisher of The Repository announced “We’ve done it again!” Porter reminded everyone that “In a challenging economic environment like this one — it’s all about just getting to the $1.7 million goal.” More than 100 volunteers worked on the drive and 30 companies hosted arts workplaces for the arts.  ArtsinStark Board Chair Max Deuble thanked Porter for his amazing leadership saying “Jim’s determination was inspirational, and The Repository’s coverage about how art changes lives in our schools, our downtowns, and our neighborhoods made all the difference.”

ArtsinStark runs one of the 60 united arts fund drives in America.  The 1.7 million in dollars raised through the Annual Arts Campaign support our largest arts organizations: the Canton Ballet, Canton Museum of Art, Canton Symphony, Massillon Museum, Palace Theatre, Players Guild and Voices of Canton.  They also provide grants for some of our smaller arts organizations, individual artists, and other nonprofits looking to use the arts to deliver innovative programs.  They underwrite the SmArts Program in the schools.  They help downtowns across the county use live music, public art, and artist studios and galleries to revitalize themselves.  They produce “First Fridays.”  And they help keep the Cultural Center for the Arts, which will be 50 years old in 2020, up and running.  “Every year the arts change the lives of 200,000 people in Stark County,” says ArtsinStark Vice Chair Emil Alecusan. “We want to use the arts to make Canton a center for innovation, and the kind of super, creative place that turns kids into the geniuses of tomorrow.”

ArtsinStark is a 46-year-old private, non-profit organization that gives out grants, manages the Cultural Center, and runs the Annual Arts Campaign — and much more (Canton Arts District, First Fridays, SmArts Program in the schools, 20/20 Vision, and The ELEVEN).  What it doesn’t earn, it raises each spring through the Annual Arts Campaign.  As of today, ArtsinStark is the only united arts fund drive in America to ever make goal for 11 years in a row, and is also winner of the Governor’s Award for the Arts.  More information at


Fiber Mania Sweeps Alliance

by Evan Chwalek

Downtown Alliance will again host an event celebrating fiber arts and area businesses on April 23. The 9th Annual Fiber Mania is co-sponsored by the Canton Visitors Bureau, ArtsInStark and two local businesses, Enchanted Threads Fiber Arts Gallery and The Troll Hole Museum.

The event, which is free to the public, will showcase local artistic talent including fiber artists and musicians. Prizes including a Kindle Fire, crocheted throw and upcycled glass lawn ornament are up for grabs.

By following a map through downtown Alliance businesses, attendees can participate in a scavenger hunt and enter to win one of the grand prizes. Additionally, the event serves as a way to acquaint oneself with the galleries, restaurants, and stores of Alliance.

Over a dozen businesses will be involved with the scavenger hunt, with a small troll doll hidden in each location. Only participants earning stamps from twelve of fourteen businesses will have a chance at the grand prizes.

Assistant Organizer of Fiber Mania, Vickey Kugler, hopes the event will help show off the revitalization of Alliance. Kugler said everyone involved hopes to “show how downtown Alliance is becoming an arts area” and that “there’s so much that’s changing down here.”

Attendees can look forward to learn the process of creating various forms of fiber art, including felting, crocheting, knitting and spinning. Everything from raw materials to finished pieces of fiber art will be available for purchase, inspiring fiber artists of all abilities. The craft show will host over a dozen vendors and live music will be entertain the visitors.

“Everyone’s participating in their own way. It’s pretty cool” Kugler said.

Animals whose fur is used for fiber arts will also be present, showing the process from animal to finished product. Classes in fiber arts also add an educational dimension to the event.

The fiber arts festival is only one aspect of the revitalization of downtown Alliance. Farmer’s markets, new businesses and restaurants are a refreshing sight and raise hope for a thriving downtown arts scene.

Fiber Mania will take place in downtown Alliance from 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. on April 23.

World-Renowned Electric Violinist Mark Wood to Perform with Students

International recording artist and Emmy award winning composer Mark Wood, an original member of the multiplatinum selling Trans-Siberian Orchestra and creator of the revolutionary Viper electric violin, is bringing his groundbreaking music education program Electrify Your Strings! (EYS) to Alliance City Schools, Alliance OH. This exciting event will transform the student musicians into a full-fledged Rock Orchestra! Mark will be performing with the students on his handcrafted 7-string fretted electric Viper violin as part of the 2015 Electrify Your Strings
“Authentic Tour” on April 26th, 7:30pm at the Alliance High School Auditorium. The audience will be entertained by Mark’s original material, as well as his exciting arrangements of music by Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and more. Alliance Middle and High school orchestra students will perform in a live concert alongside Mark Wood, open to the public with all profits going to the school’s music program.

When asked about Mark’s upcoming visit, Orchestra Director Crystal Sabik said, “This will be the fifth time that Mark has visited the Alliance City Schools Orchestras. Every new experience has been even better than the last. We can’t wait to welcome Mark back to Alliance and have another amazing couple of days.” The program – now in its 16th year – is a music education experience like no other. Wood and his team work directly with a school’s orchestra director to tailor-design a rock orchestra makeover complete with a public performance at the end of the experience. EYS builds on the strong foundation in traditional music provided by music teachers; creating a partnership with educators that inspires students and boosts their self-esteem and motivation on stage and off. EYS has been featured on The Today Show, The CBS Evening News, and many more.

Mark Wood is the owner and operator of Wood Violins, the premier manufacturer of electric orchestra string instruments worldwide. He studied under Maestro Leonard Bernstein, is a Juilliard-trained violinist and Emmy-winning composer. In addition to his solo career and his work with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Mark has worked with Celine Dion, Lenny Kravitz, Billy Joel and more.

To prepare for this concert, Mark will be teaching the students improvisation, composition, and personal expression on their violins, violas, cellos and basses. Utilizing Mark’s music arrangements that were sent to the district prior to this visit, Alliance Schools orchestra students will perform in a live concert alongside Mark Wood, open to the public with all profits going to the school music programs:
April 26th at 7:30pm

Alliance High School Auditorium

400 Glamorgan St.

Alliance, OH 44601

Ticket Information: General Admission: $8-Adults, $6-Students

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at Mount Union this Weekend

The University of Mount Union’s Department of Theatre will perform “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Friday, April 7 – Sunday, April 10 in the Gallaher Black Box Theatre in the Giese Center for the Performing Arts.

The play centers around a spelling bee in fictional Putnam County with flashbacks and cutaways that help develop the cast of characters. Originally on Broadway in 2005, the play won Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actor. The original Broadway production starred Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, while NPR’s Mo Rocca and Saturday Night Live alumnus and PA announcer Darrell Hammond were featured in other casts.

The production is a creative send-up of children’s spelling bees, which meant that guest costume designer Mary Jo Alexander had the task of making the college performers seem nearly a decade younger.

What makes “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” unique is the audience participation element of the show.  Any audience member may be called upon to spell a word, or may even be asked to participate in “the Bee.”

“We chose this play because we wanted a small musical for the Gallaher Theatre,” said Kevin Kern, chair of the Department of Theatre at Mount Union. “It’s an intimate space, and in that theatre you really feel like you’re part of the action, or in this case, the spelling bee.”

The production features live music under the direction of Dr. Otis French, Director of Bands at Mount Union. The production is directed by guest directory Connie Thackaberry, associate artistic director of Actors Summit Theatre, a professional theatre in Akron, Ohio.

“Connie was brought in as part of a new focus in the Department of Theatre,” said Kern. “We’re concentrating on providing our theatre students with professionals in the field. Based on her work with Actors Summit as well as other theatres in the Cleveland area, Connie was the perfect choice to direct our theatre students this semester.”

The performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on April 7, 8 and 9 and at 2 p.m. on April 9 and 10. For tickets visit or call (330) 821-2565. For more information on the Department of Theatre, contact Kern at or visit 291w, 768w, 1500w" sizes="(max-width: 994px) 100vw, 994px" />

ArtsInStark Annual Arts Campaign: Art Changes Lives

by Todd Walburn

A month ago I attended the kick off to the ArtsInStark Annual Arts Campaign.  The room was filled with a lot of familiar faces; artists, executives, patrons and staff from many of the county’s arts organizations.  I entered the room a skeptic.  ArtsInStark had already been successful in reaching its fundraising goal ten years in a row.   This year’s goal of $1.7 million seemed enormous.  Had our community’s support for the arts found a limit?  Had we yet reached the peak of the bell curve of our artistic enthusiasm?  We all knew and understood the value of the arts in our communities, in our schools, for economic development but big goals also require an increase in the number of people who are willing to support your goals.  That clearly became this year’s challenge and it was clear that ArtsInStark had a plan to make that happen.

The impact that ArtsInStark has had in our county has been enormous.  Communities from Canton to Alliance to Minerva are witnessing the birth of new arts-related businesses; local artists are finding a place in the schools where they work with teachers of almost every subject to integrate the arts into their curriculum; area non-profits are finding unique and impactful ways to add arts programming to their services, affecting an entirely new group of clients in novel ways.  This year’s slogan “Art Changes Lives” is more than lip service: it is a statement of fact and we can all see the results.

This year we have been challenged to share our enthusiasm for these successes and bring new people on board as supporters of ArtsInStark and their county-wide outreach efforts.  “Arts1000” is an incentive in the workplace and through individual efforts to reach first-time donors to ArtsInStark while at the same time giving them a sample of the county’s artistic offerings by awarding each of these donors with an “Arts1000 Passport” with discounts and offers from a variety of local arts venues. New donors mean new investors in the growth of the arts in our communities.  It means new patrons to our venues and a new generation of arts professionals.  (New donors at the $40 or above levels also receive the traditional incentive of the ArtsInStark pARTiPass).

In a dozen years or so I can picture the room in which I sat filled with a whole new group of people who were helping ArtsInStark reach another seemingly impossible goal, excited about the future of our communities and our students and our economic growth.  If a lifetime career in the arts had taught me anything it’s that nothing is impossible if you are willing to push the boundaries, work hard and look at things in creative new ways.

ArtsInStark is slightly over 15% of its goal so there is a long way to go.  You can make a donation at If YOU would like to be an Arts1000! Ambassador, contact Cindy Kilduff at ArtsinStark:


ArtsinStark Kicks Off $1.7 Million Campaign

On Wednesday at the Cultural Center, ArtsinStark kicked off the 2016 Annual Arts Campaign. Its goal is to raise $1.7 million for all the arts in Stark County during the 11-weeks from March 9 to May 25. The drive is being chaired by Jim Porter, CEO/Publisher of The Repository. The theme is how “Art Changes Lives.” On Wednesday morning, one after another, volunteers and community leaders took the stage to tell stories about the important impact the arts are having in schools, downtowns, and neighborhoods across the county. “It’s very impressive to be the only united arts fund drive in America that has ever made goal for ten years in a row,” said Porter. “But now to keep on growing, we need to get hundreds of new donors to join us in supporting this incredible arts explosion.” More information at

Over 200,000 people a year are reached by the arts here. The majority of these are impacted by our seven largest arts organizations: the Canton Ballet, Canton Museum of Art, Canton Symphony, Massillon Museum, Palace Theatre, Players Guild and Voices of Canton. Every day they bring us world class art, and over the last 10 years ArtsinStark has awarded those organizations more than $10 million in grants.

During that same time period, ArtsinStark has given out another $1.5 million in 600 little grants in every single community in Stark County. Those grants have gone to churches, YMCA’s, YWCA’s, Boys and Girls Clubs, universities, libraries, schools, theatres, museums, historical societies, festivals, hospitals, Girl Scouts, food pantries, and individual artists. “There is not a single community in Stark County that has not received an ArtsinStark grant or program of some kind,” says ArtsinStark CEO Robb Hankins.

In Canton, ArtsinStark created the Arts District with 26 art galleries and studios. It has produced over 100 monthly First Fridays for 175,000 people there, and installed 55 new pieces of public art. But it’s not just downtown Canton where ArtsinStark is working in. The County Arts Council’s programs and grants are also at work in downtown Alliance, Jackson, Louisville, Massillon, Minerva, Hartville, North Canton, and Canal Fulton.

“Our SmArts Program is changing our schools by integrating art and academics to supercharge learning,” says ArtsinStark board chair Max Deuble. “SmArts projects have reached 30,000 kids, and today we’re in every one of the 17 public schools systems in Stark County — and all of the Catholic elementary and middle schools as well.”

The County Arts Council is also trying to change tourism with the arts. The Pro Football Hall of Fame and ArtsinStark are creating a new tourist attraction in downtown Canton called The ELEVEN. This monumental public art series celebrating the 11 greatest moments in professional football history, is also part of the strategy for connecting the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s new “Village” to downtown.
Want to help? DONATE NOW!
BACKGROUND: ArtsinStark — Kids, Jobs, Communities. We are a 46 year old private, non-profit organization that gives out grants, manages the Cultural Center, and runs the Annual Arts Campaign — and much more (Canton Arts District, First Fridays, SmArts Program in the schools, 20/20 Vision, and the ELEVEN). More at Our annual budget is $3 million. What we don’t earn, we raise each spring through the Annual Arts Campaign. In May 2015 the Campaign raised the highest amount in 45 years — to become the only united arts fund drive in America to ever make goal for 10 years in a row. (Over the last decade we have increased private sector giving to the arts by 85%.)

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Hello Dolly by the Carnation City Players

by James Dennison

The newest performance of the smash hit musical Hello Dolly will debut February 26th and is produced by the wonderful actors and actresses at the Carnation City Players. The production will run February 26th through the 28th and returns March 4th through March 6th. Fridays and Saturdays will have a nightly performance at 8pm and Sundays will have a matinee performance at 2:30pm. Tickets are only $13 for adults and $11 for students under the age of 18. The performance is scheduled to take place inside Alliance’s beautiful Firehouse Theater located at 450 E Market Street, Alliance Ohio. Tickets are available at the box office, The tickets can be picked anytime after 6:30pm the day of the show or 1:30pm for matinees. Group ticket blocks are available.

The Carnation City Players (originally known as the Tri-County Players)  is a non-profit group which is dedicated to the advancement of the performing arts in the Alliance area. Beginning in 1960, the Carnation City Players will soon reach its 57th year performing and producing live theater and musicals in northeast Ohio. This prolific theater troupe has produced over 216 performances and even more counting shorter Alliance area theatrical presentations. Not only does this group provide quality entertainment but it also educates theater students in their productions.

Hello Dolly has had an amazing history, starting with it’s original Broadway performance in 1964 starring Carol Channing. The original performance held a record for 35 years for the largest amount of Tony Awards for a single production. The original cast soundtrack reached number one on the Billboard charts only to be replaced by the Louis Armstrong recording of Hello Dolly! In 1969 the musical was filmed and became nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three. The original theatrical script was based on a 1955 book called the Matchmaker which was originally printed as The Merchant of Yonkers in 1938.

If you see one theater piece this year it should be this lovely production of Hello Dolly by the talented local cast of actors and actresses in the Carnation City Player and performed inside the beautiful Firehouse Theater. You’ll thank yourself for the time you spent supporting the hard work and dedication of this theater troupe. Make sure and get your tickets quickly as a production this special is sure to sell out!

Stark County Artist Profile: Dr. Fredlee Votaw

By Laurie Fife Harbert

Dr. Fredlee Votaw’s art portrays a strong connection with the past. His artistic heritage, coming from a long line of folk artists including quilters, weavers and carvers, shines through in both his artistic methods and in his material choices. Applying his skills in drawing and painting to elements incorporated into found object and assemblage works consisting of combined antique and vintage pieces has become Dr. Votaw’s signature style. Fredlee refers to his work as ‘diary art,’ wherein instead of writing thoughts and feelings down as in a usual diary, he pictorially depicts time periods, places, events, or emotions through his visual art.

Of course, drawing and painting on traditional backgrounds of paper and canvas are also a part of his repertoire. Yet it is his collages, mixed media works, and three-dimensional pieces for which he is best known. What to other artists may be viewed as detriments to their work—rust, fadedness, blemishes, tarnish, weathering, dents, brokenness—are embraced and sought after by him. The wornness readily depicts the idea of the passage of time, and, in many cases, exudes a sense of isolation and loneliness. In addition to conveying a mood of history and nostalgia, Fredlee does broach some political issues in his work, as may be seen in pieces with titles such as ‘Leave None To Tell The Story…Thinking About Rwanda,’ ‘War Orphans,’ and ‘Thinking About the Holocaust.’

Dr. Votaw studied art in California, New York City, Pittsburg, and Ohio. He has shown his work in solo and group shows across the nation and internationally for over 45 years, often winning awards. In addition to being a working artist, he built a career out of sharing his talents as a teacher at high schools, universities, and museums in the northeast Ohio area. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Kent State University in 1996, with an eye towards melding art and computer graphics into his teaching through digital cameras, 3-in-1 printers, and advanced scanners.

Though retired from his teaching position since 2008, Dr. Votaw continues to create his own art and to mentor other artists. Anyone who has ever met Fredlee knew retirement wouldn’t be a time of idleness for the energetic and charismatic artist. “Don’t waste the precious time and gifts we have been blessed with!” he exclaims. In 2014 he opened Paris Studios in downtown Alliance, with space for artists to work. Additionally, as any found object artist knows, finding the pieces to use in one’s art is half the fun. Opening a shop to showcase art, plus antiques and repurposed items acquired from his years of treasure hunting seemed the next logical step in his post-retirement adventure. As such, in 2015 Fredlee opened a storefront, Paris Marketplace, located next to Paris Studios, at 335 East Main Street in Alliance, Ohio. Paris Marketplace may be visited Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Time spent there will surely result in a perfect, unique gift or possibly in inspiration and the starting piece to begin one’s own found object work of art.

Dr. Votaw may be reached via email at or through his website,

Laurie Fife Harbert is a writer, a Canton native, an ailurophile, a visual artist, a bibliophile, a mother of two, and an oenophile—not necessarily in that order.


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ArtsinStark announces $1.2 million in grants

At its December board meeting ArtsinStark’s Board of Directors approved $1,182,000 in grants to 74 organizations, schools, and individual artists across Stark County. The grants were awarded in four different categories: Operating, Special Project, SmArts, and 20/20 Vision. “These programs and projects touch every single community in Stark County,” says ArtsinStark board chair Max Deuble. “And they show the incredible impact of the arts on community and economic development, and just how far ArtsinStark has come in the last 10 years in serving all of Stark County.”

The projects we support through our Grants Program reach 200,000 people a year. Over the last 10 years we’ve awarded $10 million in grants to the 7 largest arts groups: Canton Ballet, Canton Museum of Art, Canton Symphony, Massillon Museum, Palace Theatre, Players Guild and Voices of Canton — and another $1.5 million in grants to 600 small non-profits, artists, and schools in every community in Stark County.

New Operating Grants will go to the seven major arts organizations in Stark County. They total $1,064,835. “These are the crown jewels of our region,” says ArtsinStark board Vice Chair Emil Alecusan. “They operate at the highest professional level and are key to attracting visitors and growing tourism.”

New Special Project Grants will go to 25 smaller arts organizations, non-profits and individual artists. They will be awarded $34,900. Projects like Canton Parks and Recreation offering art programs during the summer, the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps providing classes and equipment for the students of En-Rich-Ment, and local artist Craig Joseph producing a musical on the lives of our presidents, were among the winning ideas. “We received applications from lots of new agencies and artists this year, and it will be exciting to see the results of their programs,” says Anne Wadian, ArtsinStark Office Manager, who runs the Grants Program.

New SmArts Grants will go out in two forms: Mini-Grants and Partnership Grants. To date this year they total $53,450. Every one of the public school systems in Stark County is receiving a SmArts Grant of some kind, as well as Holy Cross Academy, Central Catholic High School, and Heritage Christian School. SmArts Grants support projects that integrate the arts with the core curriculum to do things like use photography to teach Chemistry, create artistic ecosystems to teach 5th grade Science, and make ceramic art to connect different cultures in Social Studies. “Over 5,000 students in Stark County will use the arts this year to learn Math, Reading, Language Arts, and Social Studies,” says Justy Boggs, ArtsinStark Planning and Education Consultant. “And the total dollars being spent, old and new, by the County Arts Council and all the school systems to support SmArts Program total more than $90,000.”

20/20 VISION GRANTS awarded so far this year will go to 17 organizations and artists that are helping move the 20/20 Vision plan forward in Stark County. Projects range from banner murals in Louisville, to mini-fests in Alliance, to the Polar Bear public art project in Jackson. “20/20 Vision is a plan we developed for the whole county,” says ArtsinStark Board Secretary Greg Luntz, “and covers everything from downtown revitalization, to public art, to increasing cultural tourism.”

Specific awards can be found on our website at

BACKGROUND: ArtsinStark — Kids, Jobs, Communities. We are a 45 year old private, non-profit organization that gives out grants, manages the Cultural Center, and runs the Annual Arts Campaign — and much more (Canton Arts District, First Fridays, SmArts Program in the schools, 20/20 Vision, and the ELEVEN). More at Our annual budget is $3 million. What we don’t earn, we raise each spring through the Annual Arts Campaign. In May 2015 the Campaign raised the highest amount in 45 years: $1,775,000 — to become the only united arts fund drive in America to ever make goal for 10 years in a row. (Over the last decade we have increased private sector giving to the arts by 85%.)