Region boasts renaissance in culture and beauty
By SHAYNE E. THOMAS
Seneca County Commissioner
“Mr. Webb is there any culture or love of beauty in Grover’s Corners?,” a citizen asks the mayor in the play “Our Town” by Thorton Wilder. Seneca County isn’t Grover’s Corner because it can certainly boast about the renaissance in culture and beauty. New and exciting expressions are happening across the county and it is time we answer the question posed to the fictional Mr. Webb.
In the performance arts space, most people are aware of the headliners that are brought into The Ritz Theatre. There has been a long list of top acts playing to sold-out crowds for 20 years now post-renovation. What many may not know is that high-quality community theater is being produced in that very same venue. For a fraction of the cost of Broadway or even a touring show in Toledo, one can see a fantastic performance locally. This summer you won’t want to miss “Titanic: The Musical.” Speaking of summer, some may not have heard that Tiffin has a new amphitheater. Be sure to check out the East Green Concert Series and the other events hosted by the city, you can catch anything from a marching band concert to Shakespeare or hip hop to rock. Grab your frozen yogurt and stroll on down to this new performance art venue.
Another performance space that is on the rise is the Republic Town Hall opera house. A dedicated group of volunteers in cooperation with Scipio Township have launched a campaign to bring artistic life to the building. There have been poetry readings and plays as well as a film series. Activities at this facility in the village of Republic pairs well with the convenient parking and great restaurants.
In the visual arts, Fostoria has staked a claim to be the hub in Seneca County. There are multiple visual opportunities. Each year Fostoria gets new public art pieces in its downtown, large significant pieces installed for the public to enjoy. Additionally; the downtown area is covered with hand designed floral banners that were created by a local artist. They are unique to Fostoria. In and of themselves they are worth seeing. If you are interested in something a bit edgier then get to know the graffiti art subculture from across the county. Fostoria offers the perfect viewing platform at the Iron Triangle. Watch a rolling art gallery with the street artists’ work on full display on the sides of the hundreds of rail cars that roll by each day.
A nascent facility just opened this past month in Clinton Township. Early signs are that it will be a destination for arts and culture. Winterberry Farms on Ohio 53 had high-quality hand-picked artist and artisans at their grand opening. They plan to have a menu of events that include traditional music and Christmas markets. This will be a venue to keep your eye on.
The long list of performance art and other cultural activities that are hosted by Tiffin University could fill anyone’s’ social calendar. I recently heard one of their vocal group’s Up in the Air perform and I was blown away. The addition of the Performing Arts Laboratory has made Tiffin University a musical and artistic powerhouse in the region.
Seneca County is, of course, blessed with two universities. Heidelberg University has a long tradition with the arts. Their primary venue is Gundlach Theater. Recently, under new direction, this theater is selling out phenomenal shows. Experimental plays, well-known musicals, and serious theatrical work graced the stage this year. A troupe of players from the Berg will even be taking a locally written play by to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival showing that Seneca County arts has a global reach.
So why should the Mayor of Grover’s Corners or for that matter a Seneca County commissioner be concerned about what is happening in the art scene? The National Association of Counties recently launched a creative placemaking program and have led discussion with titles like “Building an Arts Driven Community: Economic Development Solutions for your County.” Clearly, our association has come to understand the importance of cultural capital in the economic development game. It has become imperative that counties have an attraction strategy to keep and retain the next generation of arts in culture in order to compete. If a community is going to be a great place to live, work, and run a business, then it must nurture its creative side. In Seneca County the arts are alive!
Shayne E. Thomas is Seneca County Commissioner, 419-447-4550, ext. 106, senecacountyohio.gov, facebook.com/SenecaCountyCommissioners, linkedin.com/in/seneca-county-64b51a16b, instagram.com/senecacountycommissioners.