Antonio Barrios wants to establish a permanent home for the arts on Broadway — and we’re not talking about the one in Midtown Manhattan. The president and CEO of the Lorain Arts Council is leading the effort to give new life to Broadway here in Lorain. Running along the bank of the Black River and behind the Lorain Metro Parks, a re-imagined Broadway has the potential to transform and re-define the city in many of the same ways the Great White Way has boosted New York City, he says.
Barrios started the council because he wanted to create an arts community in Lorain. But now he has a more lofty goal — he wants to help reinvent the city. “I see our organization as a launch pad to bring life and vitality back to Lorain,” says Barrios. It’s something he says is necessary because the diminishing strength of manufacturing-based industries throughout Lorain has had a negative affect on the city’s economic and social status. And, unfortunately, some have lost hope in its offerings and opportunities. “We want to say ‘Wake up!’ We have the arts here!’ ” Barrios says.
A multifaceted program incorporating various artistic mediums, the Lorain Arts Council has two main purpses: to refresh tourism and attraction to the city of Lorain and to foster and nurture the arts in children, students, adults and in the artists themselves. A 70-foot, glass-front building at 737 Broadway serves as the organization’s home base. Decorated with watercolor and oil paintings, ceramics and photography, the building is a giant gallery of artistic inspirations. Interpretive dance and poetry activities take place inside. Those involved include many local residents dedicated to contributing to the community’s growth, primarily through the arts.
For instance, the council has started a coloring contest for 2,169 Lorain elementary school students in hopes of “nurturing the arts in children by helping to enlighten the spark in them,” says Barrios. It has also created a poster design contest for High School seniors and offers drawing, black/white photography and caricaturist classes to students of all ages. Meditative drawing referred to as “zen tangles,” animation, mixed media, ceramics, and poetry in motion is all promoted here as well.
“What has started out mostly as visual arts has become a multifaceted program that shows there are possibilities in the arts,” says Barrios.
But all of this is just a start. The Lorain Arts council continues to grow as it attracts more members of the community. Barrios sees the council’s efforts as just the start of immense growth for the arts movement in Lorain. “We are going to have outside shows and exhibitions and will also create murals on the back of the buildings on Broadway,” he says. Plus, inspired by Tremont’s annual art walk, the council is encouraging walks through the county Metro Parks and along the Black River to bring nature and art together.
Barrios describes the arts council as the foundation of “a new era” dedicated to bringing energy and hope back into the city of Lorain. Every artist begins with a blank canvas, he says. The important thing is to foster creativity and inspiration so that one-by-one each canvas can manifest into greatness. — Lauren Cohen