Artist James Pernotto is perhaps downtown’s most continuous resident.
The space above Silver’s Vogue Shop at the corner of West Federal and Phelps has been his since 1980.
He’s been a disciple of downtown living all that time, and he’s dwelled in other downtowns, too — New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
But he loves his hometown’s downtown.
Amid all its changes, he’s kept his comfy perch above the Silver family’s clothing store. It’s a fantastic loft space right out of Hollywood central casting for an artist/Bohemian type like Pernotto.
And his art is even more fantastic.
I would call a trip up to his second floor one of the more pleasant visits one can have downtown.
And for all these years, he’s eschewed the thought of being on the first floor of downtown where his brilliance and beliefs can be showcased — preferring to wait for the right time.
Now is the right time, he said.
“Art is an enrichment of a community,” Pernotto said. “Jobs are necessary. Burgers are nice. But art is an experience.”
Pernotto and friends formed NEXT Best Art over the past year and launched a funding campaign for their first of many art ventures. NEXT was formed as a vehicle to promote art and cultural awareness in downtown Youngstown.
Public art along the street and the river and a gallery in a few years are some long-term ideas. Some ideas are best to start small, and that’s their immediate plan.
They want to turn a large window area of Silver’s into an art display.
“That’s our Normandy,” Pernotto says of the side window area that faces Phelps Street.
Normandy in that it’s NEXT’s first footing in their venture. Though they certainly don’t see it as a war, it is a battle to find funds. Their first effort to raise $15,000 for the window via an online Kickstarter effort was unsuccessful.
They have an event tonight at Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts. Starting at 5 p.m., live music from four bands will mix with an auction, food and beer. Proceeds will go to the window display launch.
Just as he has patiently waited 30-plus years to bring to the first floor his artistic brilliance, he is as patient with this funding and launch.
“If you can see it, you can be it,” he said.
A key partner with him in the NEXT group is Courtney Waskin, a downtowner by way of the original Lemon Grove crew, who is business manager for the effort.
“We both want a downtown that is pertinent and culturally healthier,” she said.
And they both also like the physical location of Silver’s as it pertains to all that is downtown today. “NEXT Best Art — The Junction of Art and Science” is their tag line.
Like spokes of a wheel, from Silver’s they see technology jobs flourishing in one direction, and science and education flourishing in another. And they are in the middle. “We have the No. 1 incubator, but people are still reluctant to stay in a downtown unless there is something happening culturally,” said Pernotto.
He’s always seen science, math and technology breathing within art.
“The marriage of them creates an art that can move us ahead,” he said.
And he hopes it starts with $15,000 and the window at Silver’s.
They will first start with a pretty cool art concept from artist Franz Spohn. He would recreate an image of the Orbit Ride from Idora Park using thousands of marbles stacked so as to create a mosaic image. He has on YouTube a cool portrait image of a person he created with gumballs. The Orbit creation would be 6 feet by 12 feet.
It’s special, and so is Pernotto.
He’s the kind of soul that downtowns need. His space buried behind the upper walls of Silver’s is a wonderful visit if you can get there. And, hopefully, he can get his vision down to the first floor of downtown for others to enjoy.