Cultural Entrepreneur James Levin Sees Great Potential in ‘Wooster Jam’
Performing and visual arts showcase scheduled for April 13 at the Wayne Country Fairgrounds
WOOSTER, Ohio — As the founding director of Cleveland’s highly successful IngenuityFest, James Levin brought noteworthy exposure to the arts by scheduling events, performances, and exhibitions in some of the most unusual venues of an urban setting (deserted alleys, dormant bridge decks, vacant storefronts, etc.). Now, the cultural entrepreneur is hoping for similar results in a rural setting as he prepares for the third annual Wooster Jam on Saturday, April 13, from noon to 10 p.m. at the Wayne County Fairgrounds.
Though quick to point out that the two events differ in several ways, Levin is confident that the “Jam” can advance the arts in Wooster in much the same way that the “Fest” did so in Cleveland. “I’ve been doing arts festivals for 30 years,” he says, “and I am very impressed by what I have seen in Wayne County. There is a very vibrant arts community here, and I believe that the Jam can provide exposure for this hidden gem.”
The objective is to “rediscover and reinvent the various venues of the fairgrounds, while showcasing the richness and diversity of the arts in this area,” says Levin, who also is founding director of Cleveland Public Theatre. “Where else can you see the Ohio Light Opera and the Cedar Valley Cloggers alongside barns and stables.”
In order for the Jam to flourish, participation by sponsors, artists, and patrons must increase, according to Levin. “This is a pivotal year for us,” he says. “So far, the Jam’s impact on the community has been modest, but it has the potential to showcase the rather amazing diversity of high quality art and culture that exists in this region.”
Established in 2011 under the auspices of The College of Wooster’s Center for Entrepreneurship, where Levin served as director for three years, Wooster Jam was created to give students hands-on experience in conceiving, cultivating, and nurturing a large-scale arts event while providing opportunities for a wide range of visual and performing artists to share their talents with the community. It has since evolved into a community endeavor organized by a group of Wooster-area professionals committed to promoting the local arts.
Once again, the Jam will feature a blend of opera, folk, jazz, rock and roll, cloggers, theatre, dance, magic, illusions, poetry, storytelling, painting, chalk art, sculpture, installations, and photography, according to Levin. There will also be a dozen or so food vendors. In addition, the Wooster Ethnic Fair will be running concurrently at the fairgrounds that day.
“We are inviting people to experience the fairgrounds in a new and different way,” says Levin. “We’ll have two stages with different artists performing all day. The Jam has the potential to show off what is unique in this community, and it could ripple into financial gains for area restaurants, hotels, and other businesses as well.”
The marquee event again this year will be the VoiceFest competition. Sponsored by the J.M. Smucker Company, the adjudicated event will feature as many as 16 a capella groups from colleges and universities across the region, including three from The College of Wooster (After These Messages, Cowbelles, and A Round of Monkeys). A panel of three judges will assess the talent, and the winner will receive a $2,500 prize.
There will also be a visual arts competition to showcase the talent of local artists. The theme is “The Art of Sound,” and it is open to amateurs and professionals as well as college, high school, and elementary school children. Group entries are welcome, too.
Applications for this year’s Jam are still being accepted for artists across the spectrum, from sound, photography, video, and film to sculpture, painting, technology, and just about any other medium. “Artists love the jam because they can be seen by hundreds, if not thousands of people, in one day,” says Levin. “That’s more than an entire year for most of them.”
As for patrons, Levin promises, “if you come, you will find something that you like, whether it be the various genres of music or the variety of visual arts, but you will also leave with the feeling that you have discovered other things that you think are cool, and you’ll have a new appreciation of the diversity of cultural offerings in Wayne County.”