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Steven Au

Careers in the Arts: Graphic Design

by Colleen Cook

A performing arts center has a high need for great graphic design. Our product, shows, is constantly changing as we move through the year and a great deal of our marketing is visual. That makes it important to work with a skilled designer who understands the message and the performing arts. At the Renaissance, we’ve been lucky to work with tremendously talented graphic designers both on our staff and contracted out over the years to tell our visual story and promote our shows.

Our Assistant Marketing Director and Graphic Designer on staff is Steven Au. Steven is very good at what he does (and I’m his boss, so I know better than most how true that is!) and is uniquely qualified for his position because he grew up as a musician in our Youth Strings and Youth Orchestra programs.

Nearly every visual thing you see from the Renaissance has come from Steven’s desk, and we’re better for it. I sat down with Steven to learn more about his path to the graphic design field. Here’s our interview:

Colleen Cook: What inspired you to become a graphic designer?

Steven Au:  Part of it was my older brother, he was actually involved in graphic design and got the same degree in school that I ended up pursuing. Also, in high school I gained an interest in graphic design from taking graphic arts and photoshop classes. I had a light up tracing table and did a lot of tracing as a kid, and played around with design in Powerpoint too.

CC: You mentioned that you took some graphic design courses in high school. Tell us about your collegiate training.

SA: I graduated from a 2-year program at North Central State College, an Associate’s in Visual Communications and Media Technology. My main track was based on graphic design but also involved some video production, animation, and web design. I also interned at the Renaissance as part of the program, which is how I landed my job.

CC: Do you see graphic design as an artistic expression? 

SA: I think it definitely can be. I can be a little obsessive about getting details right. I like the ability to look at the current design trends and use that as inspiration for the Ren’s marketing materials.

CC: What do you enjoy most about your job, and what do you enjoy least or find challenging?

SA: I like being able to design things that I see in places, like on a billboard, that I never would have seen something I created before. I don’t enjoy doing direct mail, and I also find it a little tedious to rework a design for multiple formats. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship with retooling a design. Sometimes it’s really easy to do that, and it can be nice to not have to create something from scratch every time.

CC: How do you engage with the arts outside of your day job?

SA: I am very involved with music outside of work. I also do a limited amount of graphic design for our church. I’m a violinist and I sub with the Mansfield Symphony, and enjoy recording and making videos for my YouTube channel, and I sing with a choral group at church and I also arrange music for our choir, as well as accompany.


If you’d like to learn more about our internship opportunities, keep an eye on our employment page where we frequently post internship opportunities.

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4 Ways The Arts Help Children

by Audra DeLaney

Each year, we welcome thousands of children into our theatre. Some of these children are participants, while others walk through our doors as supportive spectators. We understand that fostering an appreciation and an affinity for the arts at a young age will have a lifelong impact. Involvement in the arts has the ability to help children in unique ways as they grow and prepare for the future. Here are just a few ways the arts foster growth:

 

  1. The Arts Develop Math and Reading Skills

The arts help children learn that they can be rewarded through hard work, practice, and discipline. These are important skills to develop while children are in school.  Dr. Richard Letts, Executive Director of the Music Council of Australia is one of many researchers who have concluded that participating in the arts has the ability to help students improve their skills in a range of academic subject areas, such as math and language. “The earlier a child comes to grips with music, the more the brain growth will be influenced,” writes Letts,  “It sets them up for life.”

  1. The Arts Breed Confidence

From concerts to writing contests to theatrical productions, the arts help children put themselves out into their community through showcasing work they have done. Participation in the arts develops a student’s skills in a specific area they they are passionate about, like singing or writing. Rehearsal and editing processes help children realize they won’t always get everything right the first time and that working well with the other artists around them can help them reach their goals.

“Playing in a group, working together and developing negotiation skills are complex processes you have to work through to build a certain confidence,” said Margaret Bradley, a music expert with the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities.

Inevitably, mistakes will be happen. The mistakes made have the ability to ingrain in children that failure is not final and practice brings about progress, helping to build their confidence in themselves to succeed.

  1. The Arts Build Relationships

The arts have the power to bring people together who may not otherwise meet one another. An avid sports fan with a love for music composition may become best friends with a theatre enthusiast who has developed a passion for singing. A first time musical participant may become friends who someone who has been doing shows since he/she was in grade school. In the article “Why Music Listening Makes Us Feel Good,” Dr. Rebecca Sena Moore explains that that many researchers have found that listening to music has a positive effect on our brains.

“When we anticipate and then actually experience a pleasurable response while listening to music, our brain reacts in distinct and specific ways to release the “feel good” chemical dopamine,” writes Moore.

Playing music with others also adds to the release of dopamine that takes place in our brains, strengthening bonds among musicians and each other, as well as their audience members. Friends can become family and lives can be changed through the growth children see in one another while rehearsing for a show or concert, participating in an art festival, or showcasing their talents during a small get together.

  1. The Arts Teach Perseverance

Picking up a guitar, tickling the ivories, or playing notes on a clarinet may open a child’s eyes to seemingly endless possibilities. Throughout life, perseverance is essential to any and all success.

“First comes interest. Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do…Next comes the capacity to practice. One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday…Third is purpose. What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters…And, finally, hope. Hope is a rising-to-the-occasion kind of perseverance,” writes Angela Duckworth in her book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”

Exposing children to the arts shows them that passion for something can take them far in life. First, their heart and mind have to be in it and then they have to work hard even when challenges present themselves.

These are just four of many ways that the arts enhance a child’s life. From musical instruments to live productions and more, the opportunities for children to learn, grow, and discover more about themselves and others through the arts is endless. If you are interested in learning more about our programs for youth and students, click here.

Local and Creative Mother's Day Gifts

Five Local & Creative Mother’s Day Gifts

by Colleen Cook

Each May, many of us have the opportunity to tell our moms how much they mean to us. For one day, a (mostly) thankless job is recognized in a small way… so let’s try this year to think a little creatively and make this a moment she’ll remember on those hard days.

1. Gourmet Chocolate

Mother’s Day is in that sweet spot (pun fully intended) between Easter and Halloween when all the chocolate in the house is MIA. I literally was emptying my pantry just last night searching for a morsel of dark chocolate and… nada. So, don’t skimp – get the good stuff.
We recommend: Squirrel’s Den Chocolatier

2. A Night Out

She’s your cruise director, chauffeur, and project manager – maybe, for once, make the plans and let her just go along with it! Pick up gift certificates to the theatre, dinner, and drinks after the show and let her have a worry-free night off!
We recommend: Gift Certificates to City Grille, Phoenix, and The Renaissance

3. Spa Treatment

Mom always comes last (how many times has she eaten a cold dinner of her own making?), so treat her to some pampering and help those shoulders to relax a bit! At the very least, she’ll be grateful for the hour or two of peace and quiet and the time to get her head centered.
We recommend: Studio 19 Salon & Spa

4. Jewelry

There’s something particularly special about a beautiful piece of jewelry – it’s a sparkling reminder of how loved you are, it’s a marker for a particularly special moment, and it’s an heirloom for generations to come testifying to the love someone had in their life.
We recommend: Miller’s Diamond Jewelry

5. Photographs

As a mom, I’ve been personally responsible for coordinating family photographs every time we’ve had them and it’s easily the most stressful day ever. Getting everyone polished, dressed, and smiling is seriously almost not worth it… until I see the glorious products a skilled photographer can turn out. Save mom the headache this year and give some awesome photos of her children without the stress.
We recommend: Tog Loft

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How I Fell in Love with the Symphony

by Llalan Fowler

When I was a kid and just getting into music, my grandmother started taking me to all the Sunday matinees with the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra. The whole experience of going to the Renaissance Theatre was a “to-do,” as she might say. Dressing up, buying drinks and popcorn, getting escorted to our seats like we were important.

I was just learning how to listen to music — how to pull apart an orchestra and listen to one section at a time. There’s the low brass, there’s the high woodwinds, I think that’s a viola? And how to watch an orchestra, too — how to see the players watch the baton of the conductor, the rows of string players watching the first chair, the percussion section watching everything. I was learning a new language. I could already read music, but reading a new language is quite a different thing than understanding a conversation.

I wonder if perhaps you have to grow up with symphonic music to continue seeking it out as you age. My elementary school music teacher was a passionate man. Passionate enough to throw blackboard erasers into the chatty percussion section, gesticulate so wildly as to dislodge his comb over, and to rain insults and spittle down upon the first unlucky row of flutes. Most of the kids hated him. I would have, had he not kept playing fantastic recordings for us: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Goodman’s Sing, Sing, Sing, and Gershwin. I took a tape of Rhapsody in Blue out of the library and listened to it again and again in my room, letting the music take shape and color in my mind.

My grandmother loved that I was exploring the big band music of her youth and encouraged me with her own stories of the bands that played when she was a young woman. She still remembered all the words and sang along in her ageless soprano to my CDs of Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Andrews Sisters.

As I got older and my tastes refined, my grandmother took me to even more shows. We saw one of Mel Tormé’s last concerts and even saw Yo-Yo Ma, whose luggage had been lost so he and his accompanist wore lumberjack flannels. We spent several summer evenings on a lawn in Columbus, picnicking and listening to The Canadian Brass, laughing at their jokes even if we’d heard them last year. I played trombone and wanted to be the first lady in the brass quintet.

I played in high school — symphonic band, orchestra, jazz band, marching band — and continued to play through undergrad. I worry that music is accessible only to those who already speak the language. Those of us who recognize all the different voices that combine to one. Those of us who have felt the power in that moment between the last note and the applause. But how much knowledge and history behind a certain piece do you need to “get it?” When I look at Van Gogh’s Starry Night, I know little of his life and of the story behind the piece; but I do know it is crushingly beautiful.

I want to share the beauty of this music with others, but don’t always know how to convince my Millennial-aged peers to come to an orchestra concert with me. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of them do come, but I greedily want everyone to try it. I don’t know if it’s some presumption that symphony-goers are stuffy and pretentious or if it’s intimidation by the unknown that prevents more people my age from joining me there. I certainly don’t know everything about each piece that’s played in a concert. Rather than feeling ill-educated and uncomfortable at the end, however, I feel refreshed and new and as if I learned something just by sitting there. Like the first time I heard Rhapsody in Blue, I didn’t feel stuffy and pretentious — I felt like something bold and new was let loose inside me.

This Saturday, I will be going to the “When Swing Was King” pops concert, and I’ll be bringing my now-91-year-old grandmother. We will dress up, we’ll go to the Altered Eats catered dinner beforehand, we’ll gets drinks, and we’ll be escorted to our seats. We’ll sit in the dark and listen as the chaos of tuning instruments transforms into the asymmetrical jive of Shaw, Miller, and Dorsey. I suspect we’ll sing along.