Calvin Center for the Arts

The Calvin Center for the Arts is located in Youngstown, Ohio, west of downtown in the Mahoning Commons neighborhood. My brother, Sean Timms (1970-2015), purchased the Calvin Center in 2010 with an extraordinary vision and a strong desire to invest in Youngstown. In the 1980s, the neighborhood began attracting artists to the eclectic multi-functional properties for studio spaces and later theaters. By purchasing the Calvin Center, Sean became an integral part of this movement, providing a historical space for its expansion. The Calvin Center became a place to celebrate my brother’s love of Youngstown and its diverse community, bringing people together with joy and encouraging the creative spirit of those around him.  

Since my brother died, the center’s future is unknown. As Sean’s estate is close to being settled, I am seeking donations to purchase the Calvin Center to keep his dream alive. In cities like Youngstown, communities often struggle with loss of identity, Sean loved having a place that brought people together to celebrate, appreciate the creative culture that flourished in Youngstown. I would like to continue what my brother started, changing some of the fiscal structure to allow for sustainability and continued growth. Following examples of successful nonprofit art centers like AS220 and Artspace, my focus is to  create jobs, affordable live/work studios,  and athletics/performance spaces while providing education programs, preservation and ecological commitment catering to the community it serves.  


The Calvin Center originally functioned as a city school, West Elementary #2. Vincent Ajamu Shivers, a local historian and researcher accredits Plimpton Ross Berry, an African American vernacular architect for the design and construction of the late 19th century building. Berry, also known as a master brick and stone mason, designed and constructed over 65 structures in Youngstown and neighboring cities in Pennsylvania. In 1943, the city sold the building to the adjacent Hungarian Presbyterian Church. Then in 1950, the church added two additions which housed a stage, gymnasium and commercial kitchen. With the decline of the church’s parish, the building sat vacant for a decade prior to Sean’s purchase.


Affectionately dubbed the Mayor of Mahoning Avenue, Sean’s boisterous personality and generous nature attracted tenants who helped forge the historic building into a diversified community arts center. The 22,000 sq ft space developed organically,  hosting community events, such as art shows and local bands,  as well as housing a resident theater company, the Rust Belt Theater. Since the founding of the Calvin Center for the Arts, the building has also grown into a popular hub for the athletics community. The facility is currently home to LCAA Sports, adult/youth basketball leagues, and EOS Whole Fitness, which offers yoga and bellydancing to the community.  Youngstown SOUP, The Victorian Players, U.N. Act, the MV Trans/Partner Support Group and Mahoning Valley Players also have utilized the facility.


I left Youngstown 13 years ago to pursue a career in archaeology and historic preservation. I received my bachelor’s degree in Art History and Historic Preservation from Youngstown State University and went on to receive my master’s degree in Industrial Archaeology from Michigan Tech University.  Much of my career has been studying the physical remains of places impacted by industrial growth and decline. My research has led me to view these cities as taking on humanistic qualities with the same patterns of growing and shrinking and the carnage left behind.  Secondary cities with low “self-esteem” if you will, often struggle with identity and place making. It all comes down to how struggling cities like Youngstown and their communities choose to heal.  

At the heart of this is cultivating a space that will nourish a society with human connection through food, sports, music, dance, and everything from fine arts to healing arts. Pivotal moments in my life my brother took me in and gave me a home, with love and support he helped me become a better person. I am not alone, Sean’s warmth and compassion extended beyond friends and family.  Please help me continue his dream.   


Artspace, the leading developer in the arts creates affordable work/live studios, performance and gallery spaces, and art campuses in over 30 cities across the US. The nonprofit organization creates self-sustaining institutions that have positive impact on the community as a whole. The nonprofit organization cites the economic growth and revitalization through creating jobs and developing a community dedicated to sustaining the arts.

AS220 is another nonprofit organization in Providence, Rhode Island. AS220 originally began with a group of artists and a manifesto, renting a small coffee shop that dually served as an event space with work/live studios. Working with the city of Providence, a Three Bank Participation Loan, Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission and sponsored equity, AS220 was able to acquire and renovate the 22,600 square foot live/work community arts performance and gallery space. The organization currently has a rough net worth of 22.5 million dollars in real estate holdings that include 3 commercial building blocks with 3.9 million in annual income that pay for programming and staff.  AS220 provides 48 work/live studios, commercial leasing to small local businesses, employs 54 full and part-time employees, operates a restaurant and bar, theater, galleries, live performance spaces, youth programs, print shop, media lab, rehearsal spaces, and audio production studio.






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Erin Timms 
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