MANSFIELD — Better human connections and finding solutions are crucial in a polarized world where perceived differences and problems drive people apart every day.

That was the message Saturday evening from Source Media Properties Publisher Jay Allred to an Idea Works gathering of more than 150 during the organization’s “Reporting Reimagined Volume 2,” an event aimed at linking art with solutions journalism.

“I think that art is a great connector and it’s a great common ground where people can meet and bring themselves into a situation to experience something together,” Allred said.

Jay Allred

It was a night filled with food, drinks, music and creations from 21 area artists who were asked to select at least one solutions journalism article from Richland Source, Ashland Source and Knox Pages to serve as the inspiration for their piece.

Funding from the Solutions Journalism Network helped provide the free community event at 40 W. Fourth St.

“I think the art connects people to the journalism,” Allred said. “It creates a way for them to feel more engaged with and part of their community.

“It allows them through the art and the artists to feel like they have more control and agency over their lives. It’s a fantastic way for us to celebrate with our community — with our news sources, the artists, our members and our readers — and to show the power of what they’ve accomplished together,” he said.

Two of the artists participating echoed the publisher’s thoughts.

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Allison Pence, of Mansfield, created a painting inspired by the Richland Source nine-part section on public transit. She also participated in the media company’s first such event in 2019, a hoped-for annual event delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I love Richland Source and how it brings the community together,” Pence said. “The first event was such a success, for me personally and for everyone. I enjoyed it and it was just something that I felt drawn to do again.”

Pence said she was walking downtown, pondering which article to choose from, “and it hit me like a ton of bricks … Richland County Transit brings people together.”

She began picturing in her mind all of the downtown artwork she has done in recent years.

“As I was walking downtown, I started taking pictures of the different buildings where the bus stops are and started doing my homework. It just seemed to fit perfectly,”  Pence said.

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Loudonville-area artist Mark Sebastian Jordan, also an author, playwright and stage performer, created a painting based on the solutions story explaining how local entertainment venues survived the pandemic.

“I had planned to do a kind of subdued, meditative painting, showing some actors on a stage playing to an empty house. But when I actually started painting, my hands just kind of took over and it became much more raw and jagged in style,” Jordan said.

“I just left the stage empty. To anyone who performs, to anyone whose life depends on being on a stage and connecting with an audience out there, that  empty stage is terrifying,” he said.

Jordan said he was also drawn to the idea of local artists coming together.

“I’m attracted to being involved with a number of other excellent artists, although it scares the hell out of me to stand next to some of these people,” he said.

“Nonetheless, they are the people I want to be connected to because I feel like they enrich my life and hopefully I give them some things to think about, as well.

“I love challenges … or essentially dares. One of the elements of this particular show is that we’re given a list of articles and told, ‘Take a look at this list of articles and find your inspiration somewhere in these.’

“That’s not easy because. There are some things you look at and you can’t imagine doing anything with it. But you look and you think and then, boom, something hits you,” Jordan said.

Angie Cirone, the Source Media director of journalism sustainability, and Brittany Schock, the organization’s engagement & solutions editor, helped to arrange the evening.

“The artists and guests made this event a special celebration of solutions journalism. I hope attendees are more inspired to look for solutions within their own community and take action,” Cirone said.

The event also comes just eight days after a different audience filled Idea Works for a Richland Source Music After Hours event, featuring performances by local musicians.

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“When we were founded in 2013, we were founded to reimagine local journalism in Mansfield and Richland County. (These events) really helps us keep our eye on the target,” Allred said.

“We are reimagining what it’s like to have a newsroom now, not only in Mansfield and Richland County, but in Mount Vernon and Knox County, and in Ashland and Ashland County. That’s what makes nights like tonight so important to us.”

Allred told those gathered it feels like the world has changed in nearly every way since 2019.

“if we’re honest, the weight and sheer ferocity of the news over the past couple of years has sometimes felt crippling. It’s left many of our neighbors feeling helpless and without any control over our lives, our health, or even our own bodies.

“And it gets worse when the stories we see reflect back to us only the problems, but never the interesting, novel — and often effective — responses,” Allred said.

“That’s why we’re here tonight. To celebrate the responses and the responders that have made things better.”

MANSFIELD — Three “Solutions Seekers,” people who live out the values of Source Media, were honored Saturday night at “Reporting Reimagined” — one for Richland Source, one for Ashland Source, and one for Knox Pages.

“Solutions Seekers are problem-solvers. They are challenging the status quo. They don’t accept past challenges and limitations, and instead push through them,” said Brittany Schock, the Source Media engagement & solutions editor.

“They are actively working to leave their communities better than they found them. We believe they should be recognized for this worthy work,” she said.

More than 200 community members voted to choose the winners from a group of nine finalists that were nominated by the Richland Source, Ashland Source and Knox Pages newsrooms.

The winners were Edward Akinyemi for Richland Source, Terry McQuillen for Ashland Source and Ptl. Jeremiah Armstrong for Knox Pages.

The three winners were  presented with an award hand-crafted by local artist Lucas Hargis.

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