LORAIN, OH - In September 2015, FireFish Arts launched the first FireFish Festival, presenting it to the public as an opportunity to “re-imagine Lorain as it becomes a stage for a scorching array of art, dance, music, and fire. Opera or hip hop in an alley, art installations and galleries in storefronts, fire dancers and drummers in the street, or cabaret in an abandoned building – anything is possible at FireFish!” The event, designed to celebrate the region’s freshwater link to Lake Erie and the Black River and its storied industrial heritage, drew more than 10,000 visitors, showcasing art, dance, and theater, culminating in a dramatic pyrotechnics display.
The most important early goal of the first FireFish Festival was to enliven an empty downtown Lorain with the arts and artists, showing both the potential of the district and the power of the arts to make a difference. Called “creative placemaking,” it is a concept known nationally and internationally as an especially effective re-development tool.
FireFish Interim Director/Festival Director Joan Perch offers that “In the past seven years, we have watched downtown Lorain evolve from a barren corridor full of empty storefronts to one that has come alive with small businesses, eateries and bars, and creative and arts-based entrepreneurs, supported by innovative public and private partnerships.Lorain is truly emerging as a city re-imagined by those very people that are investing their creativity, energy, and resources, all working together to create an exciting downtown poised for the future.This IS a creative place!”
James Levin, the founder of the Gordon Square Arts District, Cleveland Public Theatre, and IngenuityFest, produced the inaugural FireFish Festival and the three that followed. “We owe a great deal of gratitude to James Levin, as our founder and executive creative director of the first four festivals,” says Interim Director Joan Perch. “FireFish is an event known for its high quality, wide-ranging signature, and unique performances in unexpected places, as well as its fiery finale. That vision and history, including national recognition as a leader in creative placemaking, continues to inspire and drive our work. We look forward to his celebrating FireFish 2021 with his input again”
Arts Program Manager Ryan Craycraft adds: “This seemed a perfect time to re-imagine again, but this time we have re-imagined what a FireFish Festival could look like, to reflecting these very unique but yet hopeful times, we can have more impact on downtown businesses by adding this attraction over a longer period of time.”
For FireFish 2021: A Festival Re-Imagined, the signature arts programming that has been an anticipated hallmark of the annual FireFish Festival takes place this year over twenty-one days and four themed weekends (August 29 – September). Marketing and Program Manager Candice Pettigrew describes one important reason for the change: “One of the things we’ve heard about the festival is that there is so much to see in such a short while.So, we will essentially be spreading the signature, high-quality arts programming that has been a part of the FireFish Festival in a month-long FireFish Festival for 2021, as well as leading up to the Festival all summer long.”
Board of Directors president Frank DeTillio adds, “As FireFish continues to mature as a responsive arts organization, we are harnessing the creative energy of the whole community, including artists, our partners, and the downtown business community. Working together to achieve mutual goals and respond to current challenges, including those caused by the COVID 19 pandemic, as well as new opportunities, this “reimagined” festival offers ongoing opportunities for the community to engage both in FireFish Festival arts and performance and in a revitalized downtown Lorain.”
FireFish 2021 officially kicks off on Sunday, August 29thwith Twin Flames, a special live performance by Lorain natives Jaclyn Bradley and Melissa Driscol. Leading us in a musical celebration of show tunes, this special event is also designed to celebrate the rich artistic heritage of Lorain, its art institutions, and the ongoing support of the Lorainites for the arts. The two songbirds have not only contributed to Lorain’s rich music history, but they also share a unique personal history and artistic camaraderie, born in our very own steel town.
Driscol spent her youth performing at both Lorain Community Theater and Elyria Community Theater and studying at both Oberlin College and Baldwin Wallace.Early in her career, she served as Music Director at the Lorain Palace Youth Theater.It was there that Bradley became her student one summer and the two began a lifelong friendship and mentorship.
Jaclyn Bradley, a nationally and internationally respected vocalist and owner of the new Lorain Rock Town Music Academy, is a graduate of Indiana University’s Jacob’s School of Music and has spent a lifetime in the arts.A singer, songwriter, and recording artist, her music has been featured on stages and screens worldwide. A contestant on “The Voice of Holland,” and “Ireland’s Got Talent,” and Bradley and her music have been featured on MTV, Vh1, HGTV, Bravo, and TLC.After many years abroad, she has returned to Lorain to open a music school and raise her daughter, Roma, age 7.Bradley and Driscoll will be singing a duet of show tunes.
Driscoll, a graduate of Admiral King High School, hails from the family that owned the respected Driscol Music Co. on Broadway.She now resides in Manhattan and is an event producer at the legendary Stonewall Inn in New York City. Her theater credits include Equity Theaters around Los Angeles; she also joined the USO and has traveled to Guam, Japan, and all over the USA performing for both active duty and veterans, as well as on about 15 different Cruise Ships as a Guest Entertainer. The duo will follow this event with a sister show at The Stonewall Inn in spring, 2022.
Each additional week of FireFish 2021 will feature the “layering” of more theme-based art, performance, and installation, including featured arts programming at the Main Street September 3rd “Broadway Block Party on First Fridays.” During the 21-day long festival, visitors will also be able to watch the construction of the FireFish and a performance by FireFish designer and puppeteer Daniel McNamara, as well as meet Schuyler White, FireFish’s pyrotechnic and Hollywood stunt man.
The first FireFish Festival was staged in 2015, celebrating the region’s freshwater link to Lake Erie and the Black River and its storied industrial heritage. Drawing more than 10,000 visitors and showcasing art, dance, and theater, it culminated in a dramatic pyrotechnics display. This new FireFish Festival will be culminating in the annual FireFish FINALE – ritual processional and “Burning of the Fish,” scheduled for Saturday, September 18, 2021.
FireFish Arts Mission Statement
FireFish Arts is a non-profit community organization that works to enhance cultural, civic, and economic development in Lorain through visionary arts events, pioneering arts programming, community arts education/enrichment, and critical arts leadership. We come together to create, celebrate, inspire, and be inspired to transform downtown Lorain and Black River Landing waterfront through FireFish Arts programming.The result is a bold new vision and modal that works to embed arts event-based civic engagement, commerce, and enterprise into downtown Lorain as it transforms from post-industrial decay to an equity-based 21st-century creative economy.
More information can be found: HERE