Though his lengthy journal chronicles far-away travels keeping him from home for an extended time, one local artist revels in the roots that serve as inspiration for his many works, returning in time to share his time and talents with the community he calls home.
Having just returned from a six-month Air Force Reserve tour of duty in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he completed his assignment with the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command's Public Affairs Office, local artist Bob Barko Jr. shared in a recent press release, "It is great to be back in the Mahoning Valley."
A native of Youngstown and currently residing in Boardman with his wife Deana, Barko's return allowed for a showcase of his most recent artistic efforts - a collection of 10 pencil drawing prints, together titled, "The Century Collection 2012" at the Butler Institute's recent American Holiday Fine Art show. This was Barko's only public show for the 2012 holiday season.
Boardman artist Bob Barko, Jr., spent time with visitors, such as Bernice Barrel, to his booth, many of whom not only snatched up many of his unique gift items, but also stayed a bit, reminiscing and sharing stories of the Youngstown they remember and still call home.
Featuring local and regional landmarks including the Boardman Park Bandstand, the Butler Institute of American Art, the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse, Canfield's Loghurst Home, the Mahoning County Courthouse, the McKinley Memorial in Niles, Mill Creek Park's Gazebo, Put-In-Bay's Perry's Victory Memorial, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and Stambaugh Auditorium, The Century Collection is available in a 5x7 print or a set of the six Mahoning Valley landmarks. In addition, Barko's framed, signed and numbered original drawings of the images were available for purchase at the show.
The Century Collection 2012 is a follow-up to Barko's release in the year 2000 of The Century Collection that featured six Youngstown landmarks, two Great Lakes lighthouses and two additional regional images.
Having looked forward to sharing his newest work with loyal supporters in time for the holidays, Barko said that he worked on this art during his off-duty hours, and that it was thanks to today's technology that he was able to get in home and printed in time for the event, especially since the Butler is represented in the set.
In addition to The Century Collection 2012, Barko also offers fine graphic art prints featuring Youngstown popular culture, highlighting Idora Park, Isaly's, Mill Creek Park, the city's steel mills, local movie theaters, contemporary and historic downtown and more. These prints include his popular full-color "Here In Youngstown, a visual history of the city from 1796 to 2007," last year's full-color "The Steel Valley" historic Youngstown steel mill homage, 2009's "Youngstown" monochrome cityscape as well as an extensive catalog of many others.
Visitors to Barko's booth not only snatched up many of his unique gift items, such as one-of-a-kind framed, matted, signed and numbered original artist's works, historic photo and postcard reproductions, exclusive greeting cards, and the "YO" bumper stickers, but also tended to stay a bit, reminiscing and sharing stories of the Youngstown they remember and still call home.
An artist "forever," Barko said he took his artistic talents to the professional level in 1996, establishing Steel Town Studio four years later. Visit Steel Town Studios on Facebook at www.facebook.com/steeltownstudios. Additional information can be found by calling the studio's info line at 330-743-8929.
"My service in Afghanistan was an amazing experience that I will never forget," said Barko, who went on to share the words of a friend met there. His roots in Italy, the man shared that as a boy his grandfather picked up a handful of dirt, asking him to smell it.
"This is where you're from," he told him. Barko said in retelling the story to him, the man said, "It's important for a man to remember his origin and have a point of reference."
While his service to his country may have taken him far, far from home, Barko's work reflects his fondness for and commitment to his home and community. With his works of art a reflection of his strong roots, it is clear that Barko is well aware of his origin and his point of reference guided him safely back.