Denise received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater from Youngstown State University’s Fine and Performing Arts College and a Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve School of Law, where she earned an honors concentration in Law and the Arts from CWRU’s internationally recognized Spangenberg Center for Law, Technology, and the Arts. For the past twenty years, she has worked with some extremely talented and creative individuals in the arts. Not only did she focus her legal studies on law and arts, but she has acted, directed, and toured as a dramaturg. A favorite speaker at Youngstown State University’s College of Creative Arts and Communication, Denise’s real world employment in the artistic arena allows her to address concerns from an artist’s perspective, while analyzing legal issues as a trained attorney. She is an attorney with the law firm of Harrington, Hoppe, and Mitchell, Ltd.
When not volunteering for The Legal Creative, Denise serves on the Executive and Development Committees of the Board of Directors for Opera Western Reserve; the Board of Directors for the Mahoning Valley College Access Program; and the Community Advisory Board for Youngstown State University’s College of Creative Arts and Communication. She is also a Pupilage Team Leader for the Nathaniel R. Jones Inn of Court, a member of the Ohio State Bar Association, a member of the Mahoning County Bar Association, and a member of Leadership Mahoning Valley’s 2017 Class (the Best Class Ever).
Power of the Arts interviewed Bayer at Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell in downtown Youngstown.
Karen Schubert: This is Karen Schubert and I’m talking with Denise Glinatsis Bayer today for the Power of the Arts. We are in this lovely boardroom at the Huntington Bank Building and Denise is the director of Legal Creative. And Denise, I know you went to high school in Canfield. Was that a good program? Do you feel like it helped set you up for doing work in the arts? and for seeing wide horizons in your future life?
Denise Glinatsis Bayer: Well, I think that, academically, it was a wonderful school system to go through. While I was there I also attended YSU, through, at the time they called it SB140 program, so I was also taking classes at YSU. That was a great opportunity.
With regard to arts, I think that where I was first introduced to everything was being involved with the Youngstown Playhouse Youth Theater. So I was very involved in that, and in middle school and moving into high school, and it was just a wonderful experience. I am still friends with a lot of the people that, the kids that I was in shows with way back then. It’s very interesting how I think that experience in the youth theater and that responsibility– because we had to attend rehearsals, and we did need to miss school, for about a week, I think, to do the school performances– so you had to make sure that you were up on all of your schoolwork and didn’t get behind. I think that really set us up to succeed later. When I look at everyone that I was involved with, we’re all doing something interesting [laughter].
And from there you went on to YSU? What did you study there?
Well, I went into the theater program at YSU and I graduated with a bachelor in fine arts in theater. While we were there, again, I had a lot of great students that I went to school with that I’m still friends with, and while we were there we had a completely student run production company called Black Box Productions. I think that gave us a lot of hands-on experience into, not only, the theater production but also running a business, in general. We were provided funds by the university, but it was up to us to decide the season, to secure the licensing and the rights for the shows, to select directors for the shows and select the casts, do the sound, the lighting design, costume design, and then actually put on the shows. So that was a wonderful experience. And that was all in addition to your regular coursework. That was an extra-curricular activity.
It sounds like it was a really demanding program. I think there’s a perception that theater at the university is a frivolous program, and I know some local public universities have had to work hard to defend their theater program. You feel like it was a broad, very intense and responsibility-evoking–
Yes, definitely. We were there until all hours of the morning building a set or taking down a set, I mean, I had to buy engineering vellum to create a lighting design. So it was all sorts of skills that you tapped into for that type of degree. It did prepare me, I think, that that type of self-discipline certainly prepared me for when I went on to law school, and then even now as a practicing attorney.
So talk a little bit about your decision to go to law school. And did a theater degree set you up for that program?
You know, I am not a litigator. I’m a transactional attorney. A lot of people, when they think theater, they think oh, that will really help you with your public speaking and court work and things like that. On my end, it mostly helped me with time management and thinking of things from a different viewpoint, for lack of a better word, creatively. In working with Black Box, I thought it was just extremely interesting that I had to secure these licenses for these shows and there was this legal right on something that was intangible in creative works. I had also, through high school, I worked for a law office, so I was introduced to the law in that manner. And I knew I wanted to proceed in my education. I was either going to get an M.F.A and then maybe a Ph.D. in theater, but once I saw that there was a Law in the Arts concentration at Case Western, that piqued my interest, and so I applied and went there. That certainly helped me with– I don’t think people, especially with what I do, in terms of creating documents and agreements and trying to get parties to come together in some manner– I think people discount how creative attorneys really need to be. Because your clients come to you, they want a specific outcome. And you need to take that, given the fact of their situation, given the law, put that all together and come out with something that is appropriate, that meets your clients’ needs.
I’m so fascinated by the neuroscience that talks about how we gain empathy when we read novels, for example; maybe theater also serves you in that way where you’re actually embodying different people and so you’re really forced to see things from other points of view. And maybe it just sets you up to see the world in that way, that there are different points of view that are outside of our own selves.
Yes, definitely. And in my work, there’s a lot of things, people come to you, you know, when you’re an attorney and someone calls you, you may have hundred cases that you’re working on, a million different issues that you’re concerned about, but when your client calls you, that is at their forefront. They are worried, they are concerned, they want to make sure that this is taken care of. So you need to step back and realize that this is the most important thing in that client’s life. Right now, when they talk to you. And you have to take that into consideration when you deal with them.
Another place where I think that my background in the arts and theater really comes into play is with collaboration. With my clients, I’m not the type of attorney that’s going to hold the law up in this, like it’s some mystifying entity. I like to explain all along the way what’s going on, what we’re going to do. I like to get the client’s input. And want to make sure that they understand what we’re doing, so that it’s not just something that’s going to blindside them. So I think that I really look at my practice of law as a collaborative effort.
That’s really interesting. So talk a little about the law-and-the-arts program at Case. What kinds of things did you study?
Well, we focused a lot on, a lot of it has to do with contracts and intellectual property. So some of the classes that, the coursework that we focused on included of the music industry, law in the visual arts, a survey of intellectual property, in-depth copyright issues, in-depth trademark issues.
So that led you to start Legal Creative.
Yes. So after law school I came back and I was working for the federal court. I had a clerkship there for two years. And along the way I noticed, I was still involved in the theater and still had a lot of friends in the arts community here and there are a couple of things I noticed. One was that we did not have a Volunteer-Lawyers for the Arts here in our area. I noticed a lot of artists, and in fact, the people that assisted me with incorporating was the other folks on the board, they all noticed these same things, that we had a lot more freelance artists, people trying to make a living off of their art in this area. So taking that into account, and also the fact that, you may get that conservatory-type training, if you get a degree in any type of the arts, but you’re not really given that business or legal type of training as much. So that leads to lot of misconceptions about the law. So we wanted to create something that wasn’t just, Oh here’s an hour of pro bono legal advice, see you later, but it was also something that provided an educational resource for artists so they could understand and then they could explain to their clients these issues and the law. So that’s how the Legal Creative was born.
And you’re doing so much more than that. And so to bring that kind of information into the community you hold clinics where artists can come in and bring their individual concerns and you’ve had training sessions, right, about individual issues and things like that. But you’re also taking a really broad approach to the arts. Can you talk about some of your other initiatives?
Sure. I think that our mission is really that we want artists to be recognized for the economic impact that they make. And part of that is trying to get the public to respect the work that goes in to pieces of art, and understand that this is worth something, and that they do need to pay for these items. And that benefits our whole economic structure.
So some of the things that we’ve done, we’ve also done community art projects. We did the Youngstown Neighborhood Postcard Project, which was a lot of fun, at the YSU Festival of the Arts.
Talk about that. It was a wonderful program.
Thanks. It was based on a national program by a James L. Knight Foundation Fellow, Hunter Franks, and he was actually up in Akron at the time, which is a Knight Foundation city. So I got into contact with Hunter Franks and asked if we could bring this program to Youngstown.
One thing I feel about the arts, too, is that it’s a great equalizer in the community. So what the Youngstown Neighbor Postcard Project did was, we highlighted eight neighborhoods in the City of Youngstown. Part of the project we commissioned a local photographer, Tony Nicholas, to go into each of those neighborhoods and take a photo that was representative of that neighborhood. Then we created black and white little postcards where we asked the attendees at the festival to pick one of the eight neighborhoods that we highlighted.
So, say you had great memories of the Brownlee Woods area, which I did. My godmother lived there and I have a lot of wonderful memories of walking up to Youngstown Poland Road and Mavar’s and just being around the area. And the Happy Birthday Jesus cake, I love that, on Sheridan Road [laughter]. So a lot of great memories of the Brownlee Woods area. And that was one of the neighborhoods that we highlighted.
So you’d indicate on the postcard why you loved Brownlee Woods, and create your own personal artwork on the other side, it had a cute little Greetings From Youngstown on the other side, a traditional postcard design. During the festival, we put those postcards, we highlighted the artworks, to create a community art project around each of Tony’s photos. Then at the end of the festival, we collected all those postcards and just picked random addresses of people from other parts of the county and sent them those postcards.
And, you know, the reasoning behind that is maybe you live in Canfield or Poland or in another Youngstown neighborhood, and you think, I don’t know, what’s in The Garden District, or what’s in Brownlee Woods? Why would I go there? And then you receive this postcard with all these great memories or great things that people like to do in that neighborhood and you take a second look. So it’s something to bring people from different neighborhoods together. And also, a community art project that everyone can take part in.
And so lately you’ve been doing a project on hunger? I talked to Kent Kerr at the Summer Festival.
The Youngstown Social Cause Poster Project. Yes. One of the issues has focused on hunger in Youngstown. Currently we are partnering with the YSU Department of Art and the Mahoning County Technical College in their art department where the students in graphic design are highlighting a social issue that affects Youngstown. And one of the social issues is the access to healthy food, and hunger in this area. And so they created posters that highlighted some of these issues that affect Youngstown. For that, Kent worked on that and R.J. Thompson wrote the grant for that. We received a grant from the Puffin Foundation West for that.
So you’re using the arts to illustrate, to make visual, a community problem.
Yes. And I think that whole project should be unveiled in the fall of this year.
How do people find your– are you having trouble finding people or do you have a good formula for reaching the artists you’re trying to reach.
I think that what we need to work at is greater accessibility. For our legal clinics, it’s difficult because, usually we have them at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. Next week we have one at TBEIC in Warren. And we’ve been working with location, the availability of the volunteer attorneys, and the hours that we can schedule these clinics because we do need to have artists pre-register.
We can’t accept walk-ins for this type of thing just because we want to make sure we have attorneys that are there that are comfortable answering that specific legal question. So if you have a question in copyright law we want to make sure you have an attorney who is familiar with copyright law that meets with you and is available. So I think that just by social media, I think we are reaching them, artists, I think they’re aware of our existence. I think right now we need to work on how to make ourselves more accessible to the artist.
So what are a couple of issues that artists have in this area? What are a couple of things you really want artists to know?
You’d think it would mostly be copyright/trademark type of questions, but I think mostly it’s business-related questions.
More so: Should I form a separate entity for my company? Should I form an LLC? We do a lot of contract review, as well. We’ll have people who say you know, I’ve been been doing this verbally but I really think I should have a contract because we’re having some miscommunication with some of my clients. I think that’s great. I always– that is my big issue that I like to press upon people. Especially when you’re dealing with works that have that intellectual property layers to them, you want to make sure that you and your client are on the same page. Sometimes, as you mentioned, for tax purposes, forming a separate entity can sometimes help you and maybe streamline, hey I’m using all of this for business expenses, and this can be something that might be deductible. So sometimes having a separate account, a separate entity, helps you streamline those type of considerations.
Do you think that arts programs like YSU should offer more of these practical issues in their programming?
Yes I do, and we’ve actually been in discussions with YSU to present a series of lunchtime brown bag type seminars for the students throughout the year. So hopefully that will be coming into fruition. This would be something that would occur, you know, focused towards the students, at a time when they’re already on the university campus and addressing some of these, giving them some hands-on workshops. So hopefully that might evolve into a full-blown course in the future. But I think what’s nice is that the dean, the faculty at YSU recognizes that the students do need to have access to this, and we do need to make it easy for them to attend and to be apprised of these type of issues.
Any other thoughts about what you’d like people to know about Legal Creative or about the arts here? I just want to ask you quickly if you miss theater? Do you dip a toe in, sometimes?
I do. Right now it’s a little busy because I have two small children. But I was very involved in the Shakespeare in the Park and those type of shows, so I do miss theater. Maybe once the kids are a little bit older, I’ll go back, I’m sure. But I love being in the audience and supporting theater that way.
If I were to say anything, it’s just: You know. Go see a show. Go to a concert. Go to an art showing. You know the quality of artists that we have in this area. And just support them. The Legal Creative is here to also provide that type of support to artists so that we can get that message out there. Look at the quality of arts that we have in Youngstown, Ohio, in Warren, Ohio, in Sharon. Look at the talent that we have in this area and let’s support it, and let’s realize what a benefit it is to our community economically and not just as an aesthetic asset.
We’ll that’s a perfect note to end on. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. We appreciate it very much.