MARTINS FERRY - Siena Baldi didn't grow up in the Ohio Valley.
She spent her youth between North Carolina and the big city of Chicago. But she holds plenty of memories dear to her heart from little time she did spend in Martins Ferry.
There at the home of her maternal grandparents, Mitch and Flora Wozniak, Baldi's love of the creative and the practical grew.
When the Wozniak's passed, ownership of the house went to Siena's mother, Diana.
Baldi and two of her colleagues are set to open the MITCH Collective, bringing a new avenue for the artistic to the area while honoring the man who helped mold Baldi into the woman she is today.
''We didn't have much luck renting the house and since there aren't a lot of outlets for art in the (Ohio Valley), we realized this was a great opportunity,'' Baldi said.
Their mission: to integrate sustainable living and the arts through the collaboration between residents and visiting artists to enrich the community.
Baldi, along with Sylva Johnson and Leah Nixon, are the founding artists of the collective. All three are graduates from Washington University of St. Louis' Sam Fox School of Art and Design.
''We visualize it as an artist retreat and community gathering center,'' Baldi said. ''It will be tailored to the city of Martins Ferry. It will work from within the community to empower residents of all ages to engage their artistic side and reach outside the community to attract visiting artists with diverse skills and a passion for new ideas.''
Baldi's background is in printmaking and drawing while Nixon's is in painting and creative writing. Johnson's area of expertise is photography.
The group is hoping to offer printmaking for area residents as a mean to sustain itself while interest and involvement grows.
''Initially, our focus will be on printmaking,'' Baldi said. ''It's kind of an unusual art medium.
''We'll go with that for a while. Most people can't afford a printing press but we'll try to be a community that shares one. Then people can keep coming back and learning new ideas and techniques.''
With just three artists at the beginning, there is already a wide-array of mediums. They won't be the only artists, however.
Baldi envisions establishing an artist retreat where visiting artists may promote their creativity and share their knowledge while interacting with the community and collective members.
The group also has plans to remodel the house, built in 1907, into a more energy efficient structure both inside and out. One example will be collecting rain water for further use.
''We want to emphasize sustainable living,'' Baldi said. ''Hopefully people will see the practicality of sustainable living and apply it to their own houses.''
While Baldi doesn't have a target opening date yet, the group plans to move in early July and get started on the remodeling.
''All the indoor construction we have planned should take less than a month,'' Baldi said. ''But we'll also be changing the landscape slightly.
''The house sits on a pretty steep hill and we're thinking of making an outdoor amphitheater space carved into the hill for people to sit on. It can function for both performances and outdoor gathering."
Another idea has blossomed when Baldi was placing out feelers, looking for interested parties already in town.
One person approached her about placing a community garden on the property. While that wasn't part of the original plan, Baldi believes it could work and fits nicely with the scope and vibe the collective is shooting for.
For more information on the MITCH?Collective and its founding artists, check out www.mitchcollective.org or visit the collective's Facebook page.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org