"Steel Museum" ready to install large outdoor sculptures

"Coal Miner" is among three new scrap metal sculptures being installed outside the  Youngstown Historical Center for Industry and Labor on Wood Street.

Three large scrap metal sculptures depicting a steelworker, a coal miner and a soldier will be installed outside the Youngstown Historical Center for Industry and Labor.

“We are thrilled to have this amazing artwork at the museum,” said Marcelle Wilson, a History instructor at Youngstown State University and the museum’s site manager. “The work is emotional and thought provoking.”

The sculptures, measuring nine-feet high and weighing more than 400 pounds each, are titled “Steel Worker”, “Coal Miner” and “Wounded Warrior” and will be located on the west side of the museum on Wood Street in Youngstown, commonly referred to as the Steel Museum.

The artwork is by the late Sidney Rackoff, a Youngstown steelworker who earned a Purple Heart during World War II and later attended Yeshiva University and became a rabbi. He later retired, took art classes and, in the 1980s and 1990s, began creating different types of art, including large metal sculptures. He died in 2014.

Wilson said Rackoff’s family approached the museum with the offer of donating the sculptures. The project was managed by John Liana, public relations/blueprint archivist and liaison between the Rackoff family and the museum for the past two years.

Wilson said Rackoff created a variety of statues with several resonating themes that fit well with the museum’s mission.

“This is important work that needs to be preserved,” she said. “Rabbi Rackoff’s experiences informed his work and his connection with people. We think we are the correct place to collect these sculptures and display them.”

Born in 1919, Rackoff served in the Army during World War II, seeing combat in France, Belgium and Germany and receiving the Purple Heart. After the war, Rackoff worked at Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company from 1948 to 1967 as a crane-man’s helper in the pipe yard. He also owned a used furniture store in Youngstown. In 1969, Rackoff graduated from Yeshiva University in New York and became a Rabbi, serving in various synagogues including the Elyria, Ohio, congregation; Beth Abraham Synagogue in Zanesville, Ohio; Temple Am Shalom in Mentor, Ohio; and Temple Israel in New Castle, Pa.

He later attended art classes at Lorain County Community College, studying drawing, painting and three-dimensional art. At Cleveland State University, he took classes in bronze casting and ceramic sculpture.

His work, which numbers more than 70 pieces, has been exhibited in the Colony Square Mall in Zanesville; Muskingum College; the Randall Park Mall in North Randall, Ohio; Richmond Town Square in Richmond Heights, Ohio; Shaker Square in Cleveland; Secrest Auditorium in Zanesville; the Zanesville Art Center; and area churches, schools and malls in Ohio and West Virginia, as well as the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown.

The museum, opened in 1986 and part of the Ohio History Connection, is managed by YSU’s History department and houses exhibits and records that provide an overview of the impact of the iron and steel industry on Youngstown and other Mahoning Valley communities.