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Emerging Neighborhoods : For Good

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local creatives awarded for outstanding community arts work

A trio of local creatives, whose work in the arts ranges from entrepreneurship to philanthropy, have been acknowledged for the impact they make on the community.

Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio, a nonprofit that promotes creative learning through the arts for local children and teenagers, announced the winners of its 2013 Arts, Education and Entrepreneurship Awards late last week.

As part of its 60th anniversary celebration, the organization recognized those who have made a lasting contribution in the three key categories, says development director Jerry Smith.

The winners are:

* Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, founder and director of Near West Theatre. Located in the Gordon Square Arts District, the theater was deemed by Young Audiences as a bastion for Cleveland youth struggling with their identities.

* Anna Arnold, director of the Florence O’Donnell Wasmer Gallery. An artist and educator, Arnold works with at-risk children, encouraging them to positively express their thoughts and values through art.

* Jeff Lachina, CEO of Lachina. The entrepreneur's educational product company recruits from Cleveland Institute of Art and other area universities to demonstrate to students that an active career in the arts can happen locally.

The three award-winners each will have an endowment established in their names, and be recognized during Young Audience's anniversary commemoration in September.

"They all reached out into the community in a unique way, touching the lives of people for whom the arts is not always readily available," says Smith.

SOURCE: Jerry Smith, Jennifer Abelson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

'courage fund' created to help cleveland kidnap survivors

The brave escape of three women held captive in a Cleveland home has garnered a philanthropic response from local political and business entities.

The Cleveland Courage Fund was established by Cleveland City Council members Brian Cummins, Matt Zone and Dona Brady to benefit kidnap victims Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Berry's daughter. The funds were set up at the Cleveland Foundation and Key Bank two days after the release of the survivors, and have raised $650,000 to date. The total includes a $50,000 gift from the Cleveland Foundation and a $10,000 donation from Key Bank.

Money can be donated through the foundation's website or at KeyBank branches throughout Northeast Ohio, says Tom Stevens, the bank's vice chair and chief administrative officer. Prospective donors also can mail funds to the Cleveland Courage Fund care of the Cleveland Foundation, 1422 Euclid Ave., Suite 1300, Cleveland, Ohio, 44115.

KeyBank is providing pro bono financial council to the affected women and their families."We hope that through the generosity of the public, we can help these women get the resources they need," Stevens says. "We are delighted to serve as advisors to help ensure that Gina, Michelle and Amanda are able to use the money for their well-being."

Since its inception, the fund has received contributions from all 50 states as well as overseas. Groups including Jones Day, which is providing free legal council to the women, and The Centers for Families and Children are working to get every penny of the donated dollars into the right hands.

"People have been very generous with their contributions," says Stevens.

SOURCE: Tom Stevens
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

program connects students with opportunities in own backyard

During the mid-2000s, local newspapers ran stories with evocative phrases like "quiet crisis" and "brain drain" in lamenting the flight of young, talented minds from Cleveland.

Bob Yanega saw those negative headlines, too, and decided he wanted to do something about it. Yanega, a self-professed "serial entrepreneur" with a background in commercial construction and real estate, is the creator of Choosing Success Programs, a Cleveland-centric advocacy project aimed at area high school students.

The program provides live, in-school presentations showing students how to connect with the opportunities right in their own backyard. The goal is to motivate youth to become passionate, lifelong residents of Northeast Ohio.

"Many kids don't have parents who expose them to what's great here," says Yanega, of Larchmere. "We need to sell Cleveland to young people."

Yanega has been giving Choosing Success talks at local high schools for the last 18 months. Along with providing students with tips on college and career choices, he also mixes in a "sales pitch" about Cleveland, pointing to the city's affordability, increasing job rate and wealth of cultural options.

Choosing Success, under the umbrella of its parent organization The 1990 Project, recently received a boost as one of the winners of The Cleveland Colectivo's fast- pitch presentation event. The program now has a chance to get some much-needed funding from the giving circle, and Yanega believes his brainchild is worth it.

"We're presenting facts about the city," Yanega says. "Keeping the next generation in town is a powerful, broad-based message."

SOURCE: Bob Yanega
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

county vote-off secures grants for two large-scale arts projects

Cuyahoga County residents have picked which two large-scale projects will get funding through the Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) Creative Culture Grants competition.

* Dancing Wheels received $130,421 for a television documentary that will expand on the dance company's performance of the multi-media ballet, Dumbo. The film will explore issues of bullying and social injustice using the life stories of artists and community figures.

* LAND studio was awarded $150,000 to fund a multi-faceted light installation illuminating public spaces in downtown Cleveland.

Both projects were selected by 6,500 county residents in a public voting process held February 1-20. The winning arts programs, scheduled for completion in 2014, were chosen from a list of six finalists selected by an independent panel of arts and culture experts.

Officials from competition sponsor CAC were pleased by the voter turnout, and believe the winning projects will engage the region in creative ways.

"All six finalists had a different spin on how to connect arts and culture to the community," says CAC executive director Karen Gahl-Mills. "The two winners did a great job of reaching out to the general public."

CAC's pilot voting program revealed just how much creativity exists in the area, Gahl-Mills maintains. "It was delightful to see it come forward in new, exciting ways," she says.

The nonprofit is now assessing the program for possible future iterations. Gahl-Mills is not certain CAC will put on an annual public vote, but she can certainly envision county residents stuffing the ballot boxes for future arts projects.

"It's a great investment of public dollars," she says. "It isn't just the organizations that win; the community wins, too."

SOURCE: Karen Gahl-Mills
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

ohio city rec league adds bowling to growing roster of youth sports

Last summer, the Near West Recreation League's t-ball league was a hit for Cleveland kids. Organizers believe a recently debuted bowling league will play a similarly big "roll" in the health of a community that didn't have much in the way of organized sports.

The bowling program, open to 70-plus youngsters between the ages of 6 and 10, launched February 16 at Corner Alley in downtown Cleveland. The league is part of a two-year partnership between Ohio Savings Bank and Ohio City Inc. to support recreation activities on the Near West Side. Downtown Cleveland Alliance is also a partner in the new program.

The bowling league was created for children from Tremont, Detroit Shoreway and other West Side enclaves, although similar to the t-ball league, kids have been coming from other parts of the city to participate.

"Sports are a great way of bringing people together at a young age," says Eric Wobser, executive director of Ohio City Inc.

They're also a method of keeping people in the neighborhood, maintain the rec league's leaders. Retaining young families in the 25- to 34-age group has been problematic for Ohio City and downtown. Sports can be another amenity that grows a neighborhood population, while also integrating a community of diverse backgrounds.

"It's improving the quality of life," Wobser says.

If the bowling league proves successful, the rec league will add other sports throughout the year. Plans for the remainder of 2013 include youth-oriented baseball, soccer and basketball. The league may "age up" as well, from young kids all the way to junior high students.

"We've struck a chord with the community," says Wobser.
SOURCE: Eric Wobser
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

nonprofit makes getting federal returns less taxing for disadvantaged families

Filing a federal income tax return is far from the most enjoyable activity one can do. It can even be intimidating for people who don't understand the process or know they are eligible for an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit providing free tax preparation and other services to low- and middle-income Cuyahoga County residents, aims to bridge the knowledge gap and help hard-working individuals and families keep more of what they earned. Nationwide last year, the average credit handed out was about $2,200, but the credit can provide as much as $5,900.

"About 20 percent of people eligible for [EITC] don't claim it," says Mark McDermott, Enterprise vice president and Ohio market leader. "We get the word out."

That word is spread in conjunction with the Cuyahoga County Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition and a host of other local partner organizations. This tax season, Enterprise has recruited over 350 IRS-certified volunteers to assist in the effort.

Eligible residents can access the free service by dialing the United Way of Greater Cleveland's 2-1-1 help line. Appointments are scheduled at one of 25 sites located throughout the country. There are also a handful of Saturday free tax-preparation events taking place right up until filing day.

During the past seven years, more than 55,000 participants have received over $77 million in refunds and saved millions of dollars in fees from paid tax preparers, notes program director Kathy Matthews.

"That's about $13 million going back into the local economy," says Matthews.

Tax help isn't Enterprise's only offering. Those who use the service also have access to benefit screenings, debt management and more.

"The tax work is our foundation," says McDermott. "This has proven to be a great program."
SOURCES: Mark McDermott, Kathy Matthews
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

education the centerpiece of cpl's african american history month programming

Education is on the forefront of Cleveland's transformation plans. The city is aiming to reform its troubled school system as well as increase the number of youth attending and graduating from college.

Cleveland Public Library (CPL) had Cleveland's goals in mind when planning its African American History Month programming for this year. Throughout February, the library will offer a variety of education- and educator-focused programming, music and events at its main facility and branch locations. 

"We try to focus on topics that resonate with the community," says CPL programming director Aaron Mason. "Education is the topic of the day."

Featured programs and events include:

* A showcase of student-produced music and videos created by Cleveland’s youth through the efforts of Reading R.A.M.M. (Recording Arts Music Media) founder Edward “Phatty” Banks. The February 9 event at the main library is designed to connect area children with reading and education through use of pop-culture-style music and media.

* A performance by Ralph Miles Jones and Baba Issa Abramaleem, otherwise known as "The Seekers of Truth Revolutionary Ensemble." Jones is a multi-instrumentalist and recording artist from Oberlin College. Abramaleem is a composer, visual artist, playwright and percussionist-guitarist. The duo plays CPL's Rice Branch on February 15.

* A free screening of the documentary "PUSH: Madison vs. Madison" on February 22 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. branch. The film covers the trials of a talented but dysfunctional high school basketball team.

This year's round of African American History Month programming is meant to look ahead rather than back at history, notes Mason.

"The library should be a place of learning and engagement," he says. "It's about exposing people to new ideas."
SOURCE: Aaron Mason
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

county residents have a vote in how cac will award $300k in arts funding

Northeast Ohio has a vibrant arts and culture ecosystem, so why not let its patrons be directly involved in growing that environment?

This was a question asked by nonprofit Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) when putting to a public vote which large-scale arts or culture projects will receive funding through the organization's new Creative Culture Grants program.

Starting February 1, voters will be able to pick two winning arts projects from a list of six finalists chosen by an independent panel of arts and culture experts. The project finalists, among them a multi-media ballet led by Dancing Wheels, a multi-faceted light installation from LAND studio, and a community-wide arts collaboration between Cleveland's East and West sides, were chosen based on their creativity and prospective ability to impact thousands of Cuyahoga County residents.

"We wanted something that would be a stretch for these groups; something they may not have tried otherwise," says CAC executive director Karen Gahl-Mills.

The winning projects will get up to $150,000 each through the nonprofit's grants program. County residents can vote in two ways: Online up until 11:59 p.m. EST on February 20 or by mail until 4:30 p.m. EST February 15. Paper ballots will be available for download or by calling 216-515-8303. CAC will announce the winning projects on February 25. The chosen projects will take place between March 2013 and August 2014.

Gahl-Mills views the vote as the public's opportunity to have a real say as to where community dollars are going.

"Any of the six projects can be terrific for the region," she says. "We want the community to help make that decision."

SOURCE: Karen Gahl-Mills 
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

cpac roundtable asks how arts can foster sustained economic prosperity for cleveland

Arts and culture can define a community, creating a critical mass that translates into jobs, business opportunities and, ideally, sustained economic prosperity. These were the words of Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium Initiative (NEOSCC) director Hunter Morrison during a January 25 roundtable hosted by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC).

These also are words that CPAC president and CEO Tom Schorgl likes to hear. The focus of the roundtable event was sustainability, and how the arts and culture community can assist the region as it evolves through population and land use shifts. The local arts sector becoming engaged in these issues can help keep Northeast Ohio resilient, vibrant and sustainable, said Morrison, a notion that the CPAC president shares.

"We have cultural clusters throughout the region, and the ability to communicate on a larger basis with the population about those clusters," says Schorgl. "We need to continue to reach our audience."

The roundtable, which drew over 50 attendees to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's main gallery, was CPAC's first such event of the year. The nonprofit will sponsor similar forums through November, with an overall aim of connecting the arts and culture realm with professionals from sectors including community development and health and human services. Past roundtable speakers have included Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon, and City of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

"The idea is to provide a forum for new ideas around a common cause," Schorgl says.

SOURCE: Tom Schorgl
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

judi feniger ready to roll as gordon square arts district's new executive director

Cleveland's Gordon Square Arts District (GSAD) is supported by a strong backbone of dedicated institutions, corporations, merchants, residents and philanthropists, says Judi Feniger, newly named executive director of the West Side arts enclave.

Feniger planned to spend this week meeting with these groups, and looks forward to continuing the relationships that will help make the district even stronger. "It's a dynamic area," says Feniger, successor to GSAD founding executive director Joy Roller, who earlier this month became president of Global Cleveland. "I need to get a sense of what's going on."

What's been happening in recent years is new loft housing, an enhanced Detroit Avenue streetscape, new retail and gallery ventures, and the renovation of the Cleveland Public Theatre complex and Capitol Theatre. The latest milestone occurred in November with the groundbreaking for the Near West Theatre’s first permanent performance venue.

"Gordon Square is a growing part of Cleveland that attracting young residents," says Feniger. "How can we take these great assets and show them to our community?"

The experienced arts and business leader plans to answer that question thanks to a philanthropy and arts background that includes leadership stints with the American Red Cross and most recently the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

"I've been to Gordon Square many times," Feniger says. "It will be exciting to build on the foundation and bring more activity and awareness to the things going on here."

The district's potent combination of housing, new businesses, the arts and neighborhood beautification is attracting national attention and drawing audiences and visitors from throughout the region, notes the new executive director.

"There are many great things to do in Cleveland," says Feniger. "Our challenge will be to get a share of people's time and mind."

SOURCE: Judi Feniger
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

educational fair to attract private, charter, public and parochial schools

The motto of the Near West Family Network (NWFN) is "Stronger Families, Stronger Cleveland." Good schools are an important means of bringing those families into town, maintains the volunteer group's founders, hence the forthcoming Near West Cleveland PreK-8 School Fair.

The fair takes place February 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Ignatius High School. Sponsored by NWFN and advocacy group Ohio City, Inc., participants will get information about the private, charter, public and parochial schools found in Ohio City, Detroit Shoreway, Tremont and other Near West Side neighborhoods. School representatives will be on hand to provide information and answer questions.

"There will be a gamut of educational options available," says NWFN co-founder and Ohio City resident Norma Polanco-Boyd.

The mother of two daughters expects between 18 to 20 schools to be represented at the fair. "The goal goes back to the reason we started this organization [in November 2012,] says Polanco-Boyd. "We wanted to create a resource-based organization to retain families or attract them to these neighborhoods."

Along with the schools, Polanco-Boyd expects attendance from a handful of non-academic groups as well. These entities will provide yet another source of information for participating parents.

The NWFN website has a list of schools serving the Near West Side. Polanco-Boyd, a community affairs officer with a bank regulator, moved to Cleveland from Chicago with her husband, Joe. At the time, the couple didn't know anyone; Polanco-Boyd helped create NWFN for young families in similar straits.

The school fair is a critical to her group's mission, Polanco-Boyd believes.  "We want to grow Cleveland and help maintain its vibrancy," she says.
SOURCE: Norma Polanco-Boyd
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

'step' program proves 1-on-1 tutoring boosts reading skills

"Reading is fundamental" is a message that's been transmitted to the nation's children for years. Research shows that's no empty slogan: Kids who are not reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma, says Robert Paponetti, executive director of the Literacy Cooperative of Greater Cleveland.

Enter the Literacy Cooperative's STEP (Supporting Tutors Engaging Pupils) program, an in-school tutoring program designed to help build reading and language skills in underperforming K-3 students. Young participants are taught in one-on-one, structured tutoring sessions that coordinate with classroom curriculum.

The students chosen for the program usually are close to their grade's reading level, says Paponetti. Lessons are delivered twice a week and are designed to develop fluency, vocabulary development, comprehension and word knowledge.

"Reading to a child is one thing," Paponetti says."We are working with the child."

STEP started as a pilot program for first-grade students at Marion-Sterling School in Cleveland during the 2010-2011 school year. Shoreview Elementary was added to the mix for 2012-2013.  There's also an after-school program taking place at Warrensville Heights Library this year.

The program, funded by Cleveland Foundation and several other groups, has resulted in positive gains for its young readers, notes Paponetti. Participating students at Marion-Sterling, for example, showed improvement in all measures of reading skills compared to non-tutored students.

Further success will see future expansion of the program. "There's a beautiful simplicity to structured tutoring intervention," says Paponetti. "It could be a real tool for helping children."

SOURCE: Robert Paponetti
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

muscle house set to strengthen young students through music lessons

The musCLE house may not be a gym or cable-access bodybuilding show, but it does give Cleveland students the opportunity to flex their musical talents in exchange for a bit of their free time.

Students taking part in the program receive one hour of free music lessons in exchange for volunteering one hour toward philanthropic involvement or community service, says musCLE house co-founder Eric Kogelschatz.

The Detroit native created the program with his wife Hallie Bram Kogelschatz and Cleveland Institute of Music alums Ariel Clayton and Carlos Javier. The musCLE house works with students from Cleveland Municipal School District, although its co-founder would like to expand the program to other districts.

"Music is a basic building block of intelligence," Kogelschatz explains. Due to school districts cutting music programs, "not enough young people have exposure to it."

The musCLE house launched its fundraising campaign this week. Kogelschatz aims to raise $55,000 over the next two months to finance more than 600 hours of music lessons from paid instructors, along with the procurement of instruments, sheet music and more.

With its volunteerism aspect, the program has the tenet of community building at its core, says Kogelschatz. Adding music to the mix is a bonus for the Shaker Heights resident, who grew up playing the saxophone and clarinet.

"We're encouraging kids to get involved with their communities," he says. "Students get to see the change taking place around them, and they're getting a reward."

SOURCE: Eric Kogelschatz
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

arts grants aimed at strengthening north collinwood community and youth

Seven is a lucky number for North Collinwood's burgeoning arts community, as a like-numbered group of the neighborhood's creative thinkers recently received grants from the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC).

The seven artists, most working out of North Collinwood's Waterloo Arts and Entertainment District as part of CPAC's "Artists in Residence" initiative, will get a total of $45,000 in funding for projects including a music education series for local children and an "intergenerational story circle" starring some of the community elderly residents, says CPAC strategic initiative director Seth Beattie.

The grants will address community priorities through arts activities between this month and the end of March. Overarching themes of the grant cycle are residents, community assets and youth involvement. CPAC is awarding the grants in conjunction with the nonprofit Northeast Shores Development Corporation.

"We had 30 proposals this time around," says Beattie of CPAC's second of three grant periods; the third round will come next spring. "These particular ones rose to the top."

The grants are a component of the Artists in Residence program, which is using the North Collinwood neighborhood as "a laboratory" for increasing artists’ engagement with the population, says CPAC president and CEO Tom Schorgl. Area painters, sculptors, videographers and musicians are given perks like affordable housing with the hope they will be a major participant in neighborhood revitalization.

"Artists want communities where they can live affordably with a great quality of life," says Beattie. "They can be a tremendous force in absorbing space in the neighborhood. Collinwood is poised to see a dramatic turnaround in the coming years."

The Waterloo Road arts district can be part of that transformation, with CPAC's latest granting round a good beginning on getting that done, believe the organization's leaders.

"We're marrying strengths here," Beattie says. "It's about money and developing a system of support that helps artists build up projects now and in the future."

SOURCE: Tom Schorgl, Seth Beattie
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

'gardens that teach' contest imparts to local students the importance of healthy eating

A school garden is a real, living world, a type of lab that offers teachers a way to embed creativity, collaboration and love for nature into their curriculum, believes Carlton Jackson, a farmer, self-described "food evangelist" and proprietor of Tunnel Vision Hoops, a provider of hoop houses that allow for year-round food production.
The Cleveland-based company is offering Cuyahoga County public school students grades K-8 a chance to win a hoop house for their school. The Gardens that Teach contest, which runs through February, asks students a series of questions about the preparation, construction and maintenance of a theoretical school garden. Answers will be reviewed by a panel of experts from the realms of food policy, botany and community gardening.
The winning school will receive the greenhouse-like hoop house, while the other participants will learn about the benefits of plants, year-round gardening and healthy eating, says Jackson. "We wanted kids to use their math skills," he adds. For example, "how many pounds of tomatoes can they get? What will the do with the food once it's grown?"
Hoop houses provide a high-temperature environment that protects crops from strong winds, cold and frost, allowing fruits and vegetables to grow during gardening's so-called "off-season," Jackson says.
The concept also is in line with the city's Sustainable Cleveland 2019 project, a movement that in part aims to increase the percentage of locally produced food. Mayor Frank Jackson also proclaimed October 24 to be Food Day, a national venture with the overriding objective of "eating real" and promoting healthy diets among the population.
The Gardens That Teach contest is certainly a nourishing exercise for Northeast Ohio's young students, says Jackson.
"There's a wonderment in watching something grow," he says. "If we can kids back to that, it would be a beautiful thing."

SOURCE: Carlton Jackson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
73 Emerging Neighborhoods Articles | Page: | Show All
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