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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

retro gaming fun the aim of coin-op cleveland crowdfunding campaign

Memories of flashing lights, digitized explosions, rock music and quarters being ritually plunked into plastic coin slots have a happy place in the minds of many folks of a certain generation. Two Clevelanders want to bring those sights and sounds back to the city this summer in the form of a pop-up arcade.

Coin-Op Cleveland is a Kickstarter project helmed by John Stanchina and Mike Scur. While arcade gaming collapsed in the 1990s with the ascension of home consoles, the duo believe putting an old-school retro arcade in a West Side neighborhood will attract people seeking to mash some buttons with a few nimble-fingered friends.

Put simply, the pair wants to create a fun, unique place to hang out away from the "barcades" that have a few arcade cabinets alongside the plentiful booze.

"The vibe is being a kid again," says Stanchina, an Ohio City resident. "It's about interacting in a different kind of space."

The $35,000 Kickstarter campaign, which ends at midnight on May 13, will fund the arcade's installation and 30-day operation in Ohio City, Tremont or Gordon Square. A large part of the cost will go toward purchase and maintenance of the arcade machines themselves.

The plan is to run the arcade for a month, but if it receives additional funding, a permanent installation is possible, says Scur of Parma Heights.

The two friends envision a community space that becomes part of the downtown Cleveland nightlife scene, just with neon lights, popcorn and rows of game cabinets instead of a bar.

"Arcades are all about the social element," says Scur. "They've always been a place to play games with people on the same wavelength."

 
SOURCES: John Stanchina, Mike Scur
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

cle orchestra to bring its talents to gordon square for inaugural neighborhood residency

The Cleveland Orchestra is well known for its residencies in cities like New York, Vienna and Miami. Now the famous ensemble is bringing its talents back to where it all began.

In the first of a handful of planned residencies in Northeast Ohio, the orchestra has partnered with Gordon Square Arts District for a week of events May 11 through May 17. Visitors walking the neighborhood are bound to encounter orchestra or youth ensemble musicians performing at one happening joint or another. In addition, musicians will visit local schools for educational programs. All of the events will be free and open to the public

The orchestra has a healthy prior relationship with the West Side district, notes orchestra communications director Ana Papakhian. Ensemble musicians, for example, have played at Happy Dog, and the orchestra has plans to release a vinyl album based on the recordings there. Plans to diversify orchestra activities beyond Severance Hall and Blossom Music Center made Gordon Square an easy call for an inaugural neighborhood residency.

"The district is a natural fit," Papakhian says. "The community has always been supportive of us."

Entertainment is just one aspect of the venture, adds the orchestra official. Musicians will talk about their careers with Cleveland students, while a soccer game will pair local youth with musicians and staff. The idea is to form a bond between participating Clevelanders and performers.

"You get an enhanced concert experience when you have some connection to the people on stage," says Papakhian. "It's about seeing the musicians as real people."

 
SOURCE: Ana Papakhian
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

time bank gives access to services some normally can't afford

"We are all assets," declares the national website of TimeBanks USA, a movement dedicated to building "caring community" economies through an inclusive exchange of time and talent.

Indeed, time can be as valuable an asset as money in terms of the positive impact it has on a neighborhood, says Adam Gifford, director of community involvement at the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton, and Brooklyn Centre Development Office, which, along with its parent Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, is sponsoring a time bank in Cleveland.

The time bank movement works through reciprocation. For example, a landscaper does an hour of volunteer tree-trimming work, then deposits those 60 "time dollars" into his account. When he needs a service done, like getting his dogs walked or receiving help with his taxes, he simply "withdraws" his deposit for the service. There is no monetary value ever attached to any service -- time is the one and only coin of the realm.

"People may not have the money available, but they may have time," says Gifford. "It's about giving people access to services they normally couldn't afford."

Time banks have sprung up across the country. Locally, Kent and Medina are among the communities to use the service. The Cleveland time bank is in its infancy, attracting nearly 100 members putting in about 150 hours of work so far. A program orientation will be held February 26 at The Salvation Army's Clarke-Fulton location, while a Cleveland time bank website is scheduled to go live in March.

The time bank is open to individuals and groups. Gifford views the exchange of skills and services without cash as a method to enrich lives.

"It's a creative way to build a community," he says.

 
SOURCE: Adam Gifford
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

attorney-run group offers artists free access to legal services

The legal and arts world don't seem like a natural pair, barring the occasional tabloid story about a drug-addled starlet backing her BMW into a police car.

The Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts Committee (VLA) is bringing those realms together in a more positive fashion by providing the local arts community information about the law as well as free access to legal services.

VLA, a committee of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, refers low-income artists and arts organizations to lawyers for pro bono legal representation, gives informational talks to artists and arts groups, and presents legal seminars to lawyers regarding the arts.

In other words, if an artist needs legal advice about starting a nonprofit arts organization, protecting a copyright, or even forming a band, he or she can turn to VLA, says chairman Todd Masuda, an attorney with Schneider, Smeltz, Ranney & LaFond.

"It's by-need legal work," Masuda says. "Our attorneys will review applications and determine if they meet our criteria" of financial need and relation to the arts.

VLA recently gave a talk to lawyers at the new MOCA. The organization is planning a spring seminar for artists on nonprofit formation issues and health insurance options for the underemployed. 

Steve Day, a VLA volunteer and attorney with Calfee, Halter & Griswold, believes the arts-law connection is an important one for Cleveland.

"If you want an attractive city, you need a lively, vibrant arts community," says Day. "We're helping artists navigate legal roadblocks that would be too expensive for them to handle otherwise."

 
SOURCE: Todd Masuda, Steve Day
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

near west theatre breaks ground on first dedicated space after 35 years on stage

After 35 years producing theatrical performances in rented spaces, the Near West Theatre finally is getting its own place. The community theater broke ground on its first-ever permanent home on November 27, and its supporters are happily looking ahead to the first show at the stand-alone building.

It will be about two years before the Detroit-Shoreway theater opens at W. 67th Street, just north of Detroit, says chief operating officer Hans Holznagel. Until then, Near West Theatre will continue to operate out of its longtime rented home on the third floor of a hall owned by St. Patrick's Church at W. 38th Street and Bridge Avenue in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood.

The new 25,000-square-foot theater will have extra seating and increased stage space. It also will have rehearsal space and air conditioning, two amenities the current facility has done without for years.

"It opens up all kinds of possibilities for us," says Holznagel.

Hundreds of people from the Gordon Square Arts District, the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood and the local theater community were invited to celebrate the theater's groundbreaking. The project will cost nearly $7 million. This funding is a portion of the $30 million Gordon Square Arts District campaign to revitalize the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood using the arts as an economic catalyst.

A new space won't detract from the intimacy that Near West Theatre shows are known for, promises Holznagel. When it opens in fall 2014, the space will offer the professionally produced, large-scale shows long-time fans have grown to love.

 "We're excited to be part of a diverse, vibrant community that matches with the mission of our theater," Holznagel says.

 
SOURCE: Hans Holznagel
WRITER:  Douglas J. Guth

block group founder thrilled to be part of detroit shoreway renewal

It can be said that not only did Buck Harris live and work in Cleveland's Detroit Shoreway neighborhood before it was cool, he also had a hand in making the community cool in the first place.

Harris, a Lakewood native, has lived in the near west side neighborhood for 35 years, opening in 2002 a yoga studio called There’s No Place Like Om. Running a business at that time was a risk, but it wasn't the first Harris has taken when it comes to his beloved community. In 1992, he founded Bridge Brigade, "a guerilla-type community action group" created to push back against the crime that was inundating Bridge Avenue between W. 45th and W. 58th streets.

In those days, street corners were manned by gangs, drug dealers and prostitutes, while the surrounding neighborhood was blighted with dilapidated homes. Bridge Brigade members would patrol the streets in specially marked cars, using a CB radio to inform police of blatant criminal activity. Members also put up signs throughout the neighborhood to let drug dealers know they were being watched.

"We got chased a couple times," says Harris. "Things could get pretty hairy."

This year marked two milestones for Harris and his Bridge Brigade. The block group celebrated its 20th anniversary last summer with a street festival. In early November, the group's founder received an award for his good work from the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization.

Harris, who shared the community service award with life partner and fellow Bridge Brigade member Michael O'Connor, is proud to be one of Detroit Shoreway's "urban pioneers," he says. Along with the yoga studio, Harris also owned a restaurant in the neighborhood, and he's been thrilled to have been at ground zero for such area revitalization efforts as the Gordon Square Arts District.

Bridge Avenue, in particular, has seen an upswing with new townhouse projects and more. "I never would have believed the street would look like what it does today," says Harris. "There are people out jogging and walking. There was a time when people were afraid to walk around."

Ironically, the community's renewal is doing well to make Bridge Brigade nearly obsolete. "Attendance has definitely dropped," Harris says. "There's no longer a threat to fight."

That is not a bad problem to have, notes the block group founder. "I love the diversity here, and the proximity to West Side Market," says Harris. "Helping to create a neighborhood is a nice feather in my cap."

 
SOURCE: Buck Harris
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
71 Detroit Shoreway Articles | Page: | Show All
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