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facing history funding brings play about ksu shootings to cleveland classrooms

A Shaker Heights High School project about the Kent State shootings will be brought into classrooms throughout the Cleveland area thanks to a nonprofit that believes education is the key to stopping such events from happening again.

Facing History and Ourselves awarded Shaker Heights High School teacher John Morris $3,000 to collaborate with Kent State University professor David Hassler on the project. American history, literature and theater students at Shaker Heights will learn about the ramifications of the massacre through the play May 4th Voices: Kent State 1970. Pupils at regional Facing History classrooms will also be part of the program, says Mark Swaim-Fox, executive director of the local chapter of Facing History.

The play offers different viewpoints from a violent moment in American history, investigating a critical moment in the social protest movement. Stagings of May 4th Voices will take place for students as well as the wider Cleveland community, with help from Facing History staff and educators.

"It aligns with critical thinking of how we remember the past," says Swaim-Fox. "We want this to be a resource for the kids in our network."

Facing History is a Massachusetts-based educational group working across the country to combat racism and prejudice through education. Swaim-Fox hopes the play garners a new audience, with curricular materials about the shootings circulated to a new generation of young learners.

"The play is uncovering untold stories from a chapter of history that sometimes gets passed over," he says. "This will be a great vehicle for students to look at a complicated time period."

SOURCE: Mark Swaim-Fox
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

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

cpl to make it a great summer for cleveland's young readers

Summer traditionally is the season for kids to laze about or get shuttled off to camp by their parents. Cleveland Public Library has whipped up an imaginative way keep children engaged in reading during the hot months through its Summer Reading Club.

This year's Make it a Great Summer program will run until August 2. While it is designed to keep the minds of its young participants active and ready for a return to the classroom, that doesn't mean sitting them among dusty stacks and placing books in their hands.

In addition to reading, the club encourages children to build and create through hands-on programs at any of the system's 27 branches as well as the main library, notes Aaron Mason, assistant director of outreach programming at CPL.

"There's the traditional component of kids logging their reading over the summer, but we also wanted them actively involved," Mason says.

Creativity is at the heart of these activities aimed at Cleveland public school students in grades K-12, adds the CPL spokesman. Kids can build their own balloon rocket or balloon-powered rocket car. Another program will have them learn about movie making while creating hand-held movies using flipbook animation.

For children who read and log 10 books or more, the festivities will culminate with a free family trip to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on August 17. Anything that drives young people to their local library is a positive in Mason's book.

"We want to get them engaged," he says. "These activities encourage kids to keep on reading."

SOURCE: Aaron Mason
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

jam for justice fundraising event ready to rock for a good cause

This summer, justice carries an axe.

This is not the tagline for a blockbuster film (although it should be), but the idea behind "Jam for Justice," a fundraising event in support of The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

Four rock bands, all fronted by area attorneys and judges, will pound guitars instead of gavels July 11 at House of Blues. Among the acts are Rule 11 and the Sanctions, helmed by incoming Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association president Jonathan Leiken, and Judge Michael Donnelly's classic rock combo Faith & Whiskey.

"All the bands are great," says Melanie Shakarian, Legal Aid's director of development and communications.

Each act is rocking out to support Legal Aid's work in the community. The nonprofit organization assists low-income Northeast Ohioans in need of counsel. It has 45 lawyers on hand to give free help to the poor in cases involving evictions, divorce, loss of benefits and other civil issues. Legal Aid aims to counsel 26,000 clients in 2013.

Jam for Justice, now in its fifth year, moved to House of Blues this summer after outgrowing its previous space. Shakarian expects 500 philanthropic music fans to attend the concert. The group has a fundraising goal for the event of just under $20,000.

A concert is not the typical venue to find a congregation of lawyers and judges -- and that's what makes the event fun while also supporting an important cause, says Shakarian.

"The show appeals to more than just the legal community," she says. "We always get a diverse cross-section of folks from across the region."

SOURCE: Melanie Shakarian
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

kulture kids arts program gives cleveland students a 'presidential' surprise

A local nonprofit arts program gave a group of Cleveland students a White House-sized thrill earlier this week in the form of a letter from President Barack Obama.

K-2 pupils at Andrew J. Rickoff Elementary School received the presidential missive on June 3 for their work with Kulture Kids, a group of artists affiliated with Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio that provides programming for schools and organizations. Over 250 students obtained a copy of the letter commending them for their involvement with the program.

"It was a nice surprise for students who have been working hard all year," says Robin Pease, founder of Kulture Kids. "The kids were in shock."

The initiative collaborated with pupils on the concept of citizenship. Different classes worked on variations of this theme, with second-graders learning about employment and how technology has impacted citizenship. All students utilized the arts to bring the subject to life.

The Commander in Chief got word of the program from a Kulture Kids' artist, who sent along a photo of a student dressed as the President himself. Washington wrote back with a letter of encouragement, and group officials made copies for every student involved.

Kulture Kids just finished its third year of residency at A.J. Rickoff. Young participants put on a program in March, an event that included dance and original songs. A letter from the leader of the free world is a pretty good payoff for a little bit of creativity, Pease believes.

"These kids will remember this forever," she says.

SOURCE: Robin Pease
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

brain gain group, bar association link up for cleveland pep rally

The Brain Gain Cleveland Project (BGCP) has teamed up with the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association to stage a lunchtime pep rally for the city they love.

The rally will be hosted by the legal organization and serve as its annual meeting, just with a far more diverse crowd than usual, says Debra Mayers Hollander, deputy director of scouting for BGCP.

Hollander is expecting 1,000 guests to make it to the floor of Quicken Loans Arena for the June 28 event. Among the more famous participants scheduled to appear are Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Senator Sherrod Brown. BGCP members the Cleveland Orchestra and Positively Cleveland will be among the institutions on hand. The event also will include live music, videos about Cleveland, and food from local eateries.

Rally attendees can fill out a registration form online or purchase tickets by calling the bar association at 216-696-3525. Those who miss the daytime event can make up for it that night with a BGCP music and networking get-together at The Tavern Company in Cleveland Heights.

"It's going to feel inspirational," Hollander says. "Everybody coming together in the heart of downtown Cleveland to support one another."

BGCP is a nonprofit advocacy group founded by bar association members to grow the city through the creativity and energy of its citizens. The grassroots effort is led by Jon Leiken, a Jones Day partner and bar association president-elect. BGCP's website launched in 2012 and has attracted about 350 “scouts," a term referring to its members.  

"We hope [the rally] encourages people to join us and become a scout," says Hollander.

SOURCE: Debra Mayers Hollander
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

heights arts hires rachel bernstein as its new executive director

Heights Arts has announced the hire of a long-time Cleveland arts administrator, educator and musician as the nonprofit's new executive director.

This triple threat is named Rachel Bernstein. She will take over the role from Peggy Spaeth, who helped found Heights Arts in 2000 and has led the organization ever since. The switchover is effective as of July 2.

"Rachel shares Heights Arts' mission of the arts being essential to a healthy community," says Spaeth. "She is eager to expand upon that vision."

A New Mexico native, Bernstein has lived in Cleveland Heights for 15 years. A performing cellist and cello teacher, she currently serves as manager of enrollment and customer service at University Circle's The Music Settlement. Her impressive career path and evident passion for the arts gained her the position over nearly 50 other candidates.

"She brings the perspective of an artist and administrator to the job," says Spaeth. "We're a small organization, so there's a lot of multi-tasking."

With an organizational mission of shining a light on regional artists, Bernstein's skills align well with the position, notes the outgoing executive director. Spaeth will make sure the process goes smoothly, staying on board to help Bernstein transition into the role.

There will be an entire songbook's worth of work once the new director takes over. Along with overseeing staff, volunteers, board members and Heights' Arts various programming, Bernstein will be part of the nonprofit's new strategic plan moving forward.

"Rachel has some great ideas to tap the creative potential of the community," Spaeth says.

SOURCE: Peggy Spaeth
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

foundation grant sends message, gives financial boost to 2014 gay games

The 2014 Gay Games was a great "get" for the Cleveland-Akron area, as the region was selected over larger competing metropolises like Boston and Washington, D.C. The Cleveland Foundation has reinforced the notion of the games' importance with some hefty financial support.

The foundation recently awarded the games a $250,000 grant, forming a partnership that makes the organization the games' top sponsor. The event is now named the 2014 Gay Games presented by the Cleveland Foundation, representing the first presenting sponsorship in the games’ 31-year history.

"We saw the games as an important event coming to Cleveland," says foundation executive vice president Bob Eckardt. "This [grant] sends a message about the area as an inclusive community."

As a result of the partnership, a new LGBT fund also is being established at the foundation. Launching at the end of the games next August, the fund will assist LGBT organizations and serve as a donation source for people interested in LGBT causes.

The forthcoming sports and cultural festival, aimed at promoting respect and understanding of the gay community through athletics, is expected to draw about 30,000 people to the region, including 11,000 athletes.

Foundation leaders maintain that the games' social impact on Northeast Ohio is just as important as its potential economic benefits. "Our hope is it will leave a legacy of a region more sensitive and welcoming to the LGBT community," Eckardt says.

That relationship is already growing, says the foundation VP, as games' leaders are now cultivating relationships with local businesses intent on strengthening Greater Cleveland's support of LGBT society.

"This is a great opportunity for the entire community to work together," says Eckardt.

SOURCE: Bob Eckardt
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

aquarium lecture series takes education to new depths

The third Saturday of every month might go swimmingly for folks fascinated with underwater life.

The Greater Cleveland Aquarium's "Discovery Lecture Series" features aquatic experts and aquarium partners who will share their knowledge with guests. Programs are directed at visitors of all ages interested in the denizens of the briny (or freshwater) depths, says Kayla Ott, aquarium marketing and sponsorship manager.

The programming has no theme beyond the aquatic, but the lecture series will offer something different every week, notes Ott. "People love these kinds of special events," she says. "They will walk away learning something new."

The first opportunity for learning takes place April 20. Ellen Whitehouse, executive director of the Noah's Lost Ark Exotic Animal Sanctuary, will share her group's mission of caring for exotic animals. The aquarium had previously partnered with the organization to house 10 African spurred tortoises last winter.

Future happenings include a presentation on "live rock" in the Florida Keys. In aquatic terms, live rock is rock from the ocean that has been introduced to a saltwater habitat and integrates itself into the closed marine system. The event will be built around the Cleveland aquarium opening its coastal and live rock exhibit later this spring.

The rest of 2013 will be dedicated to similar educational programming, which aligns nicely with the aquarium's mission.
"We often work with children and students, but the lecture series allows everyday people to expand their knowledge of the aquatic industry," Ott says.

SOURCE: Kayla Ott
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

clevelander's documentary offers real-life tales of rust belt revitalization

For some, the term "Rust Belt" conjures unpleasant images of empty factories, foreclosed homes and unhappy people wandering cracked streets, wondering when times will get better. But what's really happening in some of the Midwest's major cities, and how different is it from the way these cities are often depicted?

Jack Storey thinks he has an answer. The impassioned city advocate has created a documentary chronicling what he believes is a more accurate representation of resilient cities working on reinventing themselves.

"Red, White & Blueprints" is an examination of the strides being taken by Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Youngstown, highlighting the most innovative initiatives, individuals and ideas coming out of these cities.

"It's a positive movie about the Rust Belt, which nobody is really doing," says Storey, 30. "We're showcasing another side of these cities."

Storey, founder of the grassroots community development organization Saving Cities, spent two weeks in the summer of 2011 traveling and taking footage with friend Rick Stockburger. He met steelworkers and autoworkers, entrepreneurs and politicians, all with their own ideas on how to boost their respective homes. Locally, he interviewed figures including Gina Prodan from Unmiserable Cleveland and Katie O'Keefe, better known as "the pink-haired tattoo girl."

Storey, of Collinwood, learned just how tough Midwesterners are. More surprising was how deeply the people he met cared about their city's livelihood. "It was the most educational experience of my life," he says.

"Red, White & Blueprints" debuted this week at Cleveland International Film Festival. (Screens tonight at 6:30 p.m. on stand-by.) Storey hopes the film gives viewers a truer vision of what it means to live in Cleveland and other less heralded parts of the country.
SOURCE: Jack Storey
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

young audiences program teaches bullying prevention through the arts

Bullying prevention is a hot topic in U.S. schools. Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio is partnering with Cleveland educators and creative types to curtail such unkind behavior through the arts.

The arts education organization, which promotes innovative arts-infused learning for local children and teenagers, has created a series of anti-bullying and healthy living programs designed to empower students and create a kinder classroom community. About 20 area artists lent their imaginative expertise to upcoming programs that will use literature, dance and film to help students and teachers learn strategies to recognize and prevent bullying.

"Bullying can effect a school's entire culture," says Jennifer Abelson, director of marketing at Young Audiences. "Art is a way of creating a more empathetic environment."

A program from singer, songwriter and storyteller Susan Weber, for example, uses folk tales from diverse cultures to study characters' responses when confronted with unfriendly words and actions. Discussing bullying through stories will allow the program's elementary school-aged audience to grapple with their feelings from a safe place, notes Abelson.

"The idea is to get them young," she says. "Teaching tolerance and empathy is something that can reflect throughout their entire lives."

A program for high school students, meanwhile, uses humor and live demonstrations to share the stories of " real-life action heroes" who overcame obstacles to star on the silver screen. The brainchild of Akron-born fight director John Davis aims to help students break through self-doubt and achieve greatness.

"Soft skills" like confidence and self-esteem can create stronger, more tolerant communities, stopping bullying before it even begins, says Abelson.  

SOURCE: Jennifer Abelson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

orchestra gift highlights record-setting granting round for cleveland foundation

With a record-setting recent round of grants, The Cleveland Foundation is ensuring, among other things, that a well-loved local institution will continue to make beautiful music.

Last week, the foundation's board of directors approved a best ever $26.6 million in grants for the first quarter of 2013. The funding included a $10 million grant to the Cleveland Orchestra in support of operation and programming efforts as well as the organization's larger initiative to attract a broader audience. Besides the orchestra grant, additional monies totaling nearly $10 million will bolster core neighborhood and youth initiatives.

The orchestra funding is the largest single grant given to an arts organization in the foundation’s 99-year history, notes executive vice president  Bob Eckardt. A portion of the grant stands as a leadership gift to help fund the ensemble's “Sound for the Centennial" strategic campaign, culminating with a century celebration in 2018.

"The orchestra is an important part of Cleveland's brand," says Eckardt.

Another grant recipient is Neighborhood Progress, Inc., which garnered $5 million in support of its strategic plan to forge a new community development network for Cleveland’s underserved neighborhoods.  

Overall, Cleveland Foundation beat its previous grant-giving record of $21.6 million set in the third quarter of 2012. The large orchestra grant helped boost this number, but the nation's slow economic recovery has also grown the foundation's capacity, says Eckardt.

The organization's VP hopes this winter's big gain is just the start of a year that at the very least matches 2012's $90 million in total grants.

"We'll be in that neighborhood again," Eckardt says.

SOURCE: Bob Eckardt
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

future perfect: program to look at the exciting possibilities for university circle

University Circle already holds claim as Cleveland's premier medical, cultural and educational district. But what does the future hold for the rich, square-mile enclave and the neighborhoods around it?

"Building the Circle 2035: Height, Density and Social Equity" will attempt to answer that question during a free panel discussion on April 10 in the Cleveland Museum of Art's Gartner Auditorium. The program is part of the Circle Neighbors lecture series sponsored by the art museum's Womens Council in collaboration with the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, The Women's Committee of The Cleveland Orchestra, and the Western Reserve Historical Society.

University Circle is an ever-active neighborhood of "arts, ed and med," says Circle Neighbors co-chair Sabrina Inkley. With development on the rise, the district just four miles east of downtown Cleveland has become an anchor for a city that certainly needs one.

"As Clevelanders we have this inferiority complex," says Inkley. "University Circle is the one of the most unique one-square-mile areas in the nation."

The panel talk, moderated by Plain Dealer architecture critic Steven Litt, will peer two decades into the future to imagine what University Circle might look like, and how the district's rising wealth could benefit struggling surrounding neighborhoods. Panelists will include Chris Ronayne of UCI Inc, developer Ari Maron of MRN Ltd. and India Pierce Lee of the Cleveland Foundation.

Inkley doesn't have all the answers, but she knows University Circle is an enormous linchpin for Cleveland's economic future. New rental apartments and various institutions constructing new facilities are just two examples of the growth taking place.

"It's just very exciting," Inkley says. "There is something for everyone here."

SOURCE: Sabrina Inkley
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
98 Arts + Culture Articles | Page: | Show All
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