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Jamilla Naji art at 78th St Studios - Photo Bob Perkoski
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Entrepreneurship : 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

endowment fund to boost midtown group's good works

The two square miles of real estate between downtown Cleveland and University Circle are bursting with development. A local nonprofit has established a fund to ensure that work continues to flourish.

On June 20, economic development corporation MidTown Cleveland, Inc. announced the creation of the MidTown Cleveland, Inc. Endowment Fund at the Cleveland Foundation. The fund, under the foundation's guidance, proposes to build a sustainable revenue source to secure continued activity in the burgeoning district. This will include promotion of the health-tech corridor, a three-mile expanse of hospitals, business incubators, educational institutions and high-tech companies situated within MidTown.

The growing tech corridor isn't the only project the fund will support, notes MidTown chairman John Melchiorre. The group plans to leave other "footprints" on the community as well, be they demolishing old buildings, planting flowers along Euclid Avenue or helping transform distressed properties into job-creating enterprises.

"The Cleveland Foundation has been a leading supporter of the revitalization of Midtown, so this is just the latest way our two organizations have joined forces for the betterment of that neighborhood," said Kaye Ridolfi, senior vice president of advancement at the Cleveland Foundation.

Founded by Cleveland businessman Mort Mandel and others some 30 years ago, MidTown Cleveland has helped develop the area into a business district home to 600 companies and 18,000 employees. Executive director Jim Haviland views MidTown as part of the city's renaissance, and believes the fund will sustain the region for decades to come.

"It helps us to continue the role we play" within the neighborhood, says Haviland.

 
SOURCES: John Melchiorre, Jim Haviland, Kaye Ridolfi
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

restaurant program teaches culinary arts to area's underprivileged

"Ever dream of running your own restaurant as an executive chef, pastry chef or sommelier?"

That is the question asked by leaders of EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute. Fulfilling that dream would be a challenge for most anyone, but what about a person reentering society after incarceration?

Hoping to provide the answer is Brandon Chrostowski, general manager, sommelier and fromanger at L'Albatros restaurant. He is also founder of EDWINS, a Cleveland nonprofit providing free restaurant training to underprivileged adults. The 26-week program teaches cooking methods, pastry techniques, food pairings, nutrition and other facets that come with the culinary arts.

Ohio's recidivism rate stands at about 30 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Chrostowski, 33, believes these numbers reflect the lack of opportunities available for ex-inmates.

"There's no guidance and no jobs out there," he says. "Our goal is to provide these people with a skill and a solid path."

Students are rotated through every station of a restaurant, providing them with a variety of skills and real-world experience. Over the last two years, the program has assisted about 30 graduates in finding employment as line cooks, dishwashers and servers. Some students have already been promoted from these entry-level positions.

Chrostowski hit his own "rough patch" a decade ago, and was able to go back to school and hone his culinary craft. The restaurateur wants others to have the same opportunity he did. EDWINS' ultimate goal is to open a restaurant staffed entirely by program graduates.

"Everyone deserves a second shot," Chrostowski says. "This is a chance for people to change their lives."
 
 
SOURCE: Brandon Chrostowski
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

young audiences to award local creatives as part of anniversary celebration

For six decades, Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio has been promoting creative learning through the arts for local children and teenagers. A 60th-anniversary celebration requires something special, say the nonprofit's leaders. That means awarding residents who are harnessing the organization's arts-infused mission of contributing to the region's vitality.

Young Audiences is currently accepting nominations for its 2013 Arts, Education, and Entrepreneurship Awards. The nonprofit seeks those who have made a lasting impact in the three areas, as the innovation and creative thinking promoted by the arts help individuals succeed across all aspects of life, says development director Jerry Smith. Examples include teaching geometry through dance, or learning storytelling through digital game design.

"It's about the intersection of arts education and entrepreneurship," Smith says. "How does a creative education help drive that next entrepreneur?"

To answer that question, Smith's organization hosts workshops, performances, professional development programs and residencies for young people in the artistic realms of dance, music, theater and the visual arts.

Award nominees are due by April 12. Three winners from the categories of arts, education and entrepreneurship will be recognized at Young Audiences' 60th anniversary gala in September. Winners will receive a commemorative award and a contribution in their name made to the Young Audiences' Fund for Their Future.

An arts background is critical to melding young minds, believes the organization's leadership. Recognizing the individuals shaping that process is a natural step for the group, says Smith.

"Arts and culture are at the core of so much we do and how we succeed," he says.

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

trio of projects come out of cleveland colectivo fast-pitch event

A student-operated restaurant, a Cleveland-centric advocacy group, and a venture aiming to transform vacant lots into summer program spots for kids were the big winners of The Cleveland Colectivo's fast- pitch presentation event on February 28.

The high-energy affair hosted by Shaker LaunchHouse drew over 125 attendees. They voted on 46 presenters who came with innovative ideas and hopes of getting funding from the Colectivo, a grassroots, Cleveland-based giving circle that pools funds to make contributions in the community.

The three top vote-getters -- Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute, The 1990 Project and Literary Lots -- came with accessible, concisely presented ideas that inspired the crowd, says Colectivo founding member Judy Wright. As the crowd favorite, Edwins took home $770 in donations collected at the event.

Colectivo members will next consider the remaining projects to join the crowd's picks. As many as 12 additional ventures will have a chance at this year's grants, which generally range from $500 to $5,000. Grants will be determined and distributed in May.

"We're not a traditional grant-maker," says Wright. "We spend our entire budget every year, and there's no overhead costs. It's basically people putting cash in a pot and giving it away."

Wright, a Lakewood resident, created the Colectivo in 2004 with a group of like-minded friends from the nonprofit sector. She deems this year's fast-pitch event a success, even if every presenter will not be getting their idea funded. It's always good to see a disparate slice of Cleveland's demography getting together, she believes.

"There's some genuine connections being made," Wright says. "It's exciting and energizing. There is some real value in that."

 
SOURCE: Judy Wright
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

cleveland colectivo grants 'spark money' to bright ideas

Innovative ideas abound in Northeast Ohio, believes Judy Wright, founding member of The Cleveland Colectivo. Too often, however, those dreams are not big enough to draw the attention of the major grant makers in town.

The Colectivo was designed to fill that gap. A grassroots, Cleveland-based giving circle that pools funds to make contributions in the community, the group is inspired by the traditional practice of immigrant neighbors who invested in each other’s businesses to build a neighborhood.

"Our goal is to support small, innovative projects that need a little boost," says Wright, a Lakewood resident. She and a group of like-minded friends from the nonprofit sector created the Colectivo in 2004.

The group's grants range from $500 to $5,000. Funding supports a wide variety of projects, from enhancements to the kitchen at the Cleveland Hostel to a summer series of free music events at Edgewater Park.

"There's no focus area besides these projects having an impact on Cleveland," Wright says.

The next round of funding kicks off February 28 with the Colectivo's fast pitch presentation event at Shaker LaunchHouse. Up to 40 entrepreneurs and innovators will have two minutes to present their bright ideas, which will be voted on by attendees. The top 10 vote-getters will then move on to interviews conducted by group members. Registration to present at the fast pitch event opens February 25 at noon on the group's website.

Getting a roomful of people to network and be excited about their fellow Clevelanders' brainstorms is a side benefit of the effort, notes Wright.

"A little bit of 'spark money' can be hard to get," she says. "We're just trying to make the process easier."

 
SOURCE: Judy Wright
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

lakewood crossfit forms powerful partnership with cleveland big brothers big sisters

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program designed for people of all ages and fitness levels. Jillian Neimeister and Tricia Tortoreti, owners of the recently opened Birdtown CrossFit in Lakewood, believe the program can empower the lives of Cleveland's teenagers in ways beyond physical prowess.

During a fundraising campaign to help purchase equipment for the gym, the pair promised to donate a one-year membership to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland for every $2,000 raised. The duo ended up raising $7,260 through their indieGOGO.com campaign, equating to three memberships for teens affiliated with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

"Our intention is to introduce teens to a larger community of people who are committed to health, and a network of Clevelanders who may encourage and support them," says Tortoreti, a "Big Sister" with the organization for the last five years.

"We're happy to engage a different audience around the benefits of mentoring," says Big Brothers Big Sisters president/CEO Gretchen Faro regarding the partnership. "Fitness is clearly a need for our community."

The business partners expect that participating teens will come to the gym with their Big Brother or Big Sister, but membership affords them use of all classes on offer. CrossFit is not a typical gym, relying more on jump ropes and barbells than elliptical machines and treadmills. The Cleveland-based CrossFit is located in the Lake Erie Building in Lakewood's Birdtown neighborhood.

Partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters was an easy call for Tortoreti. Her 14-year-old "Little" was eagerly searching for after-school activities that didn't involve video games or just hanging out with friends.

"CrossFit can do so much for you besides making you more fit," says Tortoreti. "We have a great community spirit here."
 

SOURCES: Jillian Neimeister, Tricia Tortoreti, Gretchen Faro
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

abeo turns reclaimed materials into distinctive workstations

Daniel Cuffaro has been working in design for 20 years. He knows how an inspiring, eclectic workspace can act as fuel for creative minds, promoting interaction among those who essentially use their imagination for a living.

Such was the idea behind Cuffaro's founding of Abeo Design, a Lakewood-based company that builds aesthetically distinctive office/studio workstations with a sustainable bent. Unlike your typical office furniture, the spindly "Hive" workstations are designed with both functionality and adaptability in mind, Cuffaro says.

Each station is comprised of a work surface and storage shelf embedded with LED lighting. The entire unit is on wheels, making a studio or office easy to reconfigure as projects or teams change, notes Cuffaro. This is not something you could readily do with a set of hard-to-move cubicles.

"Our product is a dynamic and customizable alternative,” he says.

The workstations also fulfill a practical need. They are made of wood and other building materials reclaimed from abandoned Cleveland houses deconstructed during the foreclosure crisis. Cuffaro, head of the industrial design program at The Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA), first got the idea for Abeo in 2009 when he was developing the layout for the school's design studio. At the time, there was a growing market for raw materials harvested from foreclosed homes, so why not build CIA's studio furniture with those resources?

"I had a desire to turn a bad situation into something salvageable," Cuffaro says.

His first customer also happens to be his current employer. CIA recently purchased a handful of the $6,000-and-up workstations from Abeo, which works with Northeast Ohio companies A Piece of Cleveland and Benchmark Craftsmen to make the product a reality.

A portion of Abeo's profits will support CIA programs. Meanwhile, Cuffaro will continue to live by the company's name. In Latin, Abeo ( pronounced "a-bay-o") means "change" or "transformation." Turning trash into something of value is good for both the company and a sustainable Cleveland, he says.

 
SOURCE: Daniel Cuffaro
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

beachland owner launches new nonprofit to preserve and promote city's rock scene

The way Beachland Ballroom owner Cindy Barber sees it, Cleveland's music glory days are far from over. Yet our music scene could use some better amplification. That's why Barber has created a new nonprofit, Cleveland Rocks: Past, Present and Future, to preserve the legacy of the city's rock-and-roll history while also promoting and shaping its future.

"The past is the legacy project of capturing Cleveland music history, the present is documenting what's happening now, and the future is figuring out what we need to do to grow it," says Barber. "There's already a huge amount of music business here. We need to take stock of what we have and what we're missing."

Barber cites music business startups like Gotta Groove Records, Fortune Drums, Audio Technica and Dr. Z Amplification as success stories. She also wants to highlight the local bands that are touring and getting signed nationally.

"The plan is to create a website to highlight the bands that are getting attention," she says. "If they're out touring the world, they can bring that energy back to share with other people in Cleveland and grow the music business here."

To kick off the project, Barber and others are organizing a series of live interviews with local legends that played a role in Cleveland music history. The first event is scheduled to place on Saturday, November 3rd at 1 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom. Tickets cost $15 and include lunch and the opportunity to participate as Larry Bruner, former booking manager for the 1960s folk music venue La Cav, is interviewed by Steve Traina, DJ for the WCSB radio show "Steve's Folk."

Future plans include working with the Rock Hall to preserve oral histories and promote live music, helping musicians identify investment sources for growing their bands or recording albums, and marketing the music industry here.

"All the clubs that came together as part of the Cleveland Music Coalition [to challenge the city's admissions tax] are part of this," says Barber. "We want to use the nonprofit to support what they're doing to create live music in Cleveland."


Source: Cindy Barber
Writer: Lee Chilcote

international public markets conference offers lessons for success for west side market

The West Side Market is celebrating its Centennial year, prompting much discussion of the institution's past, present and future. Among other things, city leaders are discussing how best to ensure that the market remains successful for another 100 years.

Last week, however, the best ideas seemed to come not from local leaders but from others in Detroit, Santa Monica and Hong Kong as 250 market leaders from around the world attended the three-day International Public Markets Conference in Cleveland.

"The roots of our market are in local farmers selling their produce during the growing season," said Dan Carmody, Manager of Detroit's Eastern Market, during a panel discussion on the role of markets in the future of cities. "When I started there, it was a place where wholesale grocers dumped their product at the end of the week. Now we're trying to envision it as a revitalized local food system."

Eastern Market now sells locally-grown produce raised by urban farmers in Detroit, unlike the West Side Market, which only has a handful of vendors selling local produce.

Santa Monica's public market also was held up as an example. It offers valet parking for bicycles, works with a nearby cooking school to do demonstrations, and hosts "Meatless Mondays" to educate people about how to cook vegetarian.

And if you're looking for fresh, you can't get much more so than Hong Kong's Tai Yuen Market, which has fish swimming in tanks and live chickens. (The market recently installed a state-of-the-art ventilation system to deal with the offending odors.)

Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman, who touted his experience working in his uncle's butcher shop as a young man, said that change is coming to the market.

"People at the West Side Market are looking too much at last year's calendar," said Cimperman to the audience. "It won't survive unless they look at tomorrow."

Among the changes that have been recommended at the market are adding more local foods, creating more convenient hours and charging for parking. There is a proposal for a parking fee, but city leaders are still negotiating with vendors.

Cimperman vowed to continue the fight for change. "The city's lease with vendors runs out in 2014,"he said. "It's time to look at the market for the next 100 years."


Source: Joe Cimperman, International Public Markets conference
Writer: Lee Chilcote

old brooklyn connected blankets 90% of community with wi-fi

There was no shortage of naysayers when Ward 13 Councilman Kevin Kelley and other leaders launched an effort to provide free wireless Internet access to residents of the city's Old Brooklyn neighborhood.

Yet three years later, wireless hotspots blanket 90 percent of the neighborhood, and about 20,000 individuals use the service monthly. Kelley says the project could be a model for other areas that are seeking to bridge the digital divide.

"We learned through [Case Western Reserve University's] NEO CANDO program that about 50 percent of the ward had a daily Internet subscription," says Kelley of the impetus behind the Old Brooklyn Connected project, which also offers a community website. "To me, when you look at how people now communicate and look for jobs, or how kids perform in school, that simply wasn't adequate."

Kelley led an effort to hire a contractor that installed wireless equipment throughout the neighborhood. The City of Cleveland, Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland Housing Network and Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation collaborated to train residents how to use computers.

Although the project cost over $800,000 to implement, Kelley says it was well worth it. "We were looking for a way to invest in people," he says. "That's less than two dollars per month per household when you look at it over a five-year period."

Most of the money came from the city, and equipment is expected to last at least five years before it needs an upgrade. The results speak for themselves, he says. "I'm now getting a better signal from my front porch than from paid service."

Kelley hopes the project will also attract new residents. "How do we make Old Brooklyn a young community, a progressive community? This is a tool for doing that."


Source: Kevin Kelley
Writer: Lee Chilcote

new event aims to put flats' rivergate on map as a recreation destination

Mention Rivergate Park in the Flats in conversation and you'll likely be met with blank looks. Yet an eclectic alliance of skateboarders, cyclists and urban recreation groups are trying to change that with Rollin' on the River, an event that aims to put Rivergate on the map as a recreation destination.

Rollin' on the River, which takes place Saturday, September 29th at 1785 Merwin Avenue, will bring together skateboarding, cycling and music for an afternoon of fun.

"A lot of change has come to the Flats over the summer and 2013 will hold even more," said Vince Frantz, Executive Director of the skateboarding advocacy organization Public Square Group, in a release. "We wanted to celebrate that and highlight the amazing recreation organizations doing awesome work in the city.”

Rivergate Park is a new, 2.4-acre Cleveland Metropark that lies adjacent to the Columbus Road bridge along the Cuyahoga River in the Flats. The Cleveland Rowing Foundation also owns acreage there which includes its boathouse. In the coming months, there are big plans for this small slice of urban waterfront.

The City of Cleveland will break ground on the long-awaited Crooked River Skatepark by the end of the year. The Metroparks also plans to develop its new park and offer programming that will include adventure sports, canoeing and kayaking. Rivergate Park is already home to the Head of the Cuyahoga regatta race, the Ohio City Bike Co-op and the Cleveland Dragon Boat Association.

The free, all-ages event starts at 2 p.m. with a pop-up skateboard park, dragon boat rides on the river, live music, beer and food. Bike Cleveland is also organizing rides to Rivergate, and a contest will be held for the best bike carrier for a skateboard.


Source: Vince Frantz
Writer: Lee Chilcote

community kitchen, fresh-foods cafe and mobile market to serve kinsman neighborhood

Tim Tramble of Burton Bell Carr Development Inc. tried for years to recruit a healthy eatery to the Kinsman neighborhood of Cleveland. When he found an entrepreneur willing to open a Subway here, however, the corporate chain nixed the idea.

The area, which has been dubbed "The Forgotten Triangle" because of the poverty and lack of opportunity rooted here, is a food desert that does not have a grocery store within a one-mile radius. That is a problem for the area's residents, many of whom don't have their own cars.

Faced with this problem, however, Tramble and his coworkers and board decided to open a community kitchen, healthy restaurant and community space. The $1.3 million project, which aims to create access to fresh foods, encourage healthy eating and support community market gardeners, opens later this month.

"This is a really low income neighborhood without much access to personal transportation, and people have to lug groceries and common things we take for granted," says Tramble of the project, which is called the Bridgeport Cafe. "They constantly shop for just two or three days at a time."

The community kitchen contains spacious, restaurant-style food preparation space that will allow neighborhood farmers to prepare their own foods for sale.

Tramble also plans to launch a Mobile Market, a specially built truck converted to an indoor market. Patrons can enter the truck, which will make stops throughout the neighborhood, pick out produce from two aisles, pay for it and exit the truck.


Source: Tim Tramble
Writer: Lee Chilcote

roots of american music brings music education into low-income schools

When musician educators with Roots of American Music hold workshops in Cleveland public schools, it almost goes without saying that they are entering a place that doesn't have a full-time music teacher. Most cannot afford to hire full-time music staff, so they rely on part-time faculty and visiting artists.

The 14-year-old nonprofit organization educates more than 15,000 individuals throughout Northeast Ohio each year, teaching social studies, financial literacy and health education through music.

"We do a lot of songwriting about topics that are important to kids," says Kevin Richards, ROAM's Director. "They work with authentic artist-educators who not only can teach but are also bluesmen, Cajun zydeco artists or rappers."

Richards likens ROAM's educational approach to parents who disguise healthy foods to get their kids to eat them. In general, the artists have little trouble convincing kids to participate. "Kids don't realize they're getting an academic message at the same time as they're fooling around with traditional music."

ROAM's curriculum has changed as educational goals have evolved. When Richards created the organization, the focus was on teaching social studies. Today, such staple courses are supplemented with programs about financial literacy and health education (the latter is in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic).

One popular program called "On the Move" teaches students in the Central neighborhood of Cleveland about migration patterns throughout history. Students learn the song "Kansas City" and change the lyrics to fit their family's story.

Roots of American Music will host its 13th annual Benefit for Education on Saturday, October 6th at the Beachland Ballroom. Multi-award-winning Austin singer-songwriter Guy Forsythe is the headliner. The tickets are $125 for VIP access including dinner and preferred seating, or $15 for the concert only.


Source: Kevin Richards
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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