Bank of America Awards $1 Million Dollar Grant to Cleveland's Karamu House
The Bank of America Charitable Foundation has announced a $1 million dollar anchor grant to Karamu House, the oldest African American producing theatre in the United States, to support the historic institution’s capital campaign—and complete its third phase of campus renovation.
This third phase includes major renovations to the newly-named Bank of America Arena Theatre, as well as a brand-new outdoor stage and full-service bistro with patio. It also includes ADA enhancements throughout the facility, and a completely renovated streetscape.
This latest phase of Karamu House’s capital campaign was expected to be completed in January 2021; however, it was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic—which also forced the theatre to cancel the remaining one-third of its 2020-21 mainstage theatre season, spring Arts Academy semester, and all spring and summer community programs. While Karamu was able to shift to virtual theatre throughout the pandemic shutdown, it is looking forward to a return to live theatre in October 2021 with a 2021-22 mainstage performance season—as well as resuming live arts education and community programming.
“Karamu House has been a pillar of arts and equality in Cleveland since 1915,” said Jeneen Marziani, President, Bank of America Ohio. “COVID-19 impacted our entire community, including the arts. This grant will help Karamu House continue to be a ‘place of joyful gathering’ for our city and help preserve this national treasure for decades to come.”
“Karamu House is honored to have Bank of America as a key partner and supporter,” said Tony F. Sias, President and CEO of Karamu House. “This level of support from Bank of America will allow us to strengthen our mission of producing professional theatre, providing arts education and presenting community programs while honoring the African American experience; deepen our legacy of being America’s oldest Black producing theatre; and, advance the expansion of programs and services, including technical theatre training and workforce development.”
Located within Cleveland’s Fairfax Neighborhood, Karamu House also sits along the City’s Opportunity Corridor project (at the corner of E. 89th Street and Quincy Avenue)—a project that is designed to support economic development, neighborhood revitalization, and job creation; Karamu’s own revitalization efforts fully align with these project goals. For example, the theatre will be focused on hiring those aged 18-24 and incorporate leadership development and other skills training to advance workforce development of young adults in the Fairfax neighborhood. In addition, Karamu will partner with Bank of America to provide financial education, coaching, benefits counseling, and tax assistance to the community.
This anchor grant is part of Bank of America’s focus on advancing economic mobility by supporting nonprofit organizations serving education and workforce, community development and basic needs. Karamu House was also a 2019 Bank of America Neighborhood Builder.
Recognized as the oldest African American performing arts institute in the nation, Karamu House is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and featured in the Smithsonian’s African American Museum. Legendary artists including Langston Hughes, Ruby Dee, Robert Guillaume, Ron O’Neal, Bill Cobbs, James Pickens, Jr., Vanessa Bell Calloway and Imani Hakim have been associated with the 106-year-old “place of joyful gathering” (the meaning of “Karamu” in Swahili.)
Today, Karamu is a beating heart for the entire community, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification, or age. Core programs include socially relevant and professional quality theatre; arts education programming for all ages; and community programming, such as comedy, live jazz, and spoken word performances, that invites participation and engagement, reflection, and a re-commitment to cultural values. For more information, visit www.karamuhouse.org.
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Diane Wagner, Bank of America
Tony F. Sias, Karamu House