New Steps in Our Mastery Arts Initiative

Young dancers from the Creative Arts Academy perform on stage
Photo © Jeff Forman

This week we announced a $300,000 grant to the Cuyahoga County Community College (Tri-C) Foundation supporting the expansion of the year-round dance program at the college’s Creative Arts Academy. This grant is the latest in our Mastery-Arts Initiative, launched last year to expand high-quality mastery arts programs for youth in low-income neighborhoods.

“It is widely recognized that the social, personal and intellectual development of young people can be advanced through committed engagement with the mastery of an art form,” said Cleveland Foundation President & CEO Ronn Richard. “We’re thrilled to partner with Tri-C to help students express themselves creatively through dance while developing a positive sense of self, improving health and learning important skills that are transferable to academics. We can’t wait to see how dance will transform the lives of these young people.”

Expanding the Portfolio

With this latest grant, we have invested more than $1 million supporting youth access to training in artistic disciplines including theater, photography and music. Our current partners in the Mastery Arts Initiative include Cleveland Public Theatre and its successful Brick City Theatre program, which services youth in Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) estates, and its Student Theatre Enrichment Program (STEP) serving at-risk teens; and Cleveland Print Room for “Multiple Exposure,” a pilot year-round mastery program in photography for students in low-income Cleveland neighborhoods. The foundation plans to help nearly 5,000 students access mastery-based arts programs as the initiative expands in future years. 

Setting the Stage for Success

Our support for the Tri-C Dance Academy will nearly triple the number of youth served, and will bring the program to three new neighborhood locations:

  • CMHA Heritage View Community Center in the Central-Kinsman neighborhood
  • Family Ministry Center in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood
  • Boys & Girls Club at St. Luke’s Manor in the Buckeye neighborhood

With this funding, Tri-C will also launch an apprenticeship program for selected 11th and 12th-grade dance academy students, who will each earn $2,000 stipends to teach and mentor students at the new sites. This program will help educate the next generation of dance instructors, as well as offer opportunities for students to address funding gaps in post-secondary dance pursuits. 

A Focus on Quality


The Dance Academy at Tri-C is quickly becoming a premier center for dance education in Greater Cleveland. In a single year, the program’s enrollment grew by 400 percent, from 25 students in 2015 to 125 in 2016. The Cleveland Foundation grant will bring the total of youth served to 325. 

The academy’s renowned instructors have developed a unique and rigorous curriculum that trains students in the fundamentals of ballet and modern dance techniques and performance skills. Several students of the academy have been selected to attend prestigious dance companies with full scholarships. One such student, Jeffrey Thomas Jr., credits the program for giving him a path out of the gang violence he grew up around. A dance audition at Alabama State University earned him a full-ride scholarship to the school, where he will attend beginning in August. Thomas shared his powerful story with Steve Litt of the Plain Dealer – read the story here.  

“Engagement in the arts is a crucial element of developing well-rounded, civically engaged citizens with the potential to become tomorrow’s leaders,” said Tri-C President Alex Johnson. “Tri-C is honored to share the Cleveland Foundation’s commitment to improving the quality of life for everyone in our city, especially young people.”

For students interested in registering for future classes, call the Creative Arts Academy office at 216.987.6145.

Learn more about our commitment to mastery-based arts programs here, and stay tuned as we continue our effort to expand access for Cleveland youth in these transformational opportunities.  

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