Cleveland Foundation announces $250,000 grant to Karamu House

release date: 10.5.2016

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Foundation board of directors has announced a grant of $250,000 to support Karamu House as it works to fully implement its new strategic plan. This strategic plan reflects Karamu’s new mission to produce professional theater, provide arts education and present community programming for all people while honoring the African-American experience.

With this grant, the foundation has now provided approximately $9 million to Karamu House, including nearly $5 million in support from the Karamu House Trust, which was established in 1959 by the trustees of The Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund of the Cleveland Foundation. In recent years, the foundation board approved a grant of $50,000 in March 2016 to support business and leadership transitions at Karamu. In March 2014, the foundation provided a $75,000 grant to support strategic plan development and a leadership search.

“Karamu House figures powerfully into Cleveland’s performing arts sector as well as our nation’s cultural history,” said Ronn Richard, President and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “Karamu is extremely important to our community, and we are pleased to help this historic institution thrive well into the future.”

In 1915, Oberlin College graduates Russell and Rowena Jelliffe opened the Playhouse Settlement in a Cleveland area called The Roaring Third. The Jelliffes wanted to build an environment where people of different races, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds could come together to seek and share common ventures through the arts. As the community became predominantly African-American, Karamu responded with programs geared to their needs and interests.

“Our new bolder mission and vision statements acknowledge Karamu’s 100 year legacy and asserts its relevance for the future,” said Tony Sias, President and CEO, Karamu House. “As we embark on our second century, we appreciate the Cleveland Foundation’s support in sustaining Karamu’s historical identity as a place of joyful gathering.”

Today, core programs at Karamu include a five-performance, socially-relevant and professional-quality theater season; arts education in drama, music, and dance for all ages; and community programming, such as a lecture series and music performances, to invite engagement, reflection, and re-commitment to cultural values.

Karamu also enjoys national prominence, recognized as the oldest African-American performing arts institute in the nation. Artists including James Pickens, Jr., Langston Hughes, Ruby Dee, Zora Neale Hurston, and Bill Cobbs have been associated with Karamu. Karamu is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.


Established in 1914, the Cleveland Foundation is the world’s first community foundation and one of the largest today, with assets of $2.1 billion and 2015 grants of $95 million. Through the generosity of donors, the foundation improves the lives of residents of Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties by building community endowment, addressing needs through grantmaking, and providing leadership on vital issues. The foundation tackles the community’s priority areas – education and youth development, neighborhoods, health and human services, arts and culture, economic development and purposeful aging – and responds to the community’s needs.

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