By David C. Barnette
Posted January 4th 2019
TONY SILAS PRESIDENT AND CEO KARAMU HOUSE
After several years of economic woes, Cleveland’s historic Karamu House got some good news this week. The century-old theater and cultural center landed a $1.5 million gift from the George Gund Foundation.
Karamu CEO Tony Sias was shocked when he got word of the Gund gift.
“It far exceeded our request,” he said.
And it was a vote of confidence for an institution that had to cut half its staff two years ago and had its non-profit status yanked by the I.R.S.
Since 2016, Sias has worked to restore Karamu’s fiscal viability, and now he can plan for making improvements to their Quincy Avenue facility.
“It will be to our lobby, our gallery, our gift shop and our concessions area,” Sias said.
Plus, the organization is looking to create a plaza outside the building to attract local foot traffic. Sias said they also plan to add a bistro to provide some food options and generate some additional sources of revenue.
He added that the gift from Gund is a big step away from the shaky economic days of the recent past.
“This is really a vote of confidence from a major foundation and it’s just going to allow us to move forward,” he said. “So, we’re hopeful that this will motivate others to see that this 103-year-old institution is worthy of investment.”
Sias said the grant puts them more than a third of the way towards an $8 million fundraising effort.