Grant Cleveland takes the helm as board president at Fairmount Center for the Arts in Russell

January 22, 2013 by Joan Rusek, Sun News

RUSSELL -- Grant Cleveland, of Chagrin Falls, recently was named the new board president of Fairmount Center for the Arts.

He faces immense challenges to help the organization recover from its fiscal cliff. The 42-year-old center nearly had to close midway through the fall session because it ran out of money.

Although donors, artists and performers stepped in to meet temporary operating expenditures, the not-for-profit performing and fine arts center continues to need funding and increased enrollment in classes to stabilize its operation.

Cleveland has been connected to Fairmount for nine years through his daughter, Eleanor, who began dance classes there at age 2. She is now part of the Fairmount Dance Theatre program.

“Aside from the skills she has gained as a dancer, Fairmount has given Eleanor self-confidence and a place to meet other children and families who share her love of the arts,” Cleveland said.

When Fairmount announced it was in trouble, Cleveland and his wife Laura considered other options for Eleanor. They explored other dance schools and learned Fairmount was a jewel in the rough.

“There is no competition pressure, no outrageous costs upwards of $10,000 per year, no travel, and I realized that Fairmount is nurturing, worthwhile and a total bargain,” Cleveland said.

He decided to get involved and use his business experience, resources and capital to help. He and the staff are implementing online registration and communications.

Of the 17 board members, four remain. Cleveland’s first challenge is to rebuild the board and work with them to cut costs at the center.

He also plans to examine tuition fees, with the possibility of raising some to increase revenue.

Cleveland hopes to engage the families of current students to volunteer their time, and take more classes to increase enrollment and revenues.

The center’s yearly fundraising mailing is starting now with the goal of starting an endowment with the contributions and not use them to fund the day-to-day operations. He said this may take some time to achieve, but he sees it as essential to the organization’s future.