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Black arts institutions get piece of capital budget pie

Rhonda Crowder | 8/21/2014, 5:06 p.m.
And, like both Karamu House and The African American Museum, the receipt of these funds is a God send. “It’s ...
Karumu House and African American Museum got a piece of money from the Capital Arts and Culture Committee

Francis Caldwell, director of the African American Museum, decided if things didn’t turn around by 2015, she would step down from her post and allow someone else to take over. That’s how challenging it’s been for her and her board of trustees to raise the funds necessary to properly maintain the facility let alone implement the desired programming.

But, thanks to Attorney George Forbes, Caldwell and the museum have received a new lease on life.

Apparently, Forbes – who sits on Governor John Kasich’s Capital Arts and Culture Committee – was instrumental in directing a fair amount of funds from the Ohio Arts & Culture 2015-2016 Biennium Budget to some of the neediest cultural institutions within the Black community: Karamu House, The Phillis Wheatly Association and The African American History Museum.

The African American History Museum’s proposed restoration and expansion project called for repair and renovation to the existing structure as well as upgrading of the plumbing, electrical, lighting, windows and heating/HVAC.

Because of these needed repairs, the building has been closed to the public for the last 4 years.

“The back windows are really messed up,” said Caldwell, explaining that children seemingly threw bricks through them, shattering the glass. “The wood is gone. So many bricks went through there that it just tore up the frame [so] we plan on taking the $150,000 to get new windows.”

Located in the heart of the Hough community, the Crawford Road site in and of its self has a storied history. The museum has always struggled to survive. The building even sat vacant from 2005-2010 but is currently in the process of being considered for the National Historic Registry.

Once the improvements are complete, the African American Museum can remain open year round and they can begin to focus creating a place where our children can learn about their history and culture.

The state’s capital budget is generally enacted every two years to fund the most pressing construction and maintenance needs of state government, schools and higher education with priority given to improvements that boost job creation and economic growth. The Capital Arts and Culture Committee received more than 170 applications with requests approaching $200 million.

Projects for consideration had to demonstrate measurable statewide or regional importance, support the advancement of the visual, performing, literary, design or media arts and arts education. They also had to meet state goals for broad geographic distribution of grant awards as well as be beyond the conceptual stage. These “shovel ready” projects are to be substantially undertaken during the FY 2015-2016 biennium. Those somewhat earlier in the development stage were included only if the project could be deemed of considerable state or regional importance and show a compelling reason to be included.

Recommendations for funding in their year’s plan came from a variety of sources, including both metropolitan and rural communities. Funding recommendations for Ohio’s museum, performing arts facilities and other cultural venues were also received from the leaders of Ohio’s art community.

“I am so appreciative of three people: George Forbes, [Speaker of Ohio House] Bill Batchelder and governor [Kasich] for giving us this capital funding,” said Patricia Egan, interim executive director at Karamu House. “It was the collaboration of those three gentlemen that allowed that funding and it’s going to make a world of difference at Karamu.”