Karamu Rendering

Mandel Foundation Makes a $4 Million Challenge Grant to Karamu House

The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation has awarded a $4 million challenge grant to Karamu House to support the remaining infrastructure and capital improvements to the campus in the Fairfax neighborhood of Cleveland. This investment will accelerate direct economic impact in the Fairfax neighborhood and will support Karamu’s ongoing pursuit of racial equity and inclusion for all members of the community through the arts.

The goal of Karamu’s capital improvement plan is to improve community mobility while supporting redevelopment in Fairfax. This grant will support Karamu’s Phase IV renovations in their Education and Administration Building, bringing renovation of the main building to a close.

The Mandel Foundation’s challenge grant means the Foundation will match—dollar for dollar—up to $4 million total in additional donations collected now through the end of 2024. This grant will effectively double donations from other foundations, corporations, and donors.

Tony F. Sias, President and CEO of Karamu House stated, “It is with sincere gratitude that Karamu House accepts this incredible challenge grant in the amount of $4 million from the Mandel Foundation. This new partnership and collaboration will allow us to complete the infrastructure and capital improvements of Phase IV of our master plan. These enhancements include renovations in the Education and Administration Building, bringing construction of the main building to a close. We are elated knowing these funds and the new relationship will add to the bright future of Karamu.”

Originally founded in 1915, Karamu House is “a place of joyful gathering” where people from different races and backgrounds use the arts as a platform to educate, celebrate and activate around cultural touchstones. Karamu contributes to the livability of Greater Cleveland by presenting high-quality theatre productions; educating students of all ages in dance, theatre and vocal performance; and creating community through shared activities and celebration.

The Mandel Foundation strongly believes in supporting neighborhood and community development, as an expression of their commitment to just, inclusive and democratic societies. “The Mandel Foundation’s commitment to Karamu House builds off of our previous neighborhood investments and our priority to provide access to education and the arts in Cleveland’s neighborhoods,” stated Jehuda Reinharz, President & CEO of the Mandel Foundation. “We believe that this investment will not only foster new investment in Karamu, but will increase their capacity to serve the Fairfax community and beyond.”

“The Mandel Foundation’s award to Karamu signifies an important investment in the arts and humanities in Cleveland,” said Stephen H. Hoffman, Chairman of the Board of the Mandel Foundation. “With this challenge grant, Karamu House will be better positioned to boost their arts community and support Black artists and performers in Cleveland.”

“The [Karamu] Board of Trustees celebrate the Mandel Foundation in providing a $4 million challenge grant to ensure the future growth of Karamu House. The new and renovated structures will not only add to the growth and development of the Fairfax community but will also allow us to achieve our commitment to continued revitalization. This is another incredible example of the Foundation’s commitment to urban engagement and improving the quality of life for all citizens,” said Michael Jeans, Chair of Karamu’s Board of Trustees.

About Karamu House:
Recognized as the oldest Black performing arts institute in the nation, Karamu House is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and featured in the Smithsonian’s African American Museum.

Legendary artists including Langston Hughes, Ruby Dee, Robert Guillaume, Ron O’Neal, Bill Cobbs, James Pickens, Jr., Vanessa Bell Calloway, and Imani Hakim have been associated with the 107-year-old “place of joyful gathering” (the meaning of “Karamu” in Swahili.)

Today, Karamu is a beating heart for the entire community, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification, or age. Core programs include socially relevant and professional quality theatre; arts education programming for all ages; and community programming, such as comedy, live jazz, and spoken word performances, that invites participation and engagement, reflection, and a re- commitment to cultural values.

For more information about Karamu House, visit www.karamuhouse.org.