Sunday, September 5, 2010

Shore Cultural Centre Key to Euclid's Redevelopment

Dear Mayor Cervenik and Euclid City Council Members:

My name is Matthew Orgovan, and I was born and raised in Euclid.  I’m a 1994 graduate of Euclid High School, and participated in many community activities growing up, including Euclid Boys League, Euclid Pony League, Euclid Colt League, the CABA High School World Series, Justin Lanes Youth Bowling League and Holy Cross PSR, as well as many school-sponsored creative activities and organizations, such as Eucuyo (Euclid High School’s literary magazine), Power of the Pen, Euclid High School’s Fall Play, Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay and Poetry Contest, and many others.  Needless to say, as I reflect upon the plethora of creative, athletic and social opportunities I was afforded as a youth, both in school and in the community, I recognize that the infusion of these activities in my daily life greatly helped me develop my leadership skills, made me a well-rounded, culturally aware person and fostered in me an awareness of community, on a large and small scale.

Furthermore, my experiences as the marketing and public relations director for Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School from 2000 to 2009, the City of Euclid’s closest private and/or parochial high school, as well as freelance writing for the Catholic Universe Bulletin, the Collinwood Observer and the Euclid Observer, have kept me keenly aware of what has been going on in Euclid, Collinwood and Northeast Ohio over the last 10 years.  Unfortunately, some personal and economic situations have led me to take up residence in a neighboring community.  However, my parents still reside in Euclid, and my volunteerism and position on the Board of Directors for UpStage Players Children’s Theater Company for the last six years, have allowed me to remain active in the activities of Euclid.

In addition, my personal discovery of painting and art about three or four years ago while volunteering to help the drama program of VASJ, led my fiancĂ©e Joanna Longo and I to engage in arts and craft shows during that same general timeframe.  After being approached at various shows by representatives of Northeast Shores Development Corporation, the Shaker Square Area Development Corporation and Director Pietravoia of the City of Euclid to consider either opening up a shop or a studio in their respective neighborhoods, Joanna and I conducted online and physical research in considering these flattering offers.  We ultimately decided on the City of Euclid and Shore Cultural Centre after further discussions about the economic development plans of Euclid with Director Pietravoia and site visits and conversations with Shore’s building manager, Laura Kidder, of Coral Management Company.

In roughly six months of operating Studio 76 at Shore, Joanna and I have been amazed by not only the passion and commitment that has been displayed by our fellow full-time and part-time tenants, but by the cosmetic and collaborative initiatives and improvements engaged in by Coral, Shore volunteers, Shore’s Board and the tenants.  The groundwork and vision have been laid for the continuation of building Shore back up to the cultural, arts and wellness center that the Euclid City Council and Coral have agreed upon for the building’s future.  While we most definitely couldn’t live on Studio 76, we will be nonetheless strongly committed to Shore if given assurance of its future, because we are able to provide classes and contribute to an appreciation for the arts in the community, while also developing our own personal skills and passions, building a community of artists and entrepreneurs who share similar goals, and being able to use and grow a workspace that is conducive to our crafts.

However, in order to see Shore reach its full potential, many pieces of the puzzle must be inserted to realize the economic, social and perceptual stability that a bustling center of activity such as Shore can have on a city that has felt the affects of the recent socioeconomic times this country has battled.

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, preeminent researchers, award-winning writers and nationally recognized leaders in the field of leadership, published a document roughly 20 years ago that still has a profound impact on today.  It is entitled “The Leadership Challenge.”  At the heart of this document lies five fundamental practices that leaders should use to not only improve themselves, but also have a lasting influence on all those they inspire.  These practices are: Challenge the Process, Inspire a Shared Vision, Enable Others to Act, Model the Way and Encourage the Heart.

In challenging the process, the City of Euclid and those who are concerned with the sustainable economic and social future of its neighborhoods, must take risks and search for innovative ways to improve itself, not only for the benefit of its citizens, but for the growth and prosperity of Northeast Ohio as a region.  These initiatives have already begun with the Downtown Revitalization Plan, the Lakefront Plan and other economic development plans.  Shore Cultural Centre, in many minds, involves risks, economically and in the eventual impact it could have for the well-being of Euclid residents and residents of surrounding communities.  While these risks are very real, the precedent for a cultural arts center has been set by many communities in Northeast Ohio and across the country.  With dedicated funds, resources and hard-working individuals, Shore can do for Euclid and surrounding communities what the Gordon Arts District has done for the Detroit Shoreway area of Cleveland and the Clifton Arts Center has done for the Cincinnati area.  The Clifton Arts Center is relevant, in that its history very much mirrors the situation that the City of Euclid has with Shore Cultural Centre.

According to, the Clifton Arts Center marks the geographic center of one of Cincinnati's most treasured and historic communities.  It is located on the site of a school built in 1906, and is the former location of the Resor Academy, built by the citizens of the Village of Clifton in 1870.  After the City of Cincinnati annexed the Village of Clifton in 1896, the owners of the land on which the original Academy was built deeded the land to the city for the purpose of building a new school in furtherance of the original trust, mandating that the land be used “to promote the education of youth of both sexes” and to cultivate “a taste for science, literature and the fine arts.”

The renewal of the Clifton School as the flagship facility for the Clifton Cultural Arts Center now serves as an homage to the progressive character of the visionary benefactors who dedicated the school site to cooperative education in arts and culture more than a century ago.  Today, the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, which was first imagined in 2004 after a series of community engagement meetings that addressed the fate of two key historic buildings – the 1906 Clifton School and the adjacent McDonald Estate Carriage House – both scheduled to fall into disuse in 2008 as a result of imminent initiatives included in the Cincinnati Public Schools Master Plan, is thriving.  A seed was sown – and the Clifton Cultural Arts Center is the outgrowth of that idea: that participation in cultural and artistic activities contributes to more cohesive communities and more successful, more inspired children and adults.  Today, a proactive, dedicated group of citizens have nurtured the potential of that ideal to create a rare and remarkable opportunity: A truly regional Cultural Arts Center encompassing – and preserving – over 57,000 square feet of historically significant space in an incomparable urban campus.  In fact, in 2007, CityBeat of Cincinnati named the Clifton Cultural Arts Center “BEST RE-USE OF AN OLD SCHOOL.”  It stated that, “Clifton Cultural Arts Center will be housed in the old Clifton Elementary School on Clifton Avenue.  Instead of becoming yet another office building with blackboards left hanging to give the place ‘charm,’ the community created a nonprofit organization that will convert and run the new arts facility.”  The precedent of the Clifton Cultural Arts Center proves that an opportunity such as what Shore is and can become can have lasting positive effects on a community and region.

Kouzes and Posner also discuss inspiring a shared vision.  Based on legislation passed by City Council in adopting the concept of the Five Year Strategic Plan that was developed and is now being facilitated by Coral Management Company, this shared vision for Shore Cultural Centre exists.  Included in this vision is the Mission Statement of Shore Cultural Centre, which reads, “To provide transformative, dynamic, and high quality arts, cultural and lifelong learning experiences that build community, enhance quality of life and strengthen Euclid and Northeast Ohio.”  The city’s leaders can now, through their vision, influence and economic means, see this vision through and breathe life into a project that can bring exciting possibilities for the future of Euclid and the region.  Due to the geographic location and accessibility of Euclid, what first and foremost will enhance the quality of life for its citizens, can become another cornerstone for this same growth for the region.

The City of Euclid has the ability to enable others to act.  Collaboration, mutual respect and understanding each other’s mission and expertise will make possible the success of Shore Cultural Centre and its place and influence in the city and region.  Coral Management Company, the Shore Board, tenants and volunteers all must be enabled to continue building for Shore’s growth and sustainability.  This includes a financial commitment by the city for Coral to make immediate improvements, such as a new energy-efficient boiler, other energy and safety enhancements and the hiring of a dedicated development director, all of which will surely more than pay for themselves in the near future.  A committed development person can solicit the needed grant money, corporate and individual support and in-kind donations that Shore needs to be successful…and far exceed the immediate financial support the city is being asked for over the next few years.

The City of Euclid also has the ability to model the way for its own citizens and the region.  Kouzes and Posner point to the prospect of complex change being overwhelming to people, and often leads to a roadblock in the progression of action and goal achievement.  In the case of Shore, this has been evident on many fronts in recent history.  Interim goals and small achievements and commitments that lead to the larger objective of Shore Cultural Centre being the arts, cultural and wellness district that it is capable of, are necessary now.  Verbal, written and financial commitments by the city and those who have a vested interest in Shore and Euclid will show that a vision to a more prosperous Euclid, anchored by a lakefront development plan, economic growth in downtown (which includes the sustainability of Shore) and strategic improvements and growth to other vital pockets of the city, will demonstrate to Euclid residents and the region that the city has great things in store for the future.

Finally, we all know that accomplishing extraordinary things takes hard work.  Kouzes and Posner write that it is essential for leaders to acknowledge the work and contributions of others for common goals to be met.  I applaud the city’s leadership in their resourcefulness and accomplishments in beginning a series of improvements throughout the city that will soon generate economic growth and positive perceptions.  I know that this will continue through dedication and commitment.  In my view, the revitalization of Shore Cultural Centre is one key piece of many that is vital to bringing those just rewards.

Thank you very much for your time.

Best regards,

Matthew Orgovan