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Lorain: Arts academy supporters go public with plans for downtown

Published By The Morning Journal on March 30, 2021
Gayle Manning In The News

The new Lorain Arts Academy has willing trustees, seed money committed, community partners and a building available to become part of the city’s downtown revitalization.

On March 30, supporters heard about plans that could develop over the next year at the Style Center, 418 Broadway, with the aim of opening a renovated building in spring 2022.

Lorain businessman Jon Veard, attorney Anthony Giardini, grant consultant Michael Ferrer and Lorain County Community College executive assistant Annalisa Longo spoke about developments so far and what will come next.

Mayor Jack Bradley gave his approval and said the city would explore ways to help through more than $30 million pledged through the federal American Rescue Plan stimulus to counteract the economic effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Past and future heritage
Giardini spoke about the importance of the arts in Lorain’s cultural heritage.

The city has been represented among the finest practitioners of entertainment, literature and fine arts such as painting and sculpture, he said.

“Lorain really has a rich history, and we wanted to kind of capitalize on it and get it moving along,” Giardini said.

Arts and entertainment are an economic driver for the city, he said, adding that a number of still young eateries downtown are full when the Lorain Palace Theater has a show.

Lorain now has enough going on that the city is drawing people from communities such as Bay Village and Lakewood to the east, and Amherst and Vermilion to the west, Giardini said.

He described the effort as a legacy project that the founders hope will last for years, possibly decades.

Building vision
After a lunch, Veard led a walking tour of the former Style Center, 418 Broadway, which will become the new art space.

The building is in rough shape now, although its first-floor bar and second-story balcony remain intact.

“We put the team together that we knew would get the job done,” Veard said.

An arts academy has been an idea for 40 years, but it has not taken off until now, he said.

“We’re going to get it off the ground,” Veard said. “In fact, we’re off the ground.

"We’ve got a grant, we’ve got a building, we’ve got a board of trustees selection already.”

He added he hopes renovation could happen starting in late fall with a new center opening in spring 2022.

Veard also credited LCCC President Marcia Ballinger.

“When I called her for some help, it took like five seconds to say yes,” Veard said. “She’s been excellent. She threw her weight into this thing right on the first telephone call.”

Going forward
They and other speakers discussed the groundwork for the Lorain Arts Academy.

The state of Ohio’s capital budget has committed $350,000 toward the project, Ferrer said.

The Lorain Arts Academy will apply for federal nonprofit tax status, with Giardini assisting.

Once that is awarded, the organization will enlist a board of trustees, most likely with nine members guiding the organization.

Veard introduced trustees Marilyn Vicente, Eric Thorsen, Darryl Q. Tucker, Dina Ferrer, Jessica Castro, Jaclyn Bradley and Janet Dziak, and alternates Kelly Melendez, Stacey Scealf and Cheryl Webber.

Because the federal tax status is not approved yet, LCCC is serving as fiscal agent for the project.

The backers sought money in the state’s capital budget. Ferrer credited state Rep. Gayle Manning and state Sen. Nathan Manning, lawmakers representing Lorain, for their help in Columbus.

The supporters asked for financial help through the Ohio Construction and Facilities Commission.

Instead, the money will be administered by the Ohio Department of Higher Education, Ferrer said.

That is a lucky break because the higher education agency does not require the local users to raise matching funds for the state money, but the state facilities commission does mandate that, Ferrer said.

LCCC will have a joint-use agreement with the Lorain Arts Academy.

The academy will allow the college to use the space, an in-kind donation that counts toward almost $27,000 a year needed to repay the money.

Supporters at the college include Tracy Green, LCCC vice president for strategic and institutional development; Brenda Pongracz, LCCC dean of arts and humanities; and Dina Ferrer, coordinator of the LCCC Lorain Learning Center.

They attended and will be part of the brainstorming of ideas for using the new center, Longo said.

The academy and LCCC will have a joint use agreement that spells out details of a 20-year partnership with benefits for LCCC, she said.

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