The Human Fund: Having a Good Time Doing Good

Seinfeld fans will recognize “The Human Fund” as that fake charity used by George Costanza with the slogan “Money for the People.” But there exists a real Human Fund in northeast Ohio and it is no joke, having raised over a million dollars over the last twelve years to support youth arts programming in the Cleveland public schools.

Recognizing the value of the arts to the educational process, The Human Fund is committed to financial support for youth arts programming. Money from the charity has enriched the lives of tens of thousands of Cleveland kids since it began in 2005. According to co-founder, Heather Rayburn, the charity has “kept existing arts programming alive to ensure that Cleveland youth are exposed to this important segment of education.”

Andy and Heather Rayburn, co-founders and co-chairpersons of The Human Fund, bring a wealth of experience and energy to this enterprise. Andy is the founder of Big Game Capital, a private investment company with interests in sports, music, fine arts, finance and distribution. Heather has a background in business and education, and has developed high level art contacts during her career. She is determined to bring those resources to Cleveland’s kids to develop a model for career and economic development within the visual and performing arts.

Creative careers are one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. economy, now making up 33 percent of the American workforce (some 44 million people), and contributing nearly two trillion dollars to our nation’s economy. The field offers a very real benefit to Cleveland’s economy only if the talent is developed. The Human Fund has supported an educational environment where talent has not only been developed, but allowed to flourish. Of the funds raised by The Human Fund, 100 percent has gone to support the All-City Arts program in the last eleven years.

The All-City Arts program was initiated in 1999 within the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Due to a reduction in state education funding, increased health care costs, and decreased property tax revenue, this program, along with many others was eliminated from the annual budget. The All-City Arts program touches 15,000 students annually in grades K-12 in over 100 schools. The students develop musical, performing and visual arts pieces throughout the academic year.

The program attracts students to after school programming where they can practice their chosen art form and receive academic support. Students can bring their homework in for tutoring assistance before they pull out their instruments or art supplies. The 95 percent graduation rate and college participation statistics for the kids who have participated for at least two years in the All-City Arts program constitute solid evidence that the focus and motivation developed by arts education flows into the other areas of students’ lives.

Kimberly Sias, the director of the All-City Arts program loves to see the impact on the kids, but more importantly she notes the impact on their social and emotional skills and development. “The kids learn to problem solve, critically think and manage dynamics in relationships with each other,” Kim says. She praises The Human Fund for providing high quality arts experiences and also appreciates how The Human Fund supports the local arts community by hiring artists to work with the young people.

In prior years, the students have put on productions as challenging and varied as Rent, Aïda, and Memphis. Matinees of these musicals were attended by students of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, no doubt encouraging many of them to explore the possibility of performing in the next year’s production. Evening performances were open to the public to much acclaim. The productions allowed the students to experience immeasurable personal growth from their own efforts. As one student explains, “The musical pushed me to put myself out there and helped me perform and achieve in ways I didn’t think possible.”

Clearly, The Human Fund has found a way to invest in Cleveland’s future. And its donors can be sure they’ll have a good time while doing good.

The thirteenth annual summer benefit concert will be held at Mahall’s in Lakewood on August 26th, featuring the David Grisman Quintet, whose bluegrass sound is familiar to all Grateful Dead fans, and a special performance by the All-City Arts students. Of course, all proceeds will go to the All-City Arts program. Prior benefits have been held at a variety of venues including the House of Blues, Cain Park and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. To find out more about the fund-raising event, “like” The Human Fund on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @humanfund_artED. Donations to The Human Fund to support arts education programming for Cleveland’s kids can be made through the website at the-human-fund.org

 

The Human Fund

the-human-fund.org

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