Smarts Introduces New Home, Tells Fundraising Goals

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The 5,000-square-foot auditorium on the first floor of the Ohio One Building where the Ohio Edison Co. displayed refrigerators and electric stoves in the 1930s and ’40s is the new home of Smarts, Students Motivated by the Arts.

The auditorium will become the “Smartatorium,” says Executive Director Becky Keck, and the other 3,000 square feet on the first floor of Ohio One will become 10 rooms that encompass office space, music rooms, visual arts rooms, a leadership room, a resting station and a library.

The Smartatorium will be divided into space for an artist in residence, a creation zone, a Smarts store and visitors center.

In the Smartatorium Friday, in front of a set left there from the Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini movie, “Turn of Faith,” Keck presented the new home for her organization and its goal to raise $750,000 to bring it all to fruition. During the “quiet phase” of the “All in One” campaign, Smarts raised 64% of its goal, or $480,187.50, she reported.

Nine Foundations and 15 individuals, including Barbara Brothers, have donated. Brothers, who spoke, announced that two music rooms have been named in honor of her husband, Lawrence Haims, who died in January. Both Brothers and Haims were on the faculty at Youngstown State University.

“He studied music and could’ve been a concert pianist,” Brothers, a retired English professor, said. “He was a believer in education and the arts.”

Smarts, founded in 1997, is dedicated to helping students from prekindergarten to 12th grade, including those with disabilities, gain a greater appreciation of music, dance, theater, the arts, creative writing and poetry and develop their leadership skills.

With its new home, Smarts will be able to serve well beyond the 360 students it served last year in 13 classes in seven schools.

Parents can drop off their children in the newly renovated entrance on East Boardman Street named the Hine Memorial Fund Entrance.

Since Smarts left the YSU campus two years ago, Keck has searched for a new home, she said, inspecting 21 buildings.

Rich Mills, CEO and co-owner of Ohio One Corp. and a long-time friend of Keck’s, suggested she look at Ohio One. Of all the sites she visited, she said, it needed the least work. The HVAC system — heating, ventilation and air conditioning – needs to be replaced as does some lighting. Some painting needs to be done, some terrazzo work, some carpet replaced and some drywall moved or installed.

But the costs of renovation were the lowest and she signed a five-year lease.

When Smarts left YSU, Mills provided Keck with office space in City Centre One as its equipment was put in storage.

Since its inception, Smarts has enjoyed the financial support of many charitable foundations as reflected in the names of the 16 distinct spaces on the 8,000 square feet it will occupy: the Youngstown Foundation Visitors Center, the J. Ford Crandall Memorial Foundation Leadership Room and the Hine Memorial Fund Library. The Thomases Family Endowment of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation will underwrite the artists in residence and showcase artwork done by students and their teachers.

Architect Ronald Cornell Faniro drew the plans that contractor Alex Downie & Sons Construction Co. will perform.

“Thirteen naming opportunities remain,” Keck announced.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.