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While construction begins for the first phase of the project, the Beck Center’s front will also see a $50,000 makeover that will include revamping the RTA bus stop, new benches and a new art installation out front.

Fundraising efforts for a $5.7 million renovation project seeking to make the Beck Center for the Arts’ 3.5-acre campus energy efficient and more accessible nearly grinded to a halt in the wake of the pandemic.

“It was like looking both ways before crossing the street and then getting hit by a commercial airplane,” said organization President Lucinda Einhouse, noting that the campaign, dubbed “Creating our Future,” began just two days before the state shut down.

Fundraising for the project began three years ago when the center began seeking private donations. The organization raised $3.5 million, which will be used for the initial phases of the project. The organization was hoping to rely on the public to help meet the high fundraising goal, said Director of Development Dena Adler.

However, since the campaign’s kickoff, the organization has raised $100,000 through a mailing campaign and a handful of private donors. The initiative’s shaky start can be attributed to COVID-19’s economic impact on the community.

“Once things started to close and people were told to shelter in place, the economy took a huge downward turn,” Adler said. “Because no one knew what was going to happen, a fundraising campaign was understandably the last thing on people’s minds.”

State funding for the project has also halted. Earlier in the year the center applied for a $950,000 grant to assist in construction costs, but the money was distributed to organizations working to fight the spread of COVID-19. As a result, the initiative, which was expected to wrap by the end of the year, will extend into 2021.

The organization is accepting donations for the project at beckcenter.org, Einhouse said.

Because of the pandemic, the Beck Center has scaled back on programs and lost 70 of its 110 employees due to layoffs and employees leaving when the organization switched to an online format. Normally the organization offers more than 200 classes and 230 performances year-round. Since the pandemic, however, it’s offering only about 70 online classes and 12 camps focusing primarily on music instruction.

Despite the setbacks, the project designed by Bialosky Cleveland is moving along as scheduled. The organization plans to begin the first phase, renovating the education wing of the 100-year-old campus, in August at a cost of $1.8 million. Crews will make the wing ADA-compliant by adding access ramps to classrooms and widening hallways for people who use wheelchairs and other devices to move around.

The Beck Center provides services to about 60,000 people annually. It also provides an economic impact of $10 million in Northeast Ohio, according to information on the organization’s website.

“We pride ourselves in serving our community of all abilities,” Einhouse said. “We want to make sure there are no barriers to entry when trying to access the programs we offer.”

Contact this reporter at akamczyc@westlifenews.com or 216-307-6614.

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