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Today's Family Magazine

Fairmount Center for the Arts enriches lives through the arts

By Deanna Adams

It’s well known by now that the arts in all its forms contribute many facets to our well-being. For children, multi-discipline artistic endeavors aid in child development on all levels, including critical thinking, problem solving, and building self-esteem.  For adults, it encourages exploration into one’s unique way of creating and expressing interests and abilities.

For nearly 50 years, Fairmount Center for the Arts has been nurturing its community for people of all ages with a myriad of artistic offerings that help others discover, learn and develop their talents in a warm, inviting environment.

Originating in a dance studio in the home of professional dancer, Jan Kumen, and her husband, Ron (who served as director), the arts facility was incorporated in 1971 as the nonprofit Fairmount Center of the Creative and Performing Arts.  The couple was able to expand their passion when they purchased a three-story, Tudor-style building in Russell Township.

The 9,000-square-foot arts center is comprised of three dance studios, two music studios, and an art studio. The facility provides Geauga County and Cuyahoga County residents a means to explore the arts by offering classes, workshops, community performances and opportunities in dance, art, music, theater, crafts and visual arts, camps, as well as fitness programs.  Today, the center serves more than 10,000 annually, from preschoolers to senior citizens.

Jeannie Fleming-Gifford became executive director at the Fairmount Center for the Arts in March of 2018, and is busy honoring its history, along with moving the center forward with new programs and expanded offerings.  “Our job is to meet the needs of the community for toddlers all the way through lifelong learning for adults and seniors,” says Fleming-Gifford.  “My favorite part of this position is being able to offer programs for all ages and abilities and interests.  Fairmount has a long history and I’m so proud and fortunate to keep it growing.”

She also recognizes that to move forward, it’s important to understand the needs of the community.  Since the Fairmount Center resides in a rural area, there has been an increase of off-site programs that broaden the scope of their agendas.  “We partner with schools and organizations which allows us to bring many programs out to them, to places like Notre Dame, Chagrin Falls, and other schools and libraries, such as West Geauga.”

Art programs are offered for toddlers through adults and include ceramics, weaving, pencil and colored pencil drawing, along with painting in watercolor, acrylic or oil.  An annual spring art exhibition showcases works by professional and emerging artists, as well as accomplished students and faculty art.

Private music lessons are available in voice, piano, viola, guitar, ukulele or saxophone, for ages 5 and up. Students participating in music lessons can perform in recitals that are presented throughout the year.

Fairmount theatre classes span preschool ages through adults where students learn theatre games and improv, scenes and scripts, and are introduced to musical theatre.  There is also Fairmount Youth Theatre that involves young actors, ages 7 – 14, in which they stage two annual musical productions each year (fall and spring).  No theatre experience is required and all registered participants receive a role in the production.

There are several unique programs that Fleming-Gifford is particularly proud of.  “Our shining star at the top is our dance programs,” she says.  “We have professional ballet dancers from Verb Ballet in Shaker Heights who share their passion and expertise with their students.  It’s a big wow for us, and a real quality program.”

She adds that they encourage male dance instruction as well, emphasizing the talent of instructor, Mr. Dan Shepard, who began teaching there in 2018.  “We have so many male students now that we’ve been considering offering a separate dance class for them,” she says proudly. “It’s wonderful that, for being rather small, we’re able to have these top professionals as part of our faculty.”

“We’re unique in the sense that the Fairmount Center offers more than just the core arts,” she says, referring to the distinctive programming they offer.  Among those include their “Pull Back the Curtain” speakers series, where notable arts experts present a talk about what they do behind the scenes.  “We always have an interesting mix of speakers and look forward to our next one, Hans Clebsch, horn player for the Cleveland Orchestra.”  And every August, there is the highly anticipated juried art show, the annual Fairmount Art Exhibition, now in its 44th year.  Entry forms will be available in May.

“We also have short-term workshops that require no long time commitment, as well as the longer term programs for those who want to gain or perfect a skill, be it in a creative way or a means of problem solving,” Flemiing-Gifford says.

In addition, Fairmount Center for the Arts offers a variety of camps for children, ages 3 through 15 years, featuring a multitude of art activities.  Camp programs run from June through August and include half-day, full-day, one-day and one-week options. 

And Fairmount is not just for kids.  Their adult programs include tap, adult ballet, yoga, Zumba, and classes in art, ceramics, painting, and drawing.  “Our primary market is families and children,” Fleming-Gifford says, “but we do get a good amount of adults and seniors during the day for our fitness classes, such as Zumba, our drawing and painting classes, and even music lessons.

“I grew up as a music kid,” she adds.  “I received my degree in music and have spent my career working with arts organizations.  I love to help the community grow in this way, and we’re all especially excited to celebrate our 50th anniversary this September.”

Fairmount Center for the Arts is located at 8400 Fairmount Road, just west of Chillicothe Road, in Russell Township.  For more info call (440) 338-3171, or visit them online at