Tell us a little bit about yourself, Susannah.
I was born and raised in Cleveland but spent 20 years in Birmingham, AL and Spokane, WA before moving back two years ago. I have a husband, Sean, and 3 children, Meredith, William & Patrick. I have two furry children, Milo & Champ. We all love to travel, the outdoors and Alabama football!
You joined the Delta Arts Alliance Board of Directors just under two years ago. Why were you drawn to serve with this organization?
I wanted to give back to Cleveland since it is obvious so many others have been doing that since I was living here. I wish I had appreciated art more as a child (and I take full responsibility because my parents definitely exposed me), but I have grown to appreciate it and love it as an adult. The DAA is the perfect fit for me because it allows me to get more exposure to the arts as well as help children and adults in our area gain the same exposure. Sometimes volunteer work can be a real chore, but this is an organization that is so friendly and welcoming as well as very passionate about our mission. It doesn't even seem like work, and it has quickly become one of my favorite places to serve.
During your time of service, you have been instrumental with the programming efforts of DAA. Talk about your experiences with the Programming Committee and what has been so satisfying about that work?
Right off the bat I was excited to be on this committee because I got to reconnect with my high school friend, Amy Vance. It has been the best way for me to learn about all the things Delta Arts is involved with in this area. Amy and Rori are so creative when it comes to our program options, and we work well together to make sure we are putting out programming families want and will keep signing up for. One of my favorite programs is Poetry For Life. We work with the theater teacher, Amber Wolfe, and her high school students to share poetry with patients in the dementia wing at the hospital. You cannot be a part of that group and not be forever touched by the students and residents. It is a privilege to witness their time together.
You spearheaded an effort to recreate an experience here in Cleveland that you had in Washington with an event called "Listen to Your Mother." For those that may have missed Delta Arts' iteration of that event - "In Our Own Words" - tell us about that evening and what's on tap moving forward?
I knew we would be moving back to Cleveland when I was a member of the Listen to Your Mother cast, and I immediately knew this would be a great fit for our town. This is a storytelling event where you have a cast who writes their own personal, true story and tells it to an audience. I was elated when Rori was just as excited about this as I was! Our first production of In Our Own Words had the subtitle of "First Loves." We had seven cast members write and read their stories, and every one of them was completely different from the other. One minute you were laughing, and the next you were wiping away tears. We even had the privilege of hearing a student read her story that she wrote in her after-school storytelling class she was taking at Delta Arts. There is nothing like this going on in Cleveland, and I am pretty sure if you ask anyone who was in the audience that night, they will tell you it was absolutely magical. It truly was. I am thrilled that it was so well received, and we are gearing up for another production Feb. 2, 2018 with a subtitle of "Home." We expect to have very different stories told, as home means so many different things to everyone. If you have a story to tell, I ask you to please get in touch with the DAA because we would love to hear from you! I hope we can grow this program to have more students and cast members reading and more audience members to hear.
You have recently put a huge investment of time into working with our Grants Committee. Explain to our readers your work on that committee and why seeking alternate funding sources is so important to a non-profit's overall success.
When I was told I was on the Grants Committee, I sort of panicked because I had never done anything with grants, and I did not want to drag the committee down. Then I saw that I would get to work with Hilda Povall, whom I adore, and I knew she would show me the way! I believe that fundraising is vital to a non-profit, but sometimes fundraising does not bring in enough so that your organization can reach its full potential. That is where grants come in. There is money out there to be donated to worthy causes like ours, but you have to find it, and it has to be the right fit. We have been working with a grant writer in Oxford who keeps us all on task as well as helps us weed through all the grant opportunities out there. Receiving money from grant partners is imperative to sustain our many programs and allow us to continue top quality programs going forward. I feel much more at ease than I did in the beginning, and I hope that I can continue to bring in grant dollars for our current programs as well as future ones.