News & Announcements

CSU Announces $1 Million Donation for School of Film and Media Arts

Transformative gift will upgrade production facilities and create summer film camp

Cleveland State University’s School of Film and Media Arts, an expanding regional hub for film education and training, will continue its growth thanks to a transformative gift from Lee and Ageleke Zapis and The Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation. The combined $1 million donation will support an upgrade and expansion of the School’s production facilities on the sixth floor of the Idea Center in Playhouse Square and the creation of the Odyssey Program, a summer film camp for area youth designed to introduce them to careers in the industry.

“Thanks to the tremendous generosity of Lee, Ageleke, and the Smith Foundation, we will now be able to further advance our state-of-the-art film labs, production facilities and classrooms and, most importantly, inspire our next generation of filmmakers and creators,” says Harlan Sands, president of Cleveland State University. “I want to personally thank them for their commitment to CSU, to arts education and to our community as a whole.”

The Odyssey program will immerse participants in film and visual arts, providing hands-on instruction from practitioners in the field with the opportunity to create an original film as part of the experience. The week-long camp will allow high school students from across the region to stay overnight in CSU residence halls, experience campus life and explore the city of Cleveland. The first camp will be held this July and will start with a cohort of 60 students.

“We know that the Odyssey Program will have a positive impact on aspiring storytellers,” said Lee Zapis. 

“Stories shape cultures, and the ability to tell stories via film and media arts is what will continue to impact our cultures in the years to come,” added Ageleke Zapis.

The capital grant from the Smith Foundation will name The Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Studio and will support the start of the third phase of renovations for the Film School’s facility in the Idea Center, which will be highlighted by the development of a 75-seat Screening Room. The Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Studio is a 2000 square foot sound stage with fiber connections to a control room that allow it to be used as a single camera, “film style,” or a multi-camera, “broadcast style,” production facility.

“The Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation is proud to support CSU’s School of Film and Media Arts,” said Ellen Mavec, the Foundation’s president and chair. “Education has been a pillar of our philanthropy and we look forward to the impact the Studio will have on CSU students interested in film and media opportunities, a new field in which we hope Cleveland will become a destination.”

The School of Film and Media Arts opened in 2018 and is the only stand-alone film school in Ohio. It offers innovative, experience-based instruction in directing, screenwriting, cinematography, acting and digital media, and takes advantage of numerous industry and community partnerships to provide a wide variety of opportunities for students to work on current film, TV and digital productions. The School was created thanks to a $7.5 million appropriation from the state of Ohio.


University Marketing 2020