Michael Jeans, Chair
Sheila Wright, 1st Vice Chair
Dr. Edward M. Barksdale Jr., 2nd Vice Chair,
Jamil A. Sanders, Treasurer
Michael W. Bowen, Jade Davis, Diane M. Downing, Council President Blaine A. Griffin, Tamara Horne, Karen Howse, Jennifer Hurd, Colette M. Jones, Howard L. Lewis, Keith J. Libman, David M. Reynolds, Autumn R. Russell, Roshonda Smith, Frances Cudjoe Waters
The President + CEO of Karamu House, Inc., America’s oldest Black producing theatre. Under Sias, since 2015, Karamu stabilized finances, raised over $10 million for restoration and increased attendance. Prior to his tenure at Karamu, Sias served in several progressive roles for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) including Director of Arts Education and Artistic Director of Cleveland School of the Arts. As a creative Sias has produced, directed, and performed in over 100 productions. He most recently received critical acclaim for directing Karamu’s production of Freedom on Juneteenth and in October 2021 Sias performed narration with The Cleveland Orchestra in Sinfonia No. 5 “Visions” by George Walker. His work has been highlighted nationally in The New York Times, American Theatre Magazine, on NBC’s Today Show with Al Roker, and more. Sias served as a delegate from the U.S. Department of State in Istanbul, Turkey, representing the Council of International Programs in the Youth Arts for Peace Project. In 2018, he was inducted into The HistoryMakers, the largest African American oral history archive collection in the U.S. In 2019, Sias was named the Cleveland Arts Prize, Barbara S. Robinson award winner. In 2021, Sias received the Community Leader Award from Cleveland Magazine. He is a Fellow of the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program through Harvard Business School. Sias serves as a National Board member for the League of Historic American Theatres. He is a Boards member of the Cleveland School of the Arts and the Assembly for the Arts. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in dramatic art from Jackson State University and a Master of Fine Arts in acting from The Ohio University.
Offers a unique combination and understanding of inspirational leadership, operations and logistics, organizational programming, and artistry, developed through intense non-profit environments demanding excellence, flexibility and the capacity to master multiple roles. Just a few of those roles include performing in Step Afrika!, the world’s only professional dance company dedicated to the art of stepping (body percussion), which toured nationally and internationally, and teaching and co-creating new curriculum for Dance at Cuyahoga Community College. Aseelah was the former executive director of Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theatre, Events Manager for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and Director of Dance for Cleveland School of the Arts. Her current role is Vice President + Chief Operating Officer at Karamu House, where she implements operational efficiencies across product lines, has developed new arts residency programs, and curates socially and culturally responsive community arts experiences including after-school and weekend arts education models for life-long learners. She recently and concurrently served as the Interim Executive Director of the Cleveland Arts Prize, the nation’s oldest municipal arts award. She is a 2023 YWCA of Greater Cleveland Woman of Achievement, was a member of the inaugural 2019 Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Fellowship cohort sponsored by Americans for the Arts, The Joyce Foundation and American Express.
Is an experienced thought leader with over 30+ years of experience in corporate and non-profit industries, designing and executing sales, marketing, and fund development, as well as DEI strategies that exceed institutional goals and produce significant outcomes internally and across communities. She is a futuristic thinker, passionate about developing cultures and driving unprecedented change. As a trusted partner, she can create inclusive mindsets across executive leadership that results in increased opportunities for underrepresented talent. She has served as the Chief Equity, Education, and Engagement Officer for the Cleveland Public Library and the Chief Executive Officer of the Akron Urban League, and several leadership roles at Allstate Insurance Company. Dr. Winlock is responsible for the development, execution, and evaluation of the annual development plan, providing oversight for marketing, sales, and communication, supporting the achievement of the institution’s mission and vision. Dr. Winlock holds a degree in English from North Carolina Central University, an MBA in Management from Myers University, and a Doctor of Management of Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix.
Is thrilled to return to Karamu House and theatre at large after spending the past 15 years in the Opera world as Production Manager with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Virginia Opera. She is an accomplished Stage Manager & Company Manager having worked in dance, children’s theatre, touring companies, and opera. She currently serves as the Director of Production of Karamu House.
Associate Artistic Director
Is a Black New Orleans artist currently based in Cleveland. She is a griot, cultural memory worker, actor, director, and playwright, who currently serves as the Artistic Associate of Karamu House. Her most recent work includes The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin at Karamu, STEW at Dobama, writing and directing Red Summer at Karamu House. She was a part of Cleveland Public Theater’s Premier Fellowship Cohort for the 2020-2021 season. Her solo show The Absolutely Amazing and True Adventures of Miss Joan Southgate has been included on The Kilroy’s List 2020. She was a Barbara Smith Playwright in Residence at Twelve Literary Arts and the Nord Family Foundation Playwriting Fellow and Catapult Artist at Cleveland Public Theatre during the 2019-2020 theatrical season. Her solo show Ya Mama! (dir: Nathan Henry) launched its tour at the Hollywood Fringe Festival and a run at Cleveland Public Theatre this past fall.
Director of Venues
Matt is a skilled operations management professional with over 18 years of experience overseeing commercial and municipal facilities. Having previously managed large-scale properties, he plans and executes complex maintenance, renovation, and new construction projects and has proven success overseeing multiple departments and facilities. He consistently evaluates processes and implements change to enhance strategic effectiveness across all levels of business. Matt provides leadership and strategic direction regarding Karamu’s venues and operations. He ensures that all facilities serve the needs of artists, staff members, and guests, while ensuring regulatory standards are upheld as well as historic preservation efforts. Matt also oversees venue support staff and manages contracts with vendors. Prior to joining Karamu in 2023, he previously served in several leadership roles at The Cleveland Orchestra, Providence House, Cleveland Skating Club, and City of Mentor. A native of northeast Ohio, he holds a bachelor’s degree in recreation, park, and tourism management from Kent State University.
NORRIS BROWN SR.
ROCKELL CHURBY LLANOS, Administrative Manager
Sign up for the seasonal Karamu House digital newsletter including news and special discounts!
Copyright © 2023 Karamu House. All Rights Reserved.