Next week, Stuart Geller will step down as President of Citizens Interested in Arts (CIA), having successfully served two years in the position. Geller, whose interior design firm, Geller Design Group, has won dozens of accolades over the years for Turning Houses into Homes, says, “Because I am an artist, I love what CIA stands for. I’ve also had much experience in the philanthropic world,” he adds, “so I knew when I took on the presidency I had to commit to leaving CIA significantly better than I found it, just as I do with my design clients. And I have.”
Geller and his CIA team, led by strategist Patty Soffer, set big goals and big things happened. First was the wildly successful maiden Sail Away With CIA Caribbean cruise. Next, CIA Founder Gloria Muroff ’s Grantees on Parade filled the house at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center. Then, the 2012 Champion of the Arts Luncheon honored the literary arts for the first time, attracted its largest and most diverse audience ever and gave Geller and keynote speakers Alberto Carvalho and Enid Weismann from Miami-Dade Public Schools (M-DCPS) the platform to announce CIA’s biggest step of all, the Imagination Initiative.
“This Initiative, the brainchild of Patty Soffer and an alliance between CIA and M-DCPS, is the highlight of my presidency, “he says. “It promotes community partnership and expands our impact on children. Historically,” he adds, “approximately 75% of CIA grant dollars go to applicant programs that directly affect school children. Now, the schools themselves can apply for grants. That’s big.”
Geller is a former schoolteacher who used imagination to teach inner city students that anything was possible. “I feel I’ve come full circle,” he says. “My presidency is ending but my position as chief fundraiser is just beginning.” Geller will raise significant funds for the Imagination Initiative, providing not just money but access to the arts for school children. “That,” he says, “is how you can change a life. What’s better than that?”