History of The Fine Arts Association

More than 60 years ago, Jim and Louise Savage settled in Willoughby and opened a school for Fine Arts in their home serving Willoughby and the surrounding region. Their passion for Fine Arts and for the importance of artistic training and expression empowered them to nurture a community of teaching artists, dynamic students, community actors, and dedicated funders we call The Fine Arts Association. The timeline below provides significant milestones along our journey.

Founded in 1957 and operated out of the Savage's Home in Willoughby


  • Beginning in 1957, James and Louise Savage made room for a music studio in their family home located on River Street in Willoughby that they called "The Musical Arts Studio"

  • "Fine Arts" began expanding arts programming beyond music instruction

  • 1957- "The School of Fine Arts Association" was formally incorporated. Jim Savage was appointed Executive Director.

  • The Savage family purchased a church on West Spaulding St. with the intent to have an apartment there and turn the rest of the church into an arts center, called "Fine Arts"
Due to popular demand, the Savages outgrew their home "Musical Arts Studio"
  • In the early 1960's - In addition to expanding their musical offerings, they expanded to include dance and visual art. Every room in the house was used as a classroom even the kitchen and the bathroom!
  • The Savages moved into and started "Fine Arts" in their new family home in 1957 on West Spaulding Street which is now Homestead House Bed & Breakfast. They then hired faculty to teach.
  • In the late 1960' - A lease was signed for property with "Andrews School for Girls" now formerly AOA for a dollar a year for 100 years. 
  • Began the first capital campaign Brian Sherwin head of the board
  • The Women's Committee of The Fine Arts Association formed as an auxiliary 
  • The Sarah Weeden Richardson Minority Scholarship Committee formed as an auxiliary 
FAA broke ground to what is the current facility, located on Mentor Avenue

  • 1972 - "Willoughby School of Fine Arts" was constructed. 
  • 1973 - A parade was held down Euclid Ave. to move the "School of Fine Arts" to its new building on the grounds of the "Andrews School for Girls". The Fine Arts Association building that included musical performances among all of the parade activities, there were and rolling the piano down the street 
  • "The School of Fine Arts" taught music, dance, visual arts and theatre
Summer Camps and more
  • Early 1980's - Louise Savage began teaching opera for students, including children 
  • Children's summer camps began
Arts Outreach Programs began to take place
  • In the early 1990's - A "Music Therapy Program" was added
  • In the late1990's - Began outreach programs in the community
Expanding to "The Fine Arts Association"
  • Early 2000's - The Fine Arts Association purchased the building from Andrews Osborne for $1 becoming independent from the school
  • Began to expand outreach programs in the community.
  • 2008 - Obtained first federal stimulus capital grant for energy efficiency 
  • 2009 - Began to expand board membership (beyond the original board)
  • Hired more faculty to expand all educational offerings
  • Formerly changed the name to "The Fine Arts Association"
Expanding even further with the new building addition
  • Early 2010's - Created a five-year strategic plan
  • Theatre Arts Camps were full, children's theatre programs sold out! 
  • 2013 - State grants and the capital campaign allowed The Fine Arts Association to complete "Phase I" of a capital campaign that provided a new front entryway, parking lot, independent entrance off Mentor Ave. and a new art room which was dedicated on January 25, 2013.
  • Late 2010's - The Fine Arts Association groundbreaking off Phase II of the Capital Campaign which ran from 2012-2017 to add a new wing to the building was on October 3, 2016.
  • 2018 - The "Music and Therapies" program was changed to "Creative Arts Therapies" 
  • Held a special tribute for founders Louise and Jim Savage through a Musical Evening performance held on September 7, 2019.
  • A Ribbon Cutting/Grand Opening Ceremony celebrated the opening of the new building addition, renovations, and successful completion of the Fine Arts Association capital campaign. The addition and renovations included new bathrooms, a multi-purpose room, a new dance studio, 3 new music, and art therapy studios, a ceramics room, and a student art exhibit gallery.
The Fine Arts Association today


  • 2020 - In response to the social distancing challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, FAA began offering private lessons and classes through virtual, hybrid, and onsite formats. Some performances were also recorded live and then shared through streaming services
  • Today, on average, FAA serves over 5,000 students and 14,000 patrons throughout Northeast Ohio!
  • The story of The Fine Association is still being written. Building upon the legacy of Jim and Louise Savage and the thousands of artists who have called FAA home over the decades, The Fine Arts Association is embarking on an exciting journey of engagement, increasing access, and pursuing excellence, and expanding enrollment in our next strategic plan. We look forward to more community partnerships; a more diverse and inclusive organization; more places for our teaching artists and students to engage each other across the region; and, continuing to become a premier leader of artistic excellence and community wellness in the years to come. 

The Fine Arts Association would not be where it is today without the support from the Women’s Committee of The Fine Arts Association, the Ohio Arts Council, and families and friends like you!

The Legacy Lives On

Pictured: James Savage (L) Louise Savage (R)

As we remember Jim and Louise Savage, we remember that they were as much about their art as they were about the need to share the arts with others. Mr. Savage was a dedicated advocate for the arts. From the start of the idea of a school of music, Mr. Savage could often be found convening influential people and collaborating with movers and shakers in the broader community promoting the need for spaces for art instruction and performance. Whether he met with people in his home, at an informal night of music sharing, chatting with VIP’s over coffee or encouraging someone to host a dinner fundraiser, Jim Savage knew how to make things happen.

Sixty two years later, thanks to the Savages, The Fine Arts Association stands firmly as the pre-eminent all-encompassing community arts center here in Northeast Ohio. 

In memory of Jim and Louise Savage, the family has started a fund for the continued operation of The Fine Arts Association. Friends and family of the Savages and The Fine Arts Association are welcome to donate to this fund at any time. Once the fund reaches endowed level, the distributions will help to support the organization in perpetuity. We are forever grateful for Mr. Savage’s tenacity and dedication to ensuring that quality arts live on throughout Northeast Ohio. 

For more information about the Jim & Louise Savage fund, please contact: 
CEO, Paul Holm: pholm@fineartsassociation.org.