Donor Spotlight: Sava Farah
During this most uncommon season, UMS has been especially grateful for our donors and community partners’ continued support and belief in our mission. Thanks to their generosity, we have been able to continue to invest in artists and their work, widen the impact of the arts by making our digital offerings free to everyone and explore new ways of delivering uncommon and engaging experiences with artists. Although we are not able to share and celebrate these stories of support in person, we are excited to unveil this Donor Spotlight blog to recognize these important contributions as well as offer a nostalgic look back on some fond UMS memories.
This week, we recognize Sava Farah and SavCo Hospitality, one of our most generous restaurant and community partners. UMS staff, artists, and patrons have all been spoiled by the delicious meals and dedicated hospitality of SavCo’s Ann Arbor restaurants. We recognize this has been an equally challenging year for our friends in the restaurant industry and we are very grateful to still be able to count on SavCo’s support for our 20-21 season. We talked with Sava Farah, SavCo’s Chief Executive Officer, and learned more about her history in Ann Arbor, fond memories with UMS, and discussed the harmonious relationship between arts presenters and the Ann Arbor restaurant scene.
Tell us a little about your background with the arts: Musical talents? First performing arts experience? Did you grow up with the arts or come to them as an adult?
I grew up in an immigrant household in the Bronx and I, frankly, knew very little about the arts before coming to Ann Arbor at 23 to open my first café. I can confidently say that Ann Arbor has cultured me on many levels and, particularly, in this arena. I’m so grateful to be steeped in a community rich in the arts and that has impacted so many areas of my life, including bringing more creativity into my own field.
When and how did you first become involved with UMS?
I became acquainted with UMS when I opened my first café on the south side of State Street called Sava’s State Street Café. There I developed a group of lunch regulars who would walk over from UMS for lunch and genuine hospitality. From there, I started catering events, participating in fundraising, attending shows, and learning more about the wide range of musical talents that made their way through UMS.
Will you please share your favorite UMS performance or memory?
My favorite memory was attending the Yo-Yo Ma performance and then we had an afterglow at Sava's where we hosted Yo-Yo Ma along with a group of donors. He was so humble, friendly and had a great sense of humor. Hearing him play the cello live still gives me goosebumps every time I think of it.
UMS’ motto is Be Present, but, during these times, we hope our community Stays Present until we can safely return to our traditional programming. How are you ‘Staying Present’ with the arts?
One thing I’m doing right now is enjoying the journey that Ken Fischer has shared in his captivating new book Everybody In, Nobody Out. Ken was very successful yet so kind and authentic with everyone he met. That was so inspirational to me as I came into my own as an entrepreneur – and learning more about the organization and his leadership makes me appreciate him even more!
Similar to performing arts organizations, the restaurant industry has also suffered during this pandemic. Despite the struggles that you are currently facing in your own business, why were you still inspired to maintain your support for UMS during this time?
Our relationship and love for UMS runs deep and we recognize the importance and impact that this institution has on our downtown. We are committed to doing our part to keep the show going in any way we can.
In the good old days, UMS supporters and visiting artists were frequently seen enjoying the food and great service at Sava’s and other downtown businesses. What do you think an organization like UMS does for the local economy and downtown scene?
Along with many other downtown businesses, Sava’s benefits greatly from the crowds that UMS draws from both the local area and also out of town visitors. People come to Ann Arbor to catch a great performance and take advantage of the great shopping, dining, and sight-seeing while here in town. The vibrancy and culture fostered by UMS is sorely missed and we just can’t wait for another great season! We have SO much to look forward to!