Dozens From Northeast Ohio's Arts & Cultural Community Voice Concerns About Support for Individual Artists

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by David C. Barnett

A broad cross-section of Northeast Ohio's arts community gathered Monday to voice concerns about the funding of individual artists through a cigarette tax.  Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, which manages the tax revenues,  heard two-hours of testimony.

A little over a week ago, the arts agency was planning to vote on hiring a Washington DC-based non-profit --- National Arts Stategies --- to run the Cuyahoga County program that funds individual artists.  But, that proposal raised a number of community concerns, and the DC contractor pulled out.  Yesterday, a crowd of a couple hundred had questions about how area artists are financially supported.

Zygote Press executive director Liz Maugans asked why the board had considered outsourcing a heralded local funding program that was already in place.  She suggested that the idea hadn't been properly vetted.

"I hope you really take this opportunity to get the community to weigh-in," she said, "to talk to people and to have the process be really, really transparent. The CAC does fabulous work.  This is a big disappointment, because none of this I heard before November."

CAC staff members noted they had canvassed the community over the summer and would schedule further input from County residents.  Tom O'Brien program director of Neighborhood Connections, which does local community building work, said the funding mechanism needs to change, because artists of color were not getting a fair shot at the grants. 

"How do we break this open so more people benefit?" he asked  "Especially people who have historically been left out.  I commend the Board for doing that."  

After the meeting, CAC board chair Joe Gibbons said he hoped there would be a way to synthesize some of the concerns expressed Monday with the need to create a new program.  

ideastream is supported by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture

Earlier today, ideastream Senior Arts Reporter David C. Barnett spoke about the CAC and the future of indivudual artist funding with idestream's Lawrence Daniel Caswell on Facebook Live. They also took questions. That video is below.

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