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$260,000 Available For Cuyahoga County Artists

From "Urban Taino" project by Manny Santiago, one of the "Unidos por el Arte" artists. [Manny Santiago]

In Cuyahoga County, $260,000 is now up for grabs to fund artists this year. The financial support announced Monday will be targeted to previously underserved communities.

Racial equity in arts funding is a topic that has long bothered Letitia Lopez. As executive director of the Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center on Cleveland's West Side, it was vexing for her to see the demographic breakdowns.

“Anytime I'm somewhere and there's pie charts, ‘Latino’ has, like, a sliver,” she said. “And so, I started thinking, 'OK, what do we do about this?'"

She got the chance to work for change during a series of “Support For Artists” planning meetings, organized by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC), which also supports ideastream.

One result of those meetings was this CAC-backed initiative that provides grants to area non-profits, which, in turn, run programs that fund artists. Last year, the Julia de Burgos Center created “ Unidos por el Arte” (United By Art). It includes a $5,000 stipend and a three-month residency. It's open to all applicants but prioritizes Latinx artists and other artists of color. Lopez said the focus is on providing support that goes beyond brushes and paint.

Gloria Feliciano, one of the "Unidos por el Arte" artists [Centro Julia de Burgos]

"We don't want them to get $5,000 and spend $5,000 on supplies," Lopez said. "We want them to be able to create this project, but we also want to make sure that they're paying themselves adequately out of this."

The goal is to also nurture the financial skills it takes to be a working artist.

“It's just like a job,” she said. “So if they would take on a job, they would have a cost for supplies and the cost for their labor.”

SPACES and Karamu House have launched their own artist support programs as part of the overall $260,000 initiative.

Letitia Lopez is happy that the needs of underserved artists are finally being addressed.

“Everything just can't be fixed, you know, with the snap of your finger,” she said. “But we're moving forward in the direction that we need to move.”

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.