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Greater Cleveland arts economy still far from recovery says Cuyahoga Arts and Culture

Data shows Cuyahoga County audiences are only at 25% of pre-pandemic levels  [XArtProduction / Shutterstock]

The number of people attending arts events and programs continues to lag in greater Cleveland, despite COVID-19 safety measures. Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC) shared new data today that shows non-profit venues still face a long road to recovery.

The public arts funder surveys its grant recipients twice a year to gauge the health of the local arts economy. CAC Executive Director Jill Paulsen says losses in the arts sector have slowed somewhat, but not much else has improved.

We're still at the devastation phase,” she said. “We're not necessarily even close to recovery yet."

Recent numbers from the Dallas-based research firm SMU DataArts show Cuyahoga County audiences are only at 25% of pre-pandemic levels. The advocacy group Ohio Citizens for the Arts says an organization needs to operate at 80% patron capacity to remain viable.  

Many non-profits also look to contributed revenue to help balance the books. Although federal funds have played an important part in keeping some organizations afloat, significant shortfalls remain. Paulsen pointed to the 65 organizations that CAC supports with operating funds.

“We're seeing a gap of upwards of $90 million that local organizations, just these 65, weren't able to tap into that they would have in a normal year,” she said.

Paulsen also noted that area arts advocates are keeping an eye on Cleveland City Hall. The hope is that a portion of the federal funds that the city received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will be directed towards the local arts economy.

On Monday, Mayor Justin Bibb’s transition team issued a report that included a recommendation to fully fund an ARPA request of $10 million to support arts and artists in Cleveland neighborhoods.

Ideastream Public Media receives support from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.

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