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Cuyahoga Arts & Culture awards $560,000 for artists and resident-led programs

Karamu House/YouTube
About 21 percent of the grant money will be administered to artists through Karamu House.

Cuyahoga Arts & Culture approved more than $560,000 Wednesday at its board meeting for artists and resident-led projects.

“It's about igniting the power of everyday people to make change in their communities,” said Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Executive Director Jill Paulsen.

About 71% of the funding will go to artists. The remainder will go toward resident-led projects.

“Residents do anything from an intergenerational knitting club [to] a Kwanzaa celebration,” she said. “There are gardening-based projects. There are folks that say, ‘We want to support after-school arts in a way that's driven and run by residents.’ Everyone can be an artist. Everyone can be creative, and everyone can use arts and culture to make their neighborhoods better.”

Those initiatives will be supported through two groups. Neighborhood Connections will get $60,500 to co-fund projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland. Applicants are eligible for grants of up to $5,000, with CAC matching up to half. The Cleveland branch of New York-based ioby is receiving $100,000 for projects throughout the county.

Local artists will be supported through four organizations. Assembly for the Arts will receive $140,000 for projects in areas which lack arts investment. Karamu House will receive $120,000 for its Room in the House residency. SPACES gallery and Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center each will receive $70,000, the latter for Unidos por el Arte, which celebrates Cleveland’s Latinx community.

Since 2019, more than 275 artists have received grants through CAC’s nonprofit partners. More than 85% of those artists identified as Black, Indigenous or Persons of Color.

"[Those nonprofits are] all centering on getting artists flexible dollars," she said. "That's a big success and very intentional. It comes from community feedback over the years."

All of the funding comes from the county’s cigarette tax, which has seen decreasing revenue as smoking declines in popularity. Paulsen said last month that CAC has been prepared for that since its formation in 2006.

“Everyone knew that the revenue source, in taxing cigarettes, was the solution for that moment, and that it would decrease over time,” she said. “Revenue is decreasing just as we anticipated and we're planning for it each year.”

Ideastream Public Media also receives grant support from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.