Cuyahoga Arts & Culture approves $20,000 for feedback on artist funding
Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) has seen contentious discussion at its recent meetings about how it distributes funding for artists with revenue from a cigarette tax. Currently, it provides money to four nonprofits, which then distribute the funding to artists. Now, CAC has approved $20,000 for one of those nonprofits, Assembly for the Arts, to hold listening sessions on the topic.
“This proposal is a move in the right direction, where Assembly can do what it was created to do: Be a unifying force for all the creative economy of our region,” said Assembly CEO Jeremy Johnson.
CAC Executive Director Jill Paulsen said she is looking forward to the program, which is slated to happen through this summer.
“Might it include focus groups or surveys or meetups or one-on-ones? I would assume,” she said. “We really are trusting [Assembly for the Arts]. This is their lane. This is what they do.”
Liz Maugans, co-founder of Zygote Press, thanked the board for approving the measure. Maugans has been critical of how grants are distributed in the past. But with funding dependent on the cigarette tax, CAC revenue has fallen almost by half over the past 15 years.
Paulsen said she hopes the feedback sessions help them plan how to make use of those funds over the next five years.
“We can’t just move forward with the game plan that we think is great. We need to stop, pause and include artists,” she said.
CAC Board Chair Nancy Mendez said the dialogues will be “inclusive events.”
“It’s clear we need to make time for many more artists to shape [our] future,” she said.
Paulsen adds that they held a similar planning process for artist support in 2017, and she’s looking forward to hearing from artists who are now still emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.
After Assembly for the Arts completes its work, CAC will also seek community feedback on funding for arts nonprofits. Ideastream Public Media receives grant support from CAC.