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Cuyahoga Arts and Culture awards over $400,000 to support artists and community groups

This detail from an image by Aaron Williams was part of an exhibition supported by the Urgent Art Fund.
This detail from an image by Aaron Williams was part of an exhibition supported by the Urgent Art Fund.

Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC) announced grants totaling $410,000 Wednesday - and the majority of it will help support individual artists.

CAC distributes cigarette tax revenue to area non-profits for arts and cultural activities. In some cases, those funds are regranted to individual artists as well as community arts projects. For 2022, CAC Executive Director Jill Paulsen says $260,000 is designated to help artists through programs administered by three well-known organizations, SPACES, Karamu House and Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center.

“Each of them has had a running period now for two or three years of really doing some amazing programing,” Paulsen said.

And each of them distributes the artist funding through special programs. At SPACES, 10 Cuyahoga County artists will receive money through the Urgent Art Fund. Eight visual artists and eight performing artists will receive funding through Karamu’s Room in the House Residency. At Julia de Burgos, 10 area artists will be funded through Unidos por el Arte. Depending on the program, the awardees will also get access to such things as creative spaces, tools and other resources, in addition to flexible funding.

In recent years, CAC's effort to support local artists has increasingly focused on funding traditionally underrepresented groups. CAC reports that since 2019, 88% of the funded artists identified as being Black, Indigenous or a person of color (BIPOC).

In addition, special resident-led community projects across the county will be funded in 2022, to the tune of $150,000.

“When we say resident led, we mean the power of everyday people to make change in their neighborhoods,” Paulsen said. “And for us that happens through two organizations: ioby and Neighborhood Connections.”

The latter, ioby (in our backyards), runs a crowdfunding platform that raises money to support a wide array of grassroots neighborhood initiatives. CAC sponsors a special match fund that targets arts and culture projects across the county. Similarly, CAC co-funds arts and culture projects for Neighborhood Connections, an organization that focuses its efforts on Cleveland and East Cleveland.

“Both of those entities recognize that amazing arts and culture happens at a resident, at a neighborhood level,” Paulsen said. “It doesn't always have to happen in a nonprofit setting.”

In addition to Wednesday’s funding announcements, the CAC board welcomed Karolyn Isenhardt to their ranks. Isenhardt brings several decades of experience in the arts community as an auctioneer, designer and volunteer board chairwoman of the Lakewood Arts Festival.

In November, CAC announced $11.6 million in grant support, which included operating support for Ideastream Public Media. 

Copyright 2021 WCPN. To see more, visit WCPN.

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