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Cuyahoga Arts and Culture To Cut Grant Funding 20 Percent

Cuyahoga Arts and Culture will cut its budget for grants to local arts organizations by $2.5 million in 2018.  Despite a last minute attempt to urge CAC to taper its cuts over time, the organization is sticking with its plan.

CAC will distribute $10.2 million in grant money each year for the next two years.  That’s a nearly 20 percent decrease from 2017.  The reason: the tobacco tax revenues that fund Cuyahoga Arts and Culture are shrinking. 

Fred Bidwell who co-founded the Transformer Station art gallery in Hingetown and chaired the effort to pass the county-wide tax in 2006 says revenues are declining but by less than 3 percent annually. So he asked CAC to reconsider and trim its grant money more proportionally. 

“It’s a very rash and unnecessary sudden decline in funding that’s not really called for when you look at the very gradual decline in tobacco revenues,” said Bidwell.

On Tuesday, the president of CAC's Board of Trustees sent a letter to Bidwell declining his proposal.  The letter adds that CAC had been tapping into its reserves to make up for deficits.  Bidwell says he’s disappointed.

“I think it’s disturbing that the Board of Cuyahoga Arts and Culture isn’t willing to enter into a more prolonged discussion about the implications of this cut and how the effects of the declining revenue can be moderated over time.”

Cuyahoga Arts and Culture Executive Director Karen Gahl-Mills points out the median reduction for local arts groups is closer to 14 percent and not everyone will see a drop in funding.  She adds that after this cut, the board intends to maintain funding levels for the next two-year cycle.

“So what that provides to organizations, hopefully, is some predictability in their grant going forward which may take a little bit of the sting out of the reduction that they’re seeing right now,” said Gahl-Mills 

She says arts groups will be notified of their funding levels in November.

Ideastream receives funding from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.

Annie Wu is the deputy editor of digital content for Ideastream Public Media.