New Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Grant Targets Cultural Groups

A LatinUs Theater Company scene set in a Latinx living room represents the work of local arts groups who are eligible for the new Cultural Heritage grant.
Arts organizations, like LatinUs Theater Company, are eligible for the new Cultural Heritage grant [LatinUs Theater Company]

One of Ohio’s largest arts funders has dedicated a new pool of money aimed at supporting underserved cultural groups in Cuyahoga County. On Wednesday, the board of Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC) approved a Cultural Heritage grant program.

Using revenue from a county-wide cigarette tax, CAC distributes two major types of grants every year. Sixty-five organizations in the county, including ideastream, receive annual operating support. A couple hundred others get grants to support special projects. Executive director Jill Paulsen said the new Cultural Heritage grant has less stringent requirements for smaller groups with continuing needs.

“Operating support is pretty rigorous to get in,” she said. “Folks need to have certain tax documentation and certain staffing requirements that, frankly, a lot of smaller and midsize organizations don't yet have or don't ever intend to have.”

The Cultural Heritage grant program is aimed at organizations with annual budgets of $500,000 or below. The organization’s focus must be on creating arts and culture for a culturally specific population. And at least half of the staff must come from that culture.

“And it really would range from Djapo Cultural Arts Institute, Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival, Julia DeBurgos, and LatinUs, to some that might surprise folks, like the German Music Society, Slovenian Museum and Archives, and the Italian Cultural Gardens.” Paulsen said.

In addition, the group must have a proven track record, having received and completed at least two CAC project support grants.

Paulsen said funding for the new grant program came from making adjustments to the other programs. For instance, the maximum grant amount for project support was reduced from $25,000 to $20,000. Cultural Heritage grants will range from $5,000 to $30,000 depending on an organization’s expenses.

Paulsen cited a similar programs in Columbus and Dallas as models for the CAC initiative.

Folks deserve flexible dollars,” she said. “There was a gap in our system, and I think we just learned, in-concept, public funding can do this work and we can do it well.”

Guidelines and application forms for the Cultural Heritage grant program will go online in early May, with completed applications due by August 5. The first class of recipients will be announced in November.

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