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Search Continues for New Cuyahoga Arts and Culture Executive

Downtown Cleveland skyline from the lakefront. [f11photo /Shutterstock.com]
Downtown Cleveland skyline from the lakefront.

The agency that funds arts activities through a Cuyahoga County cigarette tax continues to search for a new leader more than a year after the departure of former executive director Karen Gahl-Mills.  A Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC) committee tasked with the hunt is still sifting through candidates.  At CAC’s latest meeting Wednesday, board chair Charna Sherman predicted a decision in the coming months.

“We certainly hope to get this done before the end of the year,” she said.

A Boston-based head-hunter company is conducting the search, and a high profile group of community leaders is keeping an eye on the process.  The CAC board's Wednesday public meeting was the last before a summer hiatus.  The next meeting is scheduled for September 11.

Meanwhile, a much bigger decision on the future of arts funding looms just down the road.  Revenues from the cigarette tax continue to decline.  Charna Sherman said that a political action committee composed of community members separate from CAC is discussing ways to find a new source of revenue.

There is a sense that we really need to move quickly,” she said. “We are now operating on almost half of what we had originally, and what we want to find is: what’s that stream that’s going to bring us back to where we started?”

County voters renewed the cigarette tax for 10 years in 2015, so there is still time to consider alternate forms of funding.

In other CAC news, Marc Avsec has finished a three-year term on the agency’s board of trustees.  A replacement is expected to be named by county executive Armond Budish within a month.  Avsec will serve until then.

CAC also released its 2018 report to the community, which highlights examples of several grant recipients and cites total attendance at CAC-supported events at 6,833,880.

ideastream receives support from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture

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