What We Heard: Takeaways from CAC’s January 31 Forum for Cultural Partners

At our November 2017 board meeting, we announced that we would add a series of community meetings to our calendar of six board meetings in 2018. We know that our board meetings don’t provide for informal dialog on important topics, and so we hope that these meetings will create additional opportunities for conversation and to hear from those that we fund and from county residents.

Our first gathering was a Cultural Partner Forum on January 31st at the Jerry Sue Thornton center. We’re grateful to the more than 70 people representing 55 CAC-funded organizations who attended and shared their ideas. Structured as a collaborative feedback session, the gathering provided for both learning about how CAC makes decisions and for sharing questions and concerns. We heard from representatives from the following organizations:

Africa House International

Cleveland Play House

Lake View Cemetery Foundation

Apollo's Fire

Cleveland Public Theatre

LAND studio

Art House, Inc.

Community Partnership for Arts and Culture

Lexington-Bell Community Center

Art Therapy Studio


Morgan Conservatory

Arts Renaissance Tremont (ART)


Mt. Pleasant NOW Dev. Corp.

Beck Center for the Arts

DJAPO Cultural Arts

Open Doors Academy

Blue Streak Ensemble

Dobama Theatre

Playhouse Square

Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland

Duffy Liturgical Dance Ensemble

Restore Cleveland Hope, Inc.

Carolyn L. Farrell Foundation

From Me 2 U, Inc.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Center for Arts-Inspired Learning

GoundWorks DanceTheater


Choral Arts Society of Cleveland

Great Lakes Science Center

The Cleveland Orchestra

Cleveland Botanical Garden

Hospice of the Western Reserve

The Music Settlement

Cleveland Institute of Art

ICA-Art Conservation

The Roberto Ocasio Foundation

Cleveland Institute of Music


Thea Bowman Center

Cleveland Jazz Orchestra


Theatre in the Circle

Cleveland Leadership Center

Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center

West Side Catholic Center

Cleveland Museum of Art

Karamu House

Western Reserve Historical Society

Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Lake Erie Nature and Science Center

Zygote Press

Facilitated by the Community Innovation Network of Case Western Reserve University, the session provided CAC an opportunity to hear the voices of our cultural partners in numerous ways. We heard things that affirmed our work and the ways in which we do it. We heard things about the ways we might approach our grantmaking differently to benefit all arts and culture organizations in the county. From feedback on operations and grantmaking, to communication, to understanding and trust, everything that we heard was valuable and will help shape our future work. 

View Community Innovation Network’s key findings from the event. The report includes key findings and areas of opportunity that CAC will take under consideration as it continues its work. 

Some of the things we heard:
  • CAC should continue to involve cultural partners in grantmaking and allocation policy discussions and find ways to use input and ideas from those that we fund.
  • CAC should continue to hold convenings for cultural partners to share feedback with CAC.
  • CAC should continue to provide opportunities for cultural partners to network with each other.
  • CAC is communicating effectively with its partners and should continue to make clear communication a priority.

It also became clear through these discussions there are conflicting opinions on how general operating support and project support should be treated in times of declining revenues. Cultural partner organizations are concerned about the declining revenues and are unclear about the limitations of CAC’s authority to find a new tax source (look for a blog post explaining our role coming soon.)

Cuyahoga Arts & Culture’s team is already working on a number of fronts to respond to what we heard. One change that we are making right now: while we have always provided a public comment period for drafts of our grant program guidelines, this year, we are increasing our efforts to get input from all of you. We are making modest improvements to the Project Support 2019 program; keep an eye out for an email from your program manager inviting you to weigh in on our final draft. Your feedback will be reviewed and incorporated into the materials that will be before our board at the April 10th meeting.

The conversation will continue throughout 2018 as we hold Arts & Culture Network Nights on March 27, June 6 and September 20 from 6-8 p.m. in partnership with Neighborhood Connections. Stay tuned for more details. We are also using our monthly newsletter for our cultural partners to communicate and share more information between meetings. Sign up here.

The team at CAC values continuous improvement – thanks to all who continue to make their voices heard in the name of helping our grantmaking get better and better, and thanks in advance for continuing to engage with us and share your thoughts and ideas.

Questions? Feedback? Contact your program manager or give us a call at 216-515-8303.

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