As the seasons begin to change here in Cuyahoga County, we at Cuyahoga Arts & Culture are shifting to the final phase of our organizational planning work. The new season marks the end of our community listening project: a summer full of conversations with residents, and work with community partners to hold deep-dive conversations with residents across the County.
Building on what we heard from our Cultural Partners at our gathering on May 19th we asked residents directly: how CAC can best support the cultural life of residents, today, and in the future? We learned a lot about what our residents do, where they do it, and what they'd like to see more of. Here's a quick snapshot of what we did and how it will shape our work in the months ahead:
- Our resident engagement manager, Jessica Kayse, coordinated a street team of 18 volunteers who dedicated hundreds of hours to hold more than 1,000 conversations with county residents. This "street team" helped us expand our relationship with residents through a presence at events like Wade Oval Wednesday, the Latino Arts and Culture Festival, and at unexpected venues like 2100 Lakeside Men's Shelter and at a Cleveland Indians game.
- In partnership with local facilitators and community organizations, we gathered with residents to hold discussions in places like the Westlake Porter Library, at a Care Alliance facility in Central, and in community spaces in Maple Heights, Detroit Shoreway, Fairfax, and several other communities. Altogether, more than 200 residents came together to share their stories, perspectives and to help Cuyahoga Arts & Culture think what the future could look like.
- Lastly, thank you to each of you who participated in our online survey. More than 700 residents responded to help us better understand their cultural life and what's important to them. These insights are proving invaluable as we consider the future work of our agency.
In each of these conversations across our large and diverse county, we heard some things in common. We heard that area residents really value the arts and cultural organizations in their midst: from the large organizations of University Circle to the small, grassroots organizations working in their suburb, in their neighborhood, or on their block. And we also heard a desire for more: more programs in informal spaces, such as parks, rec centers, and libraries, more opportunities for children, and more opportunities for people to come together and bridge social boundaries through the arts.
What does this mean for us? We’re doing that work now, working with our board, with our consultants, with the members of the community that comprise our Community Sounding Board, and with our two most important audiences: the organizations that we support and the residents of the County that we serve. Input from and synthesis by these important groups will help us continue to think about the ways we can help build connections and best support the good work of our arts and culture community.
We invite you to join us at our upcoming board meetings for updates on this process. At our December meeting, we will look to our board of trustees to approve a “roadmap” of priorities that will shape our work, based on what we know and what we’ve heard from you. We look forward to sharing what we learn and working with you to help make Cuyahoga County shine even brighter in the months and years ahead.