Know the Facts: How Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Invests in the Arts

Last week, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved spending $10.2 million for the General Operating Support (GOS) grant program in 2018-2019. That vote was taken at a public meeting, and it followed months of discussions with arts groups and public pronouncements signaling the funding level. Since then, we’ve contacted each of the 61 organizations that will receive funding through that program and shared this news.

This news has prompted criticism that CAC has cut too much money from the program, has been secretive about that process and could spend more on the arts if it spent less on its own overhead.

Those are accusations. Here are the facts behind the numbers.

Pay some now or pay more later. We’re taking a bigger budget hit now to prepare for leaner times ahead – and give arts organizations more funding security for the next several years.

  • The $10.2 million for 2018-19 is about 20 percent less than the $12.7 million allocated in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The average reduction in grants to individual organizations is about 14%.
  • In this pool of grants, even with these cuts, there are several organizations receiving $1 million or more this year.
  • We know funding times are about to get tougher. Dollars from the cigarette tax are expected to decline 25 percent over the next 10 years.
    • By taking this financially prudent action now, we will keep GOS funding at $10.2 million for the next two years and perhaps the next four years. That’s the kind of funding stability arts organizations have told us they need.
    • By making this budget adjustment now, we can ensure that these public funds are available to all who qualify for the next 10 years.

This arts money is for everyone. Fighting over a declining pool will only hurt the overall arts community.

  • Many GOS organizations are getting smaller grants. Some are not. And a few people have suggested that we cut the Project Support program to keep the GOS organizations whole.
  • Besides the GOS grants, the CAC board approves Project Support grants, as well as support for artists and special events – critically important funding to ensure that as many Cuyahoga County residents as possible are connected to the arts.
  • Our board committed that GOS organizations will continue to benefit from the majority of CAC funding. 

We all knew this was coming and we talked about it openly. It is painful. But it’s not a surprise.

  • CAC is a government agency that discusses its budget in public meetings. Detailed meeting minutes are posted online at
  • Besides the public meetings, public statements and posts on our website, CAC staffers have been in direct contact with dozens of cultural partners about these looming financial challenges for years.
  • The amount of money given to GOS programs has not been adjusted since 2014, meaning organizations have received the same grant for 2015, 2016 and 2017. We knew that couldn’t continue, and CAC communicated that the 2015-17 allocations would be larger grants than they’d receive in 2018-19. 

We operate with a small team and lean overhead expenses – about 8% of the total budget.

  • Now: CAC, an independent government agency, currently has a staff of 7 and we plan to fill two openings to get to 9 staffers. This year, we’re funding 241 organizations who are delivering arts and culture to the community: 58 through operating support and another 183 through project support.
  • Then: CAC started with a staff of 5 serving approximately 65 organizations.
  • Our overhead of 8% percent of total expenses may actually grow a little – because we know our revenue from cigarette taxes will continue to shrink. But that 8% overhead is well under the 10-15% benchmark for overhead that many organizations use – and our staff size is smaller than many of our local arts agency peers around the country.
  • We take pride in our financial stewardship and in receiving clean audits from the auditor of state in each of the past 10 years. In addition, CAC received the highest award from the auditor of state in 2016, an award given to only 5% of public agencies in Ohio.

We welcome questions and feedback. Please contact us at 216-515-8303 or