Continued Support for Artists: A New Direction in 2017

As we look to 2017, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture will continue its longtime commitment to supporting Cuyahoga County artists. With community input, CAC will explore approaches to support artists, including those who haven’t had a seat at the table before. Most importantly, we will continue to support artists who actively engage and impact their communities. 

At its December 12 meeting, CAC’s Board of Trustees listened to nearly two hours of public comment on individual artist funding. As planned, the board did not take any formal action. We heard that we need to continue to seek input as we consider the best ways to provide meaningful support to artists, in line with our role as a public funder and our mission. 

CAC staff and board discussed key elements of any future support for artists. These elements are years in the making and come from the work our full staff and board have been doing: board discussions and public comments at our public meetings; our community listening project, where we heard from more than 2,000 residents, including artists and cultural partners; and from best practices for public agencies supporting artists across the nation. 

Key elements of our future support for artists will include: 

  1. Providing flexible funds that enable artists to create, just as we’ve done since 2009. We aren’t interested in forcing artists into project grants.

  2. Using a broad definition of “artist” that is in line with CAC’s authorizing language in the Ohio Revised Code Section 3381, which aligns with our primary grant programs, operating support and project support. That definition is: “Arts or cultural heritage" includes, but is not limited to, literature, theater, music, dance, ballet, painting, sculpture, photography, motion pictures, architecture, archaeology, history, natural history, or the natural sciences. This definition opens the door for more residents to participate in individual artist support programs.

  3. Striving for equity by supporting those who are often underrepresented and/or marginalized, and intentionally seeking out and supporting artists of color and emerging artists. This element comes directly from feedback from the community and is not meant to exclude one group at the expense of including others. All will be welcome.
  4. Supporting excellent art that actively engages and impacts the community. At CAC, we believe that art can be both excellent and in service of the community. Because we’re using public dollars, it’s imperative that there is community impact in all of our grantmaking.
  5. Offering a supportive cohort model where artists have the opportunity to learn from each other and collaborate. As we’ve heard from local partners and from many artists, people want to grow their networks and share their work. We want to support this.
  6. Offering learning opportunities and tools that support artists in the difficult, but important work of using their art to impact their community. Many artists do this, but for those who want to learn more, we want to offer support and tools. As a past fellow told us, “Many artists have something they want to say, they just want help amplifying their voice.” 

While our approach to funding artists will change, our commitment to supporting artists remains steadfast.
CAC’s board approved a 2017 budget that includes funds to support artists. In 2017, we will explore potential approaches and we will actively seek input from residents. 

Want to stay involved? Call or write us, and look for opportunities to connect with us in the coming months. We’re listening, and committed to being open and transparent.