Thank you to the nearly 200 representatives from cultural organizations small and large who attended our planning kickoff event on May 19th. Planning for CAC’s future starts with understanding what the cultural life of our community looks like, and it was important for us to begin by hearing from the people who work to enhance that cultural life every day.
Our kickoff may have presented more questions than answers for some who attended. We didn’t say anything about how CAC’s grant programs might change in the future, though we did state – definitively – that we aren’t planning to eliminate our operating support program. We didn’t talk about what organizations can do to be more successful in our process, and we didn’t outline a concrete series of next steps.
But that was by design. We asked you to come and explore some ideas with us – ideas about listening, about values, about civic engagement – because we truly wanted to hear what you had to say. By asking you to talk about your work and what inspires you, we at CAC were able to get a sense of where you are and what matters to you, and we will use what we heard to shape the work that comes next.
What did we hear? We heard lots of inspiring stories of collaboration, both inside and outside the arts. We heard – loudly and clearly – that organizations crave more opportunities to get to know those working alongside them in the nonprofit sector. And we also heard a general sense of concern that, moving forward, CAC was going to create more hoops for organizations to jump through in order to qualify for CAC support.
We shared all of this with our Board of Trustees at its regular meeting on June 2nd, and we all agreed to keep these stories and concerns close at hand as our work continues. I can say with confidence that creating more administrative burdens for organizations is not part of our plan: CAC is committed to finding more ways to support the work of arts and cultural organizations, not to make that work harder.
Over the summer months, our planning work will continue with a variety of listening activities all around Cuyahoga County, designed to surface the ideas and dreams of area residents about how arts and culture can become more central to the life and well-being of their communities.
We are going to listen in several ways. First, we will create a simple online survey that will allow us to capture some basic information in a highly efficient way. We hope that all of you will share it with your audiences, your members and your volunteers, so that we can hear as many of the voices connected to your organizations as possible.
We will bring that survey to life at community events across the County with our street team of volunteers. Watch for them – and their bright blue CAC t-shirts – at key community events all summer long. (And if you’d like to be part of this team, we’d love to have you! Please reach out to Jake Sinatra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-515-8303 x103.
And then we will also host a series of 10 conversations in locations throughout Cuyahoga County. We are so grateful to our team of local facilitators (Indigo Bishop, Adele DiMarco Kious, Erica Merritt, and Lee A. Kay) for helping us ensure that those conversations are rich and robust.
We invite all of you to participate in all of this listening work, to learn with us what our community’s cultural life looks like and the role that we can all play to enhance it. We will post the details at cacgrants.org/future by late June; watch for emails later this month with more information. The more participation that we can get from more people throughout Cuyahoga County, the more robust data we will have to help us make good decisions.
CAC is on a journey of discovery, and we are excited to begin. We look forward to reporting our progress to all of you as the summer continues.