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Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Awards $660,500 in Grants to Nonprofits for Artist Funding and Resident-Led Projects in 2024

Agency Maintains Steady Investment in Artists and Resident-Led Projects

LAND Studio - Photo by Bob Perkoski

CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) awarded three local nonprofits grants totaling $660,500 for artist funding and support programs and resident-led arts and culture projects in 2024. The grants were approved by CAC’s Board of Trustees during a public meeting on Wednesday, December 13th. Organizations receiving grants are Assembly for the Arts ($500,000), Neighborhood Connections ($60,500), and ioby ($100,000).

The Board also approved the agency’s 2024 budget of $12,490,000, which is about 8% lower than 2023’s approved budget. CAC’s overhead is down 24% over the past five years and 92% of CAC’s budget goes directly to grants. The Board approved 2024 General Operating Support, Project Support, and Cultural Heritage grants at their November 2023 Board Meeting.

“Cuyahoga Arts & Culture is proud to support Assembly for the Arts, Neighborhood Connections, and ioby in their work to support creativity in communities across Cuyahoga County. Despite CAC’s revenues declining 30% over the past six years, we have worked to keep steady or grow the funding for our artist and resident-support programs, because we know that these nonprofits contribute to our community’s economy and quality of life,” said Jill M. Paulsen, executive director of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

“We know that CAC funding alone does not meet the needs of our vast arts ecosystem, but we celebrate this opportunity to fund the important work being done by Neighborhood Connections, ioby, and for Assembly for the Arts to get money into the hands of artists and creative residents,” she said.

2024 Budget Approved

CAC’s revenue from the cigarette tax is expected to be approximately $700,000 lower than forecast at year end, pending tax receipts for December. CAC is working with 50% less cigarette tax revenue, its sole source of funding since it began grantmaking in 2007.

  • 7.5% decrease in revenue projected for 2024: The excise tax revenue projection for 2024 is $9,203,750. This projection is based on a three-year rolling average of the decrease in tax receipts seen over the past three years – approximately 7.5%. Interest revenue is forecast to be $450,000, net of investment fees, based on projections provided by investment advisors.
  • CAC uses its general fund to provide predictable funding: To meet the commitments approved by the Board, CAC uses its general fund to issue contracts in advance of the next fiscal year (2024), to meet statutory requirements, and for cash flow needs. As such, CAC will use an estimated $2,695,250 of the general fund to support the FY24 budget. Using the general fund is an intentional part of CAC’s long-range budgeting and expenditure model. This approach allows the agency to provide predictable funding over time, with adjustments typically every two to three years, to address the cumulative effect of annual decreases in tax revenue.

Support for Artists Led by Assembly in 2024

Assembly for the Arts received a $500,000 grant from CAC to administer programs and provide funding to artists in 2024. By law, CAC was established to fund nonprofit organizations, not individual artists. Assembly’s proposal was informed by recommendations resulting from artist listening funded by CAC.

  • Assembly will lead work in 2024: In 2024, Assembly will design and manage a program to support and fund Cuyahoga County artists. This includes working with organizations that have previously received CAC grants to provide artist support and funding: Karamu House, Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center, Cleveland Public Theatre, and SPACES, which artists have said have helped them make institutional connections and given them support to deepen their practice. Assembly will also administer its own artist support program, the Creative Impact Fund.
  • Hundreds of artists funded: Since 2019, more than 350 artists have directly benefitted from CAC’s grants to nonprofit partners through fellowships, project-based funding, access to physical spaces, and professional development. Of all the artists awarded, more than 85% identified as Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Color (BIPOC).

“Our recommendation that Assembly design and manage 2024 Support for Artist funding comes, in part, from the community engagement and planning project Assembly conducted earlier this year. CAC is acting on what we heard. Looking forward, we know the work will require accountability and space for learning from the past,” Paulsen said. “The work will also require true partnership between Assembly and CAC to ‘expand the pie’ of resources for artists from additional sources. We believe that CAC and Assembly must work together to move forward – both for this project and for the success of any future levy efforts.”

Commitment to Resident-Led Arts & Culture

Since 2013, CAC has co-funded over 454 resident-led arts and culture projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland and invested a total of $847,485 through Neighborhood Connections grants and Arts & Culture Network Nights. Additionally, CAC has invested $368,350 since 2019 in matching funds for 169 resident-led arts and culture projects through the ioby-CAC Match Fund. Details are as follows:

  • Neighborhood Connections: $60,500 to co-fund resident-led projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland and host four in-person gatherings for artists, arts & culture organizations, and residents in 2024, in collaboration with Assembly for the Arts. Neighbors work together to propose creative, arts and culture-based solutions to challenges their communities. Applicants are eligible for grants of up to $5,000. Neighborhood Connections makes grant selections by a committee of residents throughout the year, providing responsive grassroots grantmaking for projects, many led by artists.
  • ioby: $100,000 for the Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Match Fund to support resident-led arts and culture projects in Cuyahoga County in 2024. ioby leverages CAC funding through a 1:1 match from citizen philanthropy. $80,000 in match funds from CAC will generate an additional $80,000 in funds raised through crowdfunding on, for a total of at least $160,000 supporting local artists and arts and culture projects. An estimated 30-45 projects will receive up to $3,000 in match funds in 2024. Participants will be trained in crowdfunding best practices, building fundraising competence and confidence for the long term, while investing in their own communities.

“We are proud to continue our partnerships with Neighborhood Connections and ioby. These programs, which acknowledge the power of arts and culture as a tool for change, have been well received in the community by artists and audiences,” Paulsen said.

Quick Facts about CAC’s Operations:

  • CAC was created under Ohio Revised Code 3381 to make grants to arts and culture nonprofit organizations in Cuyahoga County. 
  • More than 90% of CAC’s revenue is used for grants each year.
  • Funds in CAC accounts that may appear to be sitting unused is actually encumbered, or soon will be, for grants. Under state law, CAC must have the money in hand before grants can be awarded. CAC cannot make grants based on anticipated revenue.
  • Amid declining tax revenues, as tobacco use drops, CAC has cut non-grant related expenses. Overhead is down 24% over the past five years. 
  • Arts nonprofits have made clear they want consistent, multi-year grant commitments. By law, CAC cannot award multi-year grants. But CAC has worked, in the face of declining revenue, to meet the arts nonprofits’ expectations of consistent funding from year to year. The General Operating Support allocation was the same for the past six years at $10.2 million annually. During this same period, CAC revenue has declined by 30%. For 2024 and 2025, the allocation will decrease by 10% to $9.18 million annually.
  • As a public entity, everything CAC does is in public. CAC’s funding criteria for all three primary grants in 2024 have been widely publicized and are well-known: Public Benefit; Artistic & Cultural Vibrancy; and Organizational Capacity. The grant review process is done in public and grant review panelists, chosen from across the country to reflect a diversity of experiences and background, are all part of that public process.

Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) is the region’s largest funder for arts and culture, helping hundreds of organizations in Cuyahoga County connect millions of people to cultural experiences each year. Since 2006, CAC has invested $246 million in 485 organizations, making our community a more vibrant place to live, work and play. CAC is a separate government entity and a political subdivision of the State of Ohio. For more information, visit

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CAC Staff