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Jill M. Paulsen Named Executive Director of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture

Photo Credit: Bob Perkowski

CLEVELAND (February 12, 2020) – Jill M. Paulsen has been named Executive Director of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC). CAC’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved Paulsen’s hire at the regular Board of Trustees meeting on February 12.

Paulsen has been the interim director since June 7, 2018. She joined CAC in 2011 and worked her way up through the ranks as director of grant programs and deputy director of the public arts agency. Paulsen replaces Karen Gahl-Mills, who resigned in June 2018.

After reporting on the progress of CAC’s recent strategic partnership work with other arts organizations, Charna E. Sherman, president of CAC’s Board of Trustees, explained that the search process has been transformational in “helping us clarify the critical strategic work this County needs for arts and culture to truly thrive in this County, and further, the need for leadership stability as we take the next step in this work.” Precisely because of Jill’s long tenure and her demonstrable success in the interim executive director role, Sherman recommended the Board promote her. She further thanked the Search Team for their extraordinary efforts, and reported that they had unanimously voted to support her recommendation.

“I am honored and grateful to serve as Cuyahoga Arts & Culture’s next executive director. In my nearly two decades here in Cleveland, I’ve seen the power of arts and their ability to drive change, seek justice, and spark creativity across the county. I am excited to continue working with our grant recipients, my team and our Board to continue serving residents,” Paulsen said.

Over the last nine years, Paulsen has overseen more than $130 million in grantmaking to more than 400 organizations. Jill has taken a leadership role in defining and implementing the agency's commitment to racial equity. She led the expansion of the agency's resident engagement efforts, including the 2016 Voices and Vision project, which helped guide the agency's strategic plan, and a partnership with the Neighborhood Connections program to fund resident-led art in Cleveland and East Cleveland.

Paulsen has more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit management and local philanthropy, including positions at the Cleveland Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, and Minnesota AIDS Project (Minneapolis, MN), with additional consulting work at the National College Access Network (Cleveland, OH) and the Corporation for Community & National Service (Washington, DC).

Jill is an appointed board member of the newly-established Cuyahoga County Monuments Commission and chair of the Culture subcommittee for the 2020 Census and the Complete Count Committee. She is the immediate past chair and 11-year board member of the AIDS Funding Collaborative, Cleveland's public-private funder and advocacy collective; she serves as the Gund Foundation's board designee. She is also on the board of Care Alliance Health Center, a multi-million-dollar Cleveland-based nonprofit employing more than 140 people and providing care to over 15,000 Cleveland residents annually; Jill served as board vice chair.

Paulsen earned a master's in nonprofit management from Case Western Reserve University. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Grinnell College with bachelor's degrees in French and sociology. She is a member of Leadership Cleveland (Class of 2017) and a graduate of the Wilder Foundation's James P. Shannon Leaderships Institute, the Diversity Center's Lead Diversity program, and the YWCA's Momentum women's executive leadership program.

Paulsen lives in downtown Cleveland with her husband and daughter. She's an avid fan of contemporary art, and enjoys painting, drawing and spending time at many of Cleveland’s arts and culture organizations.

Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) is one of the largest public funders for arts and culture in the nation, helping hundreds of organizations in Cuyahoga County connect millions of people to cultural experiences each year. Since 2006, CAC has invested more than $193 million in 420 organizations both large and small, making our community a more vibrant place to live, work and play. For more information, visit


Jill M. Paulsen's headshot can be downloaded here.

Biography for Jill M. Paulsen is available here.

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CAC Staff