Cuyahoga Arts & Culture
Ten years after Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) made its first grant, the public agency based in Cleveland, Ohio has invested $158 million in 350 arts and culture nonprofits and funded more than 160 individual artists in Northeast Ohio, making CAC the largest funder of arts and culture in the region. From the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to groups of neighbors coming together to build a community garden, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture supports the activities and organizations that connect community to arts and culture. CAC is a local arts agency, and believes that local arts agencies have a special place in our nation’s arts ecology as connectors: between institutions, artists, and residents.
After the 30-cent-per-pack cigarette tax that funds CAC’s work was overwhelmingly renewed by voters in November 2015, the agency set out to better understand: how can it best support the creative life of all Cuyahoga County residents now, and for years to come? Since CAC stewards public dollars, the question of creating more equitable support for—and access to—arts and culture was central to this work. Community-wide listening was carried out through a convening of CAC-funded organizations, an online survey, street-level surveys completed by trained volunteers at 18 community events, and eight focus groups with 175 area residents. CAC knew it was important to capture voices that hadn’t been heard before, so its outreach happened at places such as downtown homeless shelters, public health centers, farmers’ markets in the suburbs, and community festivals, as well as at more mainstream arts events.
The results culminated into the report, Cuyahoga Voices & Vision, which used data from Americans for the Arts sources to holistically analyze the results of the report. Our planning and listening led us to craft a vision that will guide our next ten years: all Cuyahoga County residents experience a meaningful cultural life. And guided by that vision, and a set of values that includes equity, the agency will more deeply engage the community and explore ways to equitably support organizations and people who may have been left out of the process in the past.
As a member of Americans for the Arts, CAC consistently leverages AFTA research, attends network-expanding conferences and workshops, and benefits from connections built within the AFTA community. With these resources, and a focus on more equitable grant making, CAC will continue to work to ensure all Cuyahoga County residents can connect to and see themselves in the region’s vibrant arts and cultural community.