Cuyahoga Arts & Culture names 29 new grant recipients in its 2019 lineup

Let there be art! Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) announced on Monday, November 13, that it will invest $12,077,556 in 282 Cuyahoga County nonprofit organizations through its general operating support and project support grant programs in 2019.

CAC’s general operating support program provides unrestricted, multi-year support grants that range from $11,000 to $1.1 million for a total of $10.2 million to 61 organizations. The project support grant program funds projects of all sizes, with grants ranging from $1,500 to $27,600 for a total of $1.89 million across 221 organizations. Since 2007, CAC has invested $181 million in more than 400 organizations.

Of those 282 grants awarded for 2019, 29 organizations are first-time CAC grant recipients; for many of them, 2019 marks the first year they even applied. “Each year, we welcome new arts and culture partners into our Project Support grants program,” says Jill Paulsen, CAC interim CEO and executive director. “When we fund new organizations, more people can see themselves in our work or discover something they haven’t experienced before.”

FreshWater looks at four first-time project grant recipients and the work they are doing.

Edward E. ParkerEdward E. Parker Museum of Art

Edward Parker first fell in love with art as a child growing up in Toledo and taking classes at Toledo Museum of Art. Now 77, Parker has spent a lifetime sharing his love—as a working artist, long-time professor of arts at Cuyahoga Community College, founder of the Snickerfritz Cultural Workshop for the Arts, and founder and operator of the Edward E. Parker Museum of Art and Creative Arts Complex.

“I’ve done more than 3,000 pieces in my short life,” he says. “I like to think of myself as a sculptor in bronzes and fired clay. But I’ve done over 20 murals and I’ve done a lot of drawing.”

In 1983, he bought a vacant brick 25,000-square-foot nursing home at 13240 Euclid Ave. in East Cleveland and opened the Edward E. Parker Creative Arts Complex. The space is complete with a museum on the first floor (which was officially credentialed in 2016); studios and classrooms on the lower level; and spaces for jazz concerts, chalk drawings, and his annual Summer Collard Green Cook-Off & Arts Festival.

“We want the museum to be a catalyst for the renaissance of the Euclid-Rosalind neighborhood,” says museum scholar Regennia Williams. “The museum preserves the art of Edward Parker and artists around the world. But first and foremost, he encourages people to make their own art, exhibit their art, and learn from the masters.”

With the help of a $4,000 CAC grant, Parker will launch “It's A Family Affair! An Intergenerational Creative Arts and Entrepreneurship Educational Program” next summer. The six-week program will bring grandparents and their grandchildren together to create art together.

“We’re doing this to get more people in the gallery, more traffic in the museum,” explains Williams. “We want people to see there are opportunities to make an honest living as an artist.”

According to Williams, the first class will be a painting class, followed by drawing and other media, although the final agenda has not been solidified. Class size will be limited to 40 participants, and non-alcoholic refreshments will be served. The $10 materials cost will be waived for anyone who can’t afford it.

Parker plans to exhibit some of the best works created in the museum. “This is for granddaddies and granddaughters to get together so they can bond and blend together,” says Parker. “At the end, we’ll have a show.”

Naach Di ClevelandNaach Di Cleveland

Naach Di Cleveland is all about dance—specifically, Indian Bhangra and Bollywood dance. Director Sanjana Madishetty says the organization was founded in 2014 to bring the art and awareness to Northeast Ohio.

“’Naach’ means dance in a lot of Indian and Hindi languages, so this is ‘Dance of Cleveland,’” Madishetty explains. “Naach Di Cleveland was created by dancers for dancers. The initial purpose behind it was to bring Indian dance and culture to Cleveland, because there was a lack of Bollywood and [Indian folk] Bhangra.”

In November, Naach Di Cleveland earned a $5,000 CAC grant for its annual dance competition. The organization’s fourth annual competition will occur Saturday, March 23, at Cleveland Public Auditorium. According to Madishetty, the purpose of the event is to not only give dancers—a plethora of college teams from Ohio and neighboring states—a chance to showcase their art, but also introduce Clevelanders to dance styles that are popular in many other countries.

“Bollywood and Bhangra have been up-and-coming in the last 50 years or so around the globe,” she says. 

Madishetty says they get about 65 applications each year, of which about 14 teams are chosen to compete in Naach Di Cleveland.

SoulcraftSoulcraft Cleveland

Peter Debelak and Jim McNaughton started Soulcraft Cleveland in 2011 to promote the value and satisfaction of working with one’s hands to create something. “We’re a community-accessible makerspace,” explains Debelak. “We’re a full woodshop, metalshop, and 3D printshop. We’re open to the public and an incubator for young designers.”

Soulcraft has long worked with school-aged children to teach design, as well as fundamental skills in woodworking, metalworking, graphic design, and 3D design. Debelak and his team work with many area high school students on larger projects, as well as introducing students in fifth grade and up the art of working with their hands.

While schools often bring students to the studio space at 5401 Hamilton Ave. in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, Debelak realized that all students and schools can’t afford to come to them. “We’ve worked with 12 CMSD and charter schools over the past four years,” he says. “It’s nice for kids to be in a professional space, but unfortunately not every school has the budget to come here.”

But now, thanks to a $5,000 CAC grant, Soulcraft is closer to building a Mobile Lab to bring its equipment to students. Thanks to the grant and a donated 31-foot Airstream trailer, Soulcraft is on its way to building its mobile lab.

“Aesthetically, it’s pretty cool,” says Debelak of the Airstream. “It will have a small kitchen, mobile woodworking, and metalworking. We can just set up and plug in.”

Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers
Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers

Michele Rudolph knows how to tell a good story. “I enjoy history and I enjoy teaching about African-American art and African-American people,” explains Rudolph, president of the Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers (CABS). “It’s a beautiful, rich culture and I love sharing that.”

And, like the West African griots (storytellers), Rudolph knows what goes into passing down and preserving a family story. “They were the ones who kept the history and translated historical [moments],” she says. “The griot also entertained for celebrations, making sure traditions were prepared correctly.”

CABS preserves and perpetuates African oral traditions to everyone from young children to senior citizens with performance artists, workshops, artists-in-residence, and other educators.

Every September, Cleveland Black Storytellers hosts Black Storytelling Week, during which CABS members share their stories in schools, senior centers, and community centers around Northeast Ohio. Events include a children’s concert, open-mic, and an adult storytelling concert.

On September 21, 2019, CABS will host Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers Conference: Voice and Vision. A $4,000 CAC grant will help fund the conference, which will welcome visitors to Cleveland for workshops, panel discussions, and a luncheon.

“We’re going to bring in people interested in storytelling and use words, our hands, and visuals to tell stories,” Rudolph explains. “We’re going to show them how it’s done in a professional manner.”

Most importantly, Rudolph says they plan to emphasize the storytelling traditions and their importance. “We want to teach people how storytelling can be used in everyday life,” she says. “It started in families to tell how things evolved. Everyone can use it. It’s a very open art form, and it’s a very old art form.”

A drop in the bucket

These four organizations are just a small sampling of the many groups helped by CAC. “We are excited to support 29 arts and culture organizations that are receiving CAC funding for the first time,” says Paulsen. “Projects such as Naach Di Cleveland, Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers, Soulcraft, and the Edward E. Parker Museum of Art represent the impressive and diverse cultural experiences available in Cuyahoga County.”

See the full list of 2019 grantees here.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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