Cuyahoga Arts & Culture to grant $11.8 million to 277 local arts organizations in 2020

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At a public meeting Nov. 14, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture approved the investment of $11,800,898 in 277 nonprofit organizations in Cuyahoga County through its general operating support and project support grants in 2020.

The agency is one of the largest local public funders of arts and culture in the nation, granting more than $193 million to more than 420 organizations since 2007, and is funded by a voter-approved cigarette tax. The board at its Nov. 13 meeting committed $10.2 million to 65 organizations through the 2020 General Operating Support program, which provides unrestricted, multiyear support grants to arts and cultural organizations based in and serving the county. The 2020 grants range from $13,000 to $1.1 million.

The board approved $1,600,898 in Project Support grants to 212 organizations in 2020. These grants promote and encourage the breadth of arts and cultural programming by funding projects of all sizes. Grants range from $1,000 to $25,000 and support a variety of programs and events.

This year, four organizations join the general operating support program, while 20 organizations received first-time project support grants.

“We are excited to welcome new groups into our general operating support program and 20 new nonprofits to CAC's project support grant program,” says Jill Paulsen, interim CEO and executive director. “When we fund new organizations, we reach more residents in more places through a broader selection of arts and culture experiences. Having a public funding source like Cuyahoga Arts & Culture has been a difference maker for the groups we support, allowing them to take risks with programming and to serve more residents across the county.”

FreshWater Cleveland takes an in-depth look at two organizations that received general operating support grants for the first time and two first-time project support grant recipients.

General Operating Support Grants

<span class="content-image-text">Dunham Tavern</span>Dunham TavernDunham Tavern and Museum on Euclid Avenue, which preserves greenspace in Midtown, is the 1824 home (and later tavern) of Rufus and Jane Pratt Dunham.

From its days of serving as a stop for stagecoaches to modern-day Euclid Avenue, Dunham Tavern has withstood the test of time.

Today, Dunham Tavern serves as a place for urban history, education, nature, and community gathering. While museum officials applied for, and were denied, a general operating support grant in 2007, Dunham did receive a project support grant last year to produce a children’s book, “Dunham Tavern Museum: A Journey to the Past,” as a take-away supplement to its educational programming.

Lauren Hansgen, the first full-time executive director, applied for a general operating support grant again this year and won a two-year, $20,370 grant.

The grant money will help keep current programming going, expand offerings, and draw visitors to the Midtown neighborhood, Hansgen says.

“We want to be seen as a hard asset for the general public—for those who haven’t been aware we are a museum or for those who drive down Chester [Avenue] and don’t have time to stop in,” she says. “For being a nice little museum, we are largely unknown in the region. We really want to expand our capacity and connect with the community. We want to be an anchor in the neighborhood and a resource for our visitors and guests.”

The museum hosts tours to showcase life in the 1800s, tours of the gardens and grounds, and educational sessions for K-8 students.

The grant money will help fund the first phase of a master plan to bring the Dunham Tavern more into the public spotlight, Hansgen says. Museum officials are working on the plan with LAND studio.

<span class="content-image-text">“A Raisin in the Sun” was part of Ensemble Theatre's 2019 "What Happens to a Dream Deferred?" project.</span>“A Raisin in the Sun” was part of Ensemble Theatre's 2019 "What Happens to a Dream Deferred?" project.

Ensemble Theatre on the Coventry Peace Campus in Cleveland Heights has received CAC project support grants from 2011 to 2019—helping to fund performances like the 2019 performances of “A Raisin in the Sun” as part of its "What Happens to a Dream Deferred?" project, and 2018 performances of “Angels in America” as part of "Who are 'We, the people?'” project. The project support grant helped pay the actors and crew.

“All of these projects focused on themes in the plays and using the production to create surrounding events, discussions, and create original works inspired by these themes, creating a public platform and discussion about these themes and how they connected to Cleveland audiences,” says Celeste Cosentino, Ensemble’s executive artistic director. These projects are done in partnership with organizations like Karamu House, Catholic Diocese of Cleveland's Migration and Refugee Services Department, and the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, she says.

This year, Ensemble Theatre applied for general operating support dollars and received approximately $14,000. Cosentino says the grant will help the theater expand its programming and hire staff.

“Thank God for Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, because they’ve forced us to look at [our] organization differently than we did,” she says, adding that Ensemble Theatre for years was operating in the red. “It lets us have more flexibility, and it allows us to expand our budget and put it in a pool that allows us to go out and apply for different grants.”

Project Support Grants

<span class="content-image-text">Bianca Sorace performs a salsa dance at Hasani Management.</span>Bianca Sorace performs a salsa dance at Hasani Management.Hasani Management, which works to empower and educate youth, including those with special needs, through cognitive and life skill programs, each year hosts “The Black History Oratorical and Spoken Word” workshops and a speech contest.

Thanks to a $4,000 project support grant, Hasani Management will hold its seventh annual event in 2020, and next year will be better than ever, says Hasani founder and CEO Chinetha Hall.

“With the help of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, this is really going to be fantastic,” says Hall, who has a performing arts background. “We’re going to expand the project from a one-day oratorical contest to have workshops to educate and bring cultural awareness to those of the African Diaspora and [teach] the basic tools necessary to make a three-minute speech.”

Hall worked with Julia De Burges Cultural Arts Center and FranCeJone Institute of Art last year to bring Afro-Latino and Afro-Caribbean perspectives into the program, and the three groups will work together again in 2020. “It was a very nice, great production, and we did it on a limited budget,” says Hall. “I thought we could do so much more if we had money. So, I applied for the [Cuyahoga Arts & Culture] grant.

About 15 students participate each year, Hall says, and the workshops begin in February before the competition in April. The workshop and contest are open to kids ages 6 to 18.

<span class="content-image-text">Iowa Maple Elementary School in Glenville</span>Iowa Maple Elementary School in GlenvilleFood Strong’s mission is to “empower and strengthen communities around food.” Founded by executive director Sara Continenza, the organization offers programs and resources for the community to grow and obtain fresh produce, as well link people to other vital services in the area.

In designing Food Strong, Continenza decided to start early in teaching people the value to gardening and fresh produce. So, since 2016, she has partnered with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to start a School Garden Project. She has now expanded it to the Artful Garden Project.

Continenza started working with students at Iowa Maple Elementary School in Glenville and Artemus Ward Elementary School in West Park to create vegetable gardens at the school.

“I wanted kids to have an opportunity to look at something in the community that they did and have pride,” says Continenza of the project. The students also learn how to market and sell their produce at farmers markets around the city.

Continenza says she wanted to start gardens to help with learning and standardized testing results. While she acknowledges it's difficult to measure academic changes in the gardening, she does see improvement. "What we have seen is improvements in student interest in STEM and art, social-emotional skills, attitudes toward wellness, fresh foods, nutrition, entrepreneurship, cooking and service to the community," she says.

Then, Continenza received a $5,000 2020 project support grant to bring art into the gardens. Students at the two schools are working with area artists to create four large, moveable, fresh food-focused murals to place in a variety of community settings.

“The goal is to feature our students and their gardens while promoting fresh foods in low-income community settings,” she says. The Iowa Maple murals will go up at Changing Lives Ministries and Coit Road Farmers Market. Artemus Ward  murals will go to the school and a yet-to-be-determined site chosen in partnership with Bellaire Puritas Development Corp.

More good news

While Cuyahoga Arts & Culture approved the project support and general operating support grants at its November meeting, the board met for its December meeting last night, Wednesday, Dec. 11, to approve a $13,940,000 operating budget for 2020 and several additional grant programs, including $400,000 in Support for Artists grants (which includes the Learning Lab program), $72,000 to continue a the match fund with ioby to support resident-led arts and culture projects.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: 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.