Cuyahoga Arts & Culture announces 2021 grants, celebrates 16 first-time recipients

The many Northeast Ohio organizations that have benefitted from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) grants over the past 13 years not only know the importance of their work in enriching the region, but they also know that without funding it is often tough to survive.

Last month CAC announced it will invest $12,033,641 in 295 Cuyahoga County nonprofit organizations in 2021 through its General Operating Support and Project Support grant programs. Since 2007, CAC has invested more than $207 million in 436 organizations.

“Each year, we are excited to announce our grants, but it feels especially meaningful this year knowing the challenges our grant recipients have faced,” says CAC executive director Jill M. Paulsen.

At its Tuesday, Nov. 10 meeting, the CAC Board of Trustees approved $10.2 million in unrestricted, multi-year General Operating Support grants to 65 organizations for 2021. The grants range from $13,000 to $1.1 million.

Additionally, the board approved more than $1.8 million in Project Support grants to 230 organizations that support a variety of programs and events. Grants range from $1,000 to $25,000.

Within the Project Support grantees, 16 organizations are new CAC recipients. “Despite the challenges of this year, it is exciting to welcome 16 new groups into our cohort of CAC-funded nonprofits for 2021,” says Paulsen. “Though we are connecting in different ways as a result of the current public health crisis, we know that these newest grant recipients will inspire and create meaningful arts experiences for many residents in the coming year.”

Here's a look at four of the newest organizations to now be called CAC Project Support grant recipients (see the full list in the sidebar):

Lake Erie InstituteLake Erie Institute
Lake Erie Institute (LEI) executive director Nurete Brenner wants everyone to be at peace with nature and the earth. The organization, which strives to cultivate an ecological community to help restore balance between humans and the Earth, hosts trainings, workshops, and retreats to help people achieve those goals.

LEI, now entering its fourth year, focuses on regenerative practices, says Brenner. “It’s not just sustainability anymore because the only signals we have are we’re in trouble,” she says. “What happens on the other side of the world happens here in Cleveland, and what happens in Cleveland happens on the other side of the world. Most folks looking to join our program are looking for ways to save the Earth.”

A $5.000 CAC project support grant will help Brenner and LEI founder Elizabeth Meacham achieve these goals with a creative series, Ecological Consciousness Exchange (EcoX), which will launch in January.

“We are doing a series of meditations with artists, authors, musicians, poets, and thinkers,” explains Brenner. “A lot of it has to do with our ecological future and ideas of how we can live more in harmony with nature.”

A bright side to the coronavirus pandemic, says Brenner, is that in 2021 EcoX organizers plan to host participants, speakers, and experts from all over the world—including a spoken-word poet from Israel.

“We’re inviting people internationally,” explains Brenner. “COVID has given us a new opportunity, giving us the chance to connect with new people. Last year, I wouldn’t even consider someone from Israel, but we have to do it on Zoom, so why not go international?”

Comite Mexicano - Alebrijes--Mexican folk art scultpure competitionComite Mexicano de Cleveland
Comite Mexicano de Cleveland (Mexican Committee of Cleveland) works in art and culture, community service, and in education to unite the Northeast Ohio Mexican community in its identity through programs, activities, and services.

The program celebrates Mexican culture, food, and traditions. Last year, Comite Mexicano worked with Esperanza's community engagement program to host an alebrijes workshop—creating vibrantly-colored Mexican mythical creatures. Executive director Eduardo Rodriguez says the project was held to learn about traditional Latin American art form and how to make one, and to "be proud of being as unique as an alebrije!"

Five families were invited to participate in the workshop for children and their parents that culminated in an awards ceremony to celebrate the artistic work of all the participants. The participants worked with local artists to design and craft their creatures, which included alebrijes that resemble hybrid versions of unicorns, dinosaurs, birds, and bugs. 

The works were exhibited at the Hildebrandt Artist Collective gallery and later donated to the Mexican committee of the Hispanic Alliance, Inc.

The family event provides fun for all ages, says Comite Mexicano de Cleveland . “I went to the workshop myself and tit was great,” he says. “Last year I made an alligator.”

The event has been such a hit that organizers knew the workshop had to be done again, says Rodriguez.

Thanks to a $4,000 project grant from CAC, the 2021 program will go on. Rodriguez says they are already planning for a March or April workshop, which will probably be done virtually. The next workshop will be open to anyone who wants to attend, Rodriguez promises. 

“We’re figuring out the logistics,” he says. “We don’t want to delay this project.”

Rodriguez adds that the organization has been talking to Hector Castellanos, creative director for Cleveland Public Theatre’s annual Dia de los Muertos program. He says everyone will be welcome at the 2021 event, with or without children.

Art Without Borders Arts without Borders
Artist Antara Datta, the executive director of Arts without Borders, would like it if everyone in the world could embrace movement as an artform and merge cultural and physical barriers to celebrate classical performing arts around the world.

“We always feel art can take you from the mundane to transformative,” says Datta. The organization has the mission to promote, nurture, and disseminate classical performing arts and bring out artist in everyone, regardless of language, ethnicity, and religion.

A $4,000 CAC project grant will enable Datta to execute several programs for anyone who wants to take the journey.

One year-long series, “Sparsh: Healing through Creativity” (which means “heal” or “touch” in Sanskrit), Datta says is appropriately timely. She says the series is intended to provide healing through art.

“During the pandemic, we’re trying to hold programs and talk about why art is important,” she says, adding that the workshops will focus on Indian classical music and dance. But the series also gives a nod to the many artists who are not working right now because of the pandemic.

Datta says she plans to hold the workshops virtually via YouTube and Facebook, and they are open to everyone and every ability. “It transforms your mind, and that’s when the healing happens,” she says. “It’s badly needed, and people realize that. The whole idea is to care during the pandemic.” The first installment aired in September, with a second one in November. Datta says the next installment is planned for January 2021.

Buck Out ClevelandBuck Out Foundation
As a lifelong dancer, LaChanee Hipps recognizes how her love of dancing, dedication, and vision has gotten her where she needs to go. The East Cleveland native was a collegiate band auxiliary dancer at Alabama State University and then came home to dance professionally on the Cavaliers’ PowerHouse Dance Team. Then, in 2016 Hipps started Buck Out Cleveland, running dance classes and hosting pop-up dance workshops before founding the nonprofit Buck Out Cleveland Foundation in 2019 to give area youth a leg up in a successful life path.

“Our mission is to utilize dance to successfully bridge the gap between Northeast Ohio youth and higher education at historically Black colleges and universities through dance,” Hipps explains, adding that she wants to make her students aware that they can attain success with a career in dance.

CAC awarded Hipps with a $5,000 project grant to help her continue the mission and reach more students. The grant will go to Buck Out’s third annual City-Wide Dance Team Showcase, in which 10 community and school majorette dance teams show off their talents.

“The grant will [help us] record a record-breaking event next year,” promises Hipps, who says she hopes to have 30 teams in 2021 and have the teams choose historically black college dance teams to emulate. “I think it’s going to be a big one.”

Although Hipps says the 2021 event will most likely be done virtually, she will be sure to air it on the organization’s Facebook and You Tube channels.

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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