Cuyahoga Arts & Culture celebrates black-led arts organizations

Partner Content

Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) funds and backs many different organizations in Cuyahoga County, regardless of the founders’ race, culture, religion, or economic status.

CAC partners are founded by leaders and teachers in the community—many of which are founded by African Americans.

<span class="content-image-text">From Me 2 U</span>From Me 2 U“Cuyahoga Arts & Culture is proud to support black-led arts and cultural nonprofits,” says CAC executive director Jill Paulsen. “Organizations led by and serving black residents are vital. The work is real, powerful, and poignant—speaking lived truths.”

Here is a look at just some of these cultural organizations.

Rollin' Buckeyez
For instance, Kenneth Perdue has been skating in Cleveland since he was a kid. As an adult, he has traveled the country in search of that perfect skate opportunity. He then returned to Cleveland and several years ago made a splash at IngenuityFest with his pop-up roller rink. He has continued to be a part of the event, and has now hosted skate events at festivals like Brite Winter and Burning River Fest.

Now, Rollin’Buckeyez has a permanent home on the third floor of Ingenuity Cleveland’s Hamilton Collaborative, 4301 Hamilton Ave.  “The space allows us to do community events in the St. Clair-Superior community,” explains Perdue. “A lot of this is really personal with me, because I am a product of the St. Clair-Superior [neighborhood]—that’s where I grew up.”

Perdue says being a part of the Hamilton Collaborative and Ingenuity will help Rollin’Buckeyez engage more people and will ground the organization within the community.

Perdue recently started hosting regular roller-skating boot camps for area youth, teaching kids a lot more than the basics of skating. “It’s a 10-hour boot camp that teaches the fundamentals of skating, literacy, art, and self-expression,” he explains.  Every camper receives a pair of skates and food while at camp.

In the meantime, Perdue continues his quest to launch outdoor skate parties and recently launched an ioby campaign to buy a 2,400-square-foot overlay skating floor that Rollin'Buckeyez can take to various outdoor public venues and in Cleveland neighborhoods.

<span class="content-image-text">iN Education, Inc</span>iN Education, IncIN Education
In 2007 DeAndre Nixon recognized a need to prepare young people in Northeast Ohio with the broad skills they need for college, work, and life in general. So he founded IN Education with the mission to teach those skills—with a large component being in the arts.

“Kids can access this for free,” Nixon says. “All they have to do is log on and tell us what their needs are. This is workforce training.” The arts component is known as the Battle of the Teal, which teaches students considering the arts as a career the different levels on the path.

“Teal” stands for Talent, Educators, Artists, and Legal. “It’s the core form that covers a range of arts enrichment topics,” says Nixon. There are five levels to the program, he says, starting with “just for fun” classes, to resume building and showcasing work, to career prep, and then acting as a mentor to younger students in the arts.

“It’s our duty to make sure these kids are groomed, but we also provide opportunities for growth,” Nixon explains. “We need to provide jobs. When it all comes together, you know the entertainment industry is huge and a lot of people think artists don’t get paid, that there is no money. That perception is not real.”

Nixon adds that even students who don’t go on to careers in the arts benefit from the Teal program. “Artists are four times more likely to succeed in any job because of creativity,” he says. “Studies show that artists are creative, so they think outside the box.”

Foluke Cultural Arts Center
Dava Cansler founded Foluke Cultural Arts Center in 2002  to give at-risk kids performing arts training, and the discipline that comes with it. Cansler wanted to replace negative behaviors with self-pride and self-confidence through self-expression, self-discovery, and discipline.

Foluke staff use dance, music, theater, and visual arts to build that confidence, but with COVID-19, building those relationships and skills has been tough, Cansler says, adding that a lot of children from George Washington Carver Elementary School on East 55th Street often come to the center.

“We didn’t have any time to prepare,” says Cansler of the shutdown. “I’m sure a lot of administrators are going through the same thing.”

While the center remains closed, she says staff have been preparing a few options for their students.

“The kids are chomping at the bit to come back,” she says. “We have to make sure everything is in order, but I think we’re all going to have a good time.”

For instance, Cansler says theater instructor Stephen Hood has created an entire set around the classic television show “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” except this is Mr. Stevie’s Neighborhood.

“We called teaching artists and our board members and said, ‘it’s time to circle the wagons and figure out what we’re going to do,’” Cansler says of their alternate plans.

Cansler says in mid-July Foluke will team up with Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U) to helps kids produce videos and teach hip-hop classes.

Additionally, she says they are incorporating a CAC Learning Lab program, in which the students will explore how they would communicate by making noises and using sound effects.

The program will be set up virtually, using a private Facebook group and Google. “One of the challenges in the community is access to the internet and most kids don’t have laptops,” Cansler explains. “But we found out the kids do have phones, so we’re using Facebook and Google because they are the easiest to operate on a phone.”

From Me 2 U
With a background in prevention services through the state health department, Lydia Hill started From Me 2 U as a way to teach positive development among young people and encourage them to explore the right paths for their futures.

“Basically, it’s just helping them figure out who they are and what they want to do,” says Hill.

With programs like Inventing ME—a 4-H program for elementary students; Choose 2 Be U—life coaching for teens with mentoring and classes in positive expression; and even adult courses like Inspired By Me life coaching services, the staff at From Me 2 U aim to inspire and help their participants envision and reach their goals.

Hill says From Me 2 U offers a computer coding class for students—one of the hot career paths for youngsters right now. But she says it’s also not a field for everyone, and she classes let kids explore it.

“Coding is isolating, so you have to be someone who is self-motivated,” she explains. “If one thing goes wrong, you have to go back and find out what’s wrong.”

But Hill says there are other roles in technology outside of coding, such as presenting the overall concept to a potential customer.

Because of COVID-19, Hill says they have switched to a modified model, offering more remote courses. For instance, she says students are currently working on a photo journaling project.

But Hill says the most important part of the programs is experiential learning and growing. “At some point we lost the opportunity to be kids and to have fun while learning,” she says. “When I grew up, it was fun for me—learning was project based and you didn’t know what would happen. That’s what I do—I give kids the opportunity to learn how to do different things in different ways.”

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.