Cuyahoga Arts & Culture approves 2023 grants for six organizations

At its regular meeting of the Cuyahoga Arts & Culture board of trustees yesterday, Wednesday, Dec. 14, the board voted to approve six Northeast Ohio arts organizations for 2023 grant funding.

The board approved resident-led arts and culture grants to Neighborhood Connections and ioby in our own back yards). Neighborhood Connections received $60,500 to co-fund resident-led projects in Cleveland and East Cleveland and host five in-person gatherings for artists, arts & culture organizations, and residents in 2023; while ioby received $100,000 for the Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Match Fund to support resident-led arts and culture projects in Cuyahoga County in 2023.

The board also approved $400,000 in Support for Artists (SFA) grants to Assembly for the Arts, Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center, Karamu House, and SPACES.

“We are so pleased to provide CAC funding for these four groups so they can offer flexible dollars and other critical support for local artists,” says Jill M. Paulsen, CAC’s executive director. “We launched these grants based on feedback from artists and leaders in our community, and they continue to provide artists—including those who have been overlooked in the past—with what they need most.”

Since 2019, more than 275 artists have directly benefitted from CAC’s SFA grants to nonprofit partners through fellowships, project-based funding, access to physical spaces, and professional development. Of all the artists awarded flexible support, more than 85% identified as Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Color (BIPOC).

Here is a look at the projects the four organizations are planning for 2023 with the SFA grants.

Assembly for the Arts received $140,000 to support arts projects with a focus in areas that lack arts investment or amenities.

“We want them to be transformative arts projects in areas of our city that lack arts investment or arts amenities,” says Deidre McPherson, Assembly’s chief community officer. “We’re extremely happy to connect artists to advancing existing initiatives or ideas for arts and programs in areas that don’t have existing or recurring arts programs.”

The organization will provide 16 artists each with $6,250 in flexible funding and project based placemaking awards, access to space to create and present art that reflects and represents the surrounding community, resources, space, professional development, marketing, connections (creative, business, and institutional, and an Assembly membership.

<span class="content-image-text">Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center</span>Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts CenterJulia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center received $70,000 for Unidos por el Arte. This SFA project unites artists to celebrate the diversity of Cleveland’s Latinx community.

Julia de Burgos executive director Letitia Lopez conceived of the Unidos por el Arte in 2017 after realizing that Latino artists were not fairly represented in arts funding. She launched the program in 2019, and in 2020 received CAC SFA funding for $5.000 grants to six Latino artists. In 2021, CAC awarded Julia De Burgos $70,000 to fund 10 artists with $5,000 grants.

This year, 10 Cuyahoga County artists of all disciplines will again receive $5,000 flexible funding and project-based awards and access to space to create and present art that represents and supports the Latinx community. The remaining SFA money goes toward administrative needs.

The work will culminate in an art showcase for Julia de Burgos’ Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations in the fall of 2023.

Karamu House received $120,000 for its Room in the House Residency. The oldest producing African American theater in the country will award 16 visual and performing arts fellowship awards to support each artist’s growth, expansion, and creative process.

“The Room in the House Fellowship has allowed Karamu to reconnect with visual artists in our community who align with our mission of celebrating the Black experience through a socially and culturally relevant context,” says Tony F. Sias, Karamu CEO and president.

Eight visual artists and eight performing artists will receive access to space, participate in a digital exhibition of their work, marketing support, and a $5,000 flexible funding award.

“Black and Brown artists are often excluded from funding opportunities and our program provides funds as well as space and place for creation and presentation,” Sias says. “A $5,000 award can be transformative. This gift enables our artists to open up their creative bandwidth for the sake of their artistry and their practice.” 

Sias reports they received a record number of applicants to the 2022 residencies—90 applicants—and Karamu was able to award 18 fellowships. “The breadth of applicants included professors, professional working artists, those initiating their practice, and everyone in between,” he says. “We are honored to provide this portal of connection to the institution and to Karamu's national community.”

Aseelah Shareef, Karamu vice president andCOO, and Room in the House program manager, says she is looking forward to returning live Room in the House programming to Karamu House in 2023.

“Pre-COVID, the live performance and exhibition drew record numbers and diversity to Karamu's newly renovated Jelliffe Theatre and lobbies,” she says. “We look forward to hosting another event next year and opening our space for the artist/community connection.” 

SPACES received $70,000 for the Urgent Art Fund. Twelve Cuyahoga County artists will each receive $4,000 in flexible funding awards and resources—including space, tools, and professional development opportunities—to create new art that is socially, politically, or culturally responsive and help awardees establish institutional connections.

While the Fund initially was a full-year cycle, SAPCES executive director Tizziana Baldenebro says they have shifted to a model that allows three cycles, with each cycle providing grant money for four artists.

“We’ve been shifting more toward cycle this past year—with three cycles within the year with hard deadlines,” she explains. “Folks had the opportunity to re-apply for every cycle if they were rejected in the last cycle.”

Additionally, Baldenebro says the application process goes through a juror critique—allowing the artists to receive feedback on their concepts.

“So, when an artist receives a rejection, they are not just receiving a ‘no’—they’re receiving feedback. So, they can use that feedback to reapply."

Baldenebro says the new model proved to be successful this year. “We had a lot of re-applications, stronger applications, and people put forth more complete applications,” she says. “Artists are often dependent on open calls, grant applications. By creating this process that helps exhibitors showcase their best features, it prepares them for the larger art world.”

SPACES staff will assist artists in securing a public exhibition space, when necessary. The grantees will also receive SPACES membership, which gives them free access to networking and artist professional development opportunities.

In November, the CAC board approved $11,755,225 in all grant funding for 273 organizations, 68 of which were General Operating Support grants.

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.