CAC awards $347,000 in grants to fund support for area artists

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Being a solo artist doesn’t have to be a struggle—especially with unprecedented support from organizations like Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC).

In November and December, the CAC board approved $347,000 in grants for six nonprofit partners that will provide artists with professional development, flexible and project-based monetary support, and access to physical spaces in early 2019.

The funding is the most comprehensive support for artists to date in Cuyahoga County.

The nonprofit partners were chosen with the help of CAC’s Artist Network Leaders, who were assembled to reach more artists and organizations in Cuyahoga County. The grants and the leaders are a direct result of CAC’s extensive 2017 research to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion and better support individual artists in the county.

“We've spent the last two years revamping the way we support artists, talking with artists locally, and researching best practices across the country,” says Jill Paulsen, CAC’s interim CEO and executive director.

This effort ultimately resulted in shaping a grant program development and a public call for nonprofit partners in mid-2018. The goal was to identify nonprofits (since CAC can legally only make grants to nonprofits) with the skills and connections to meaningfully provide support and funding to Cuyahoga County artists.

“These grants are helping nonprofits make a significant investment in artists,” says Paulsen. “We recognize that artists' work makes Cuyahoga County a better place, and we want to support them.”

Almost 20 organizations expressed interest, and a cohort of local artists and experts helped select the six grant recipients. Although 2019 will be the pilot year for these types of grants, the six organizations are set to serve area artists in new ways in 2019. The research and listening done by the board is coming full circle in this way.

“Artists told us that direct funding is just one need,” says Paulsen. “Through these new programs, we will reach hundreds of artists in 2019, and will do so in a way that ensures those who have been historically underrepresented can access the programs and funding more equitably."

FreshWater explores what these six organizations will be doing with the grants via CAC Support for Artists programming.

Cleveland Public Theatre

Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) has a proven history of providing individual fellowships to develop both the work at the theatre and the artists. “We really see fellowships as a way of supporting artists to take their work to a new level,” explains CPT executive artistic director Raymond Bobgan.

CAC’s $90,000 grant will support the Premiere Fellowship program. Through this program, five Cuyahoga County-based theater artists—a playwright, a director, an actor, and two designers—will each receive a cash award; fees for their work; mentorship; professional development; and access to space, equipment, and other CPT assets related to the development and implementation of their fellowship.

Hispanic Business Center

La Villa Hispana Artist Colectivo is a group of Latino artists who are interested in collaborating with other artists, gaining brand exposure, and business development training opportunities.

“We want to empower artists with the knowledge and the tools needed to rise above being ‘starving artists,’” says Jason Estremera, associate director of the Artist Colectivo. “We also aim to grow and promote local artists who can be used on local projects, instead of having to import talent from other cities.”

A $50,000 CAC grant will allow the Hispanic Business Center to host four bilingual art entrepreneur sessions, during which artists will meet with a business advisor and participate in the pop-up market. The training sessions will focus on all area entrepreneurs need to get their businesses off the ground.

Up to six project grants will also be available to artists who participate in the directory and attend all of the training sessions.

Estremera says the hope is to instill a sense of empowerment and a vision for growth. “We want artists to understand the value of their time and their artistry,” he says. “But most importantly, we want them to have a better understanding of the business side of their craft.”

LAND studio

Thanks to a $55,000 CAC grant, LAND studio will present a workshop series called “From the Studio to the Streets,” targeted at both emerging and established public artists. Artists will learn how to develop strong proposals, draft budgets, consider community outreach and engagement, handle practical issues (such as insurance, permitting, and design approvals), and market themselves both locally and nationally for future work.

LAND studio wants to demystify the process of creating public art and help artists be strong contenders for projects that are looking for artists, as well as see a pathway to creating their own opportunities.

“Around Cleveland and across the country, you can see the tangible benefits that public artwork brings to neighborhoods," says LAND studio senior project director Tiffany Graham Charkosky. "The quality of work being produced is exceptional, and as more business owners, municipalities, and resident groups seek to add beauty, joy, and meaning to their public spaces, we see more opportunities for artists to play a role in shaping the way we interact with them.”


SPACES has developed an annual program that will distribute $85,000 to 15 artists in Cuyahoga County in 2019 through partnerships with CAC for The Urgent Art Fund and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for the Satellite Fund.

CAC’s $42,000 grant for The Urgent Art Fund will go to production expenses and artist commission for the creation of “urgent art” that is socially, politically, or culturally responsive.

By designating funds specifically for such projects taking place in the public realm, The Urgent Art Fund will help artists immediately engage their community in dialogue about the day’s most pressing issues. SPACES will begin accepting proposals in January 2019 and award five $5,000 project-based grants throughout the year.

“As the resource and public forum for artists who explore and experiment, we are particularly excited by this new opportunity to support artist projects outside of our regular exhibition and residency programs,” says Christina Vassallo, SPACES executive director. “The Urgent Art Fund will deliver grants and additional resources directly to artists, in order to materialize dream projects that speak to our current realities and equalize the distribution of arts funding in Cuyahoga County.”

Additionally, SPACES will support artistic research and development taking place in the County through grant money from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Regional Regranting Program. The Satellite Fund will offer 10 $6,000 project-based grants to artists in Cuyahoga County.

<span class="content-image-text">Karamu House</span>Karamu HouseKaramu House

The mission of Karamu House—the oldest African-American theater in the country—is to produce professional theatre, provide arts education, and present community programs for all people while honoring the African-American experience.

To further this mission, CAC provided Karamu House a grant of $95,000 for eight visual artist residencies and four performing artist residencies. Visual artists will be given studio space and participate in an exhibition of work created by all resident artists. Performing artists will also be given rehearsal space, access to Karamu’s production team, and the opportunity to present their work to the public. Karamu will also provide shared office space to resident and community artists.

“[This grant is] helping bring Karamu back to some of the cultural programming provided in the past,” says Karamu’s development director Joy Roller. “This is a wonderful way for Cuyahoga Arts & Culture to help artists be able to do their work in Cuyahoga County. This is going to be a beehive of cultural activity.”

<span class="content-image-text">2018 Verge Fellowship recipients:Kayla Thomas (inset), Damien McClendon, Stephanie Fields, Amanda King and Stephen Bivens</span>2018 Verge Fellowship recipients:Kayla Thomas (inset), Damien McClendon, Stephanie Fields, Amanda King and Stephen BivensCleveland Arts Prize

The Cleveland Arts Prize (CAP) is the country’s oldest municipal arts award and an ongoing platform for celebrating Northeast Ohio’s arts and culture legacy.

Last year, CAP and the Cleveland Foundation saw the need to nurture and support the next generation of artistic excellence with the Verge Fellowship. The inaugural group of five artists, named this year, received $2,000 stipends and represent Cleveland’s diversity in the arts in literature, visual arts, dance and theater, music, and design.

Thanks to CAC’s $15,000 grant, CAP will in 2019 expand its Verge fellowship for emerging artists with 10 $2,500 awards.

“We are so pleased to hear that CAC will be contributing to the Verge Fellowship Program,” says CAP executive director Alenka Banco. “[The grant] allows CAP to double its reach and support practicing Cleveland-based artists who are on the verge of discovery, exploding into the art scene, [and] taking their work to the next level."

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.