CAC grant panel reviews region's newest art projects

Arts experts from around the country are converging on Cleveland this week to evaluate grant submissions from 193 nonprofit groups seeking dollars for their culture-related activities.
Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) is hosting its annual panel review meetings at Playhouse Square's Idea Center for the second straight day following the event's September 26 kickoff. CAC's Project Support grant program promotes cultural efforts of all sizes, with applications reviewed this week set to impact the community in 2017.
Panelists are weighing 77 grant submissions of up to $35,000 during CAC's first round of evaluations, with the drama unfolding in front of a live audience comprised of applicants, media and interested citizens. An online panel is assessing the remaining 116 applications for entries capping out at $5,000 each.
CAC executive director and Karen Gahl-Mills says the transparent process allows residents to see exactly how CAC grantmaking backs projects that benefit the region.
Karen Gahl-Mills"Whenever you're dealing with public dollars, it's important the public has an ownership of the investment," says Gahl-Mills. "We take that very seriously."
Eligibility rides in part on how much a group is already spending on arts programming, as well as the amount of the grant they can match. Fresh, interesting projects that connect with the community can run the gamut from music therapy to science experiments carrying a creative twist. For example, last weekend's Ingenuity Fest is eligible for funding due to its experimental fusion of art and science.
"Show us your budget and how this is a good investment," Gahl-Mills says. "Prove to us that you can carry out your plans."
Final grants for 2017 will be announced at a public meeting of CAC's board of trustees on November 14 at the Mandel Jewish Community Center. Since 2006, the organization has invested more than $140 million in 300-plus groups, paid for by a penny-and-a-half county cigarette tax. So far this year, CAC has bolstered 152 organizations with $1,651,624 in project support, to go along with ongoing general operating support for area cultural institutions.
CAC will continue to get citizens involved in its decisions, thanks to an online survey that asks respondents about their favorite area arts experiences. While the questionnaire won't impact the 2017 panel review, it will help shape how CAC uses future funding.
"We work hard to answer how we can support the region's cultural life," says Gahl-Mills. "The survey draws a picture of what people are doing, and that can relate to grantmaking." 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.