The Next Art Capital of the World... Cleveland!?

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The Next Art Capital of the World... Cleveland!?

We have definitely had great support for our work from local public officials. That's ranged from close relationships and ongoing communication with city officials in Community Development, Economic Development and Planning to suburban mayors to state senators to senior staff with our congressional delegation. Perhaps most notably, we've had strong support from Councilman Michael Polensek, the primary elected official of the North Shore Collinwood neighborhood. He has been a tremendous advocate for the work we're doing to enliven the community through the arts.

What is the goal of creating a thriving artist community in Collinwood? What do the organizers hope to achieve through this initiative.
Both CPAC and Northeast Shores believe that arts can be a profound driver in neighborhood change. North Shore Collinwood has witnessed it first-hand. When our Beachland Ballroom first opened in 2000, Waterloo Road was 40% vacant. Just 13 years later, the street has an occupancy rate of around 90%. That has created a tremendous increase in pedestrian activity, neighborhood visitation and purchasing power.

Beyond this, artists, arts businesses and arts nonprofits are playing a profound role not only in bolstering neighborhood-level economies but also in building new relationships, opening stakeholders up to new possibilities and increasing the general sense that a place has value. We also feel that artists are uniquely positioned at the neighborhood level to create new opportunities for people of modest incomes and challenged backgrounds. The artists in North Shore Collinwood aren't just reaching out to the "traditional art crowd"; they're bringing creativity out onto our streets and directly into the lives of people of all backgrounds.

But in order for artists to play these key roles in transforming community, they need our help  we believe that it is critical to provide high levels of support to artists to aid in this process. Artists are able to play more active roles in their communities when they have stable home lives ... when their employment prospects are good, when their space needs are met ... When we reward them for their passion and their creativity and help them to escape financial vulnerability and volatility.
 
How do you see these artists being able to generate income and eventually a sustainable life style?

We believe industrial cities like Cleveland are particularly well-suited for artists wanting a sustainable life style. These cities have been rocked for decades by population declines; many, including Cleveland, are now home to less than half the residents they once enjoyed. This has created a whole slew of challenges for "Rust Belt" cities ... Entrenched poverty, high vacancy rates and struggling school systems. Clearly, these are challenges disproportionately felt in older industrial cities and challenges that very much need to be addressed. 

But opposite this, this market dynamic (of big cities that have lost lots of population) has also created a set of cities that are both unusually amenity-rich in proportion to population size ... and extraordinarily affordable. In Cleveland, this means that the cost to rent or purchase a space is a fraction of what an artist would pay for a similar property in a fast-growth city. At the same time, it means that artists do not have to sacrifice quality-of-life in exchange for affordability. Cleveland is a city that is stacked deep with cultural organizations and has an active arts scene ... And good geographic proximity to other thriving arts markets in Chicago and on the eastern seaboard.

It's also a place that clearly values the role of arts and culture to overall community well-being; in 2006, Cuyahoga County voters approved a first-of-its kind tobacco excise tax for dedicated financial support of the arts and culture sector. The tax, 30 cents per pack of cigarettes sold in our county, generates roughly $15 million in public arts and culture support annually, one of the highest levels of public arts and culture support nationwide (according to data from the National Assembly of State Art Agencies, in 2012, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture provided more arts and culture grant funding in our county than 56 of the nation's 58 state arts agencies invested statewide). That investment in cultural organizations and artists means additional employment and income opportunities for artists here that may not be present elsewhere.

Beyond this, Cleveland organizations like CPAC and Northeast Shores are working very hard to build a full infrastructure of support for artists. That includes grants, like the $250,000 we've distributed to date in North Shore Collinwood to help artists and art groups carry out community projects. It also comes by way of funding from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture in support of CPAC's Creative Workforce Fellowship, a program that annually provides $20,000 awards to 20 local artists. But it extends far beyond direct funding to business training, small business services, pathways to affordable insurance, affordable space offerings and continued advocacy for support of Cleveland artists in a myriad of ways. You can get a general sense of the support environment for artists here at www.mycreativecompass.org.
 
It often happens in urban cities that artists move into depressed communities where rent is cheap. They upgrade these communities and eventually gentrify neighborhoods, which they inevitably get priced out of. (As has happened in NYC many many times). How will Collinwood be different? Will CPAC and NSDC keep subsidizing this community?
This is something that both of our organizations are very mindful of ... And one of the key reasons we started the program in the first place. In cities across the country, artists are priced out of neighborhoods, and even entire cities. This is not at all an unusual case for renters across the country; as a community improves and becomes desirable, rent rates go up, and long-term tenants are unable to cover escalating cost-of-living.

Our program changes that dynamic by stressing space ownership. In North Shore Collinwood, we are working aggressively to help artists own their own commercial spaces and their own homes. We see this as an opportunity for people to have more choice over when and how they would exit our neighborhood, rather than being subject to changes in market demand. We focus our efforts on obtaining vacant homes and commercial spaces, which we can then sell back to artists at incredibly affordable rates. For houses in poor condition, Northeast Shores does the rehab work itself, typically investing $125,000 in a property that we then sell for $70,000 to $100,000, immediately creating added equity for the buyer. For houses in fair to good condition, we allow the artist to oversee the rehab work themselves and sell the property to them directly for $6,500. The typical total investment of the buyer, including required rehab improvements, is $15,000 to $30,000. For less than rent rates in most American cities, an artist can own their own space in our neighborhood. At the same time, this model is helping to ensure that quality housing stock isn't heading for the wrecking ball, saving the city of Cleveland the cost of demolition and lot maintenance and ensuring that our neighborhood remains dense and vibrant. It's the ultimate win-win for a slow-growth community like Cleveland. You can learn more about our artist homeownership offerings at http://welcometocollinwood.com/index.php/help/artist-housing/.