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

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

These commercial and home ownership opportunities also achieve another great outcome for artists ... The programs incentivize artists to review their financial situations. Working with Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland, each artist who is interested in purchasing space from Northeast Shores is required to complete free homeownership coursework, financial planning and credit counseling. Regardless of whether the artist ultimately buys a space, this exercise itself is ensuring that artists are increasing their financial literacy and more fully understanding their credit, savings, income threshhold, etc. It leaves them more "bankable" and less subject to victimization of changes neighborhoods, wherever they ultimately may live.

Beyond this, we are continuing to develop an infrastructure of support for artists, beyond affordable space. CPAC continues to work throughout greater Cleveland to develop support systems for the arts and culture sector and to get artists and arts and culture groups more connected to the broader community. The newest effort on that front is the earliest stages of work to increase connectivity between artists, arts and culture organizations and our city's immense health and human services sector. Northeast Shores, meanwhile, continues to raise funds for grants to support artists' community projects in the neighborhood, as well as for targeted investments in artist live-work space, artist apartments and artist commercial space. It's important to note, however, that Northeast Shores is developing programs and services not only for artists but also for other low- and moderate-income populations, too. While artists are a key part of that service delivery, our organizations believe healthy neighborhoods are ones with a diverse mix of socioeconomic backgrounds, so we're developing a broad range of tools to minimize the harm of potential gentrification for everyone.

Why did you choose the neighborhood of Collinwood for this project?

Technically speaking, we actually didn't. When CPAC received its first investment in the Artists in Residence program, a $250,000 grant from Leveraging Investments in Creativity, we launched a citywide competition to host the community program. We received 14 applications from community development groups across the city, which I think demonstrates just how much value Cleveland places on the arts as a key component of community revitalization. We then convened a panel of arts and community development professionals who narrowed the set of applications to 5 contenders, before they ultimately selected Northeast Shores and North Shore Collinwood as the strongest applicant.

This application process enabled us to structure decision-making about where we would locate the project on some of the key philosophies of the program ... That we would be working with a partner that already had a strong strategy in place for working with artists, that was aggressively issues like neighborhood vacancy and that had a broader strategy for advancing low- and moderate-income residents, as well as other traditionally underserved populations. Engaging a panel in the process ensured that we were getting a lot of voices and perspectives in the process and being very thoughtful about where the program investment would have the most benefit both for artists and for the broader community. And clearly the panel chose wisely! Northeast Shores has shown a real depth of understanding and appreciation for artists, and it's been an absolutely great partnership, with both organizations bringing their respective resources, expertise and energy to advancing the neighborhood in a new way.
 
Is there an audience and/or for the artists who move into this area? Can you tell me more about the cultural scene of Cleveland at large?

Absolutely. I don't think that Cleveland has the national reputation that it should for being a community of arts-appreciators. One of the earliest studies CPAC conducted, back in the late 1990s, showed that the average resident of greater Cleveland was about 3 times more likely to have attended some kind of arts event in the past year than a sports event. Cuyahoga Arts & Culture 2012 Report to the Community demonstrates that broad level of audience interest, too. Among the organization's more than 100 grantees, there is an estimated combined annual attendance of 6 million, taking place in nearly 2,000 different locations across the country ... And that's not counting a slew of patronage of for-profit arts businesses that don't receive public funding. Clearly, there's a lot of appetite for art here!

That being said, if the question is more about whether the local market alone can support an artist living solely on their artwork, I'm not sure I could say that for most artists. I'd wager a guess that that's true almost anywhere an artist lives; outside of maybe three or four large cities, I think a great deal of artists find that their market has to extend beyond where they live or that they need to supplement their arts sales income with teaching, other employment, etc. For some disciplines in particular (writers, musicians, craft artists, etc.), I think the norm is that artists are already sharing their offerings across a very broad geographic area. When that's the case, when your sales are coming from across the country or across the world, it just strengthens the case more for locating in a city like Cleveland, where there is a sizable local market but where you're also benefiting from geographic proximity to a lot of different large art markets, as well as extraordinarily low cost-of-living that can offset investments in travel, marketing and other forms of business development.

In terms of overall cultural scene, I think Cleveland is similar to most of the cities in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions ... It's a mix of large-scale "legacy institutions", many with histories extending decades or even 100 years in age, and a strong, scrappy and growing indie arts scene "on-the-ground". So on the one hand, Cleveland enjoys a top-tier art museum (the Cleveland Museum of Art) and orchestra (the Cleveland Orchestra), the second largest performing arts complex in the country (PlayHouse Square), the nationally visible Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and nationally competitive arts education programs at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland Institute of Music and Case Western Reserve University. On the other hand, you have a really strong grassroots arts scene, where you can see a musical career get launched at the Beachland Ballroom, see homeless men craft an extraordinary play at Cleveland Public Theatre or meet a printmaker from Dresden at Zygote Press. We gave participants at Welcome to Cleveland Weekend a good first glimpse of this immense arts community; you can see highlights at Collinwood.

I'd also say there's a very strong and very special culture of arts accessibility in Cleveland. It's the type of city where art is not just in concert halls and galleries ... It spills out onto the streets and into bars and house parties and schools. There's also a long heritage of making sure that arts activity is as affordable as possible. The Cleveland Museum of Art, for instance, has not charged a general admission in its 100 years of operations, and Cuyahoga Arts & Culture reports that half of all arts programming that it funds is free. I think it's that attention to accessibility, reflected in our own artist programs in North Shore Collinwood, that has helped make this a city where there is such broad and deep support for the work that artists do.

Are the Collinwood grants open to artists from around the country? If so how do you see this population of artists interact and enhance the local community?

Yes and no. CPAC and Northeast Shores' Artists in Residence Grants ($125,000 to date) are only available to artists who currently live or work in North Shore Collinwood. Northeast Shores' Collinwood Rising Grants ($125,000 to date) are made available to arts-based businesses, nonprofits and other storefront stakeholders in our arts district. In both programs, the grantees can then commission participation from artists anywhere around the world. Particularly with Collinwood Rising Grants, we have seen a lot of engagement with artists from around the country and around the world, and we expect that to increase even more in 2014 as the program continues.

This model of grantmaking is very intentional. Both CPAC and Northeast Shores want to ensure that there are direct funding opportunities for artists invested in the neighborhood. We want to ensure that artists here are benefiting not only from affordability but also from ongoing investments in their work. We also want to invest in developing "dense" social capital ... That is, we want artists to have greater opportunities to engage directly with their non-artist neighbors, business owners, students, etc. We want to foster a really deep sense of community and to make the experience of living here not only easy for artists, but also truly meaningful.

That being said, we also want to invest in "loose" social capital ... Helping the neighborhood build ties with people from across the world. We believe that this wider engagement of artists helps to raise awareness that we are building something special and something unique here in North Shore Collinwood and more broadly across Cleveland. It also brings fresh, innovative thinking into our neighborhood and helps expose our community stakeholders to new artistic perspectives and fresh sets of eyes toward what our neighborhood is and what it could become.

So we see extraordinary value in neighborhood artist Linda Zolten Wood using grant funding to launch the Collinwood Painted Rain Barrel Project . The project has raised visibility of water conservancy and stormwater remediation as important to the health of our lakefront neighborhood. It has also raised Linda's visibility, opening up new commission opportunities for her ... And exposing hundreds of people to someone living just down the street around the block who's working to make a difference. But we also see value when Waterloo Arts launched Zoetic Walls and invited street artists from around the world to share their creativity on walls across our arts district. Sure, residents probably won't be meeting up for coffee anytime soon with Buenos Aires-based EVER, but we are certain that the incidental interactions he had with business owners and children riding by on bikes left a lasting impression on both the artist and the people who got to watch him at work. So we're less concerned about where an artist lives and more that they have a sincere desire to make a difference in an alre