City of Cleveland - Recommendations for an Arts-Inclusive City

The creative and cultural industries in Cleveland are a core part of our city’s success and vitality.

We define arts and culture in its broadest sense encompassing art forms ranging from traditional to contemporary. According to data from Creative Vitality Suite, in 2019, the City of Cleveland had 15,849 jobs by creative industries alone, generating $2.9b in sales within our local economy. While arts and culture drive economic growth and regional tourism, research also consistently reveals the positive influence the arts have on other sectors including education, healthcare, public safety, mental health, community revitalization and our region’s competitiveness in other markets.

Despite the facts, Cleveland is still one of the largest cities in the country that does not currently support or promote arts and culture in its government structure. A permanent infrastructure and City Arts and Culture Liaison with a clear set of goals and strategies, will allow our city to leverage the potential of our arts and cultural assets, as well as provide muchneeded support and recognition for our creative workers. The mayor has publicly recognized the need for an arts-supportive infrastructure and we are confident this promise will be delivered on.

The following recommendations were developed with the arts and culture community, facilitated by Assembly for the Arts.

Create an Infrastructure in City Hall Dedicated to the Creative and Cultural Industries


  1. Secure the right person for a cabinet-level position for arts and culture (see ROLES)
  2. Establish and work with an arts and culture community advisory group, comprised of individual artists and representatives of nonprofit organizations and creative businesses
  3. Recognize and leverage the work of current city staff dedicated to arts and culture. Establish an arts and culture line item in the administration’s budget to support the work outlined below
  4. Infuse arts and culture into the city’s committee structures and departments, such as community development, economic development, health and human services, public safety and education

Selecting an individual to lead these efforts within the administration will be critical. We recommend the establishment of an Arts and Culture Community Advisory group to supply necessary information about the local creative and cultural economy to aid the mayor in making informed decisions on potential candidates, as well as purpose and goal development for the Department of Cultural Affairs. To jumpstart this process, we recommend working with existing and established arts community coalitions including: Artist Bridge Coalition, Assembly for the Arts, Black Local Artists of Cleveland – Kuumba, Cleveland Arts Education Consortium, Collective Arts Network, National Independent Venue Association and Third Space Action Lab.  

Budgeting will be equally important – developing a process to determine both the amount of available funding within the existing budget and how much will be needed to carry out the goals of the department is a necessary initial step.  

Establish Purpose and Role of the Arts Infrastructure and Arts Liaison

The definition and title of the cabinet-level position will be important in setting the tone for the department and scope for which it will engage with, include and represent the community. Defining the department’s role(s) clearly will lay the groundwork for successful implementation of the Phase 4 work.   

Recommendations: Select the best candidate

  1. Carefully consider the position title and how it will represent both community and city; consider traditional, non-traditional, contemporary and historic arts practices   
  2. Ensure the candidate is deeply embedded and connected to the arts community 
  3. Ensure the candidate has a strong understanding of DEI, BIPOC communities and Accessibility practices 
  4. Ensure the candidate is equitable in their approach to the arts community 

Recommendations: Define the Department’s Role

  1. Manage a coordinated effort to empower and promote the work of all Cleveland’s arts and culture stakeholders 
  2. Oversee and manage the identity of Cleveland as an arts city 
  3. Assist the mayor in developing an effective narrative about the power of the arts and their relationship to the city 
  4. Coordinate and steward a downtown arts and culture district, which includes a cohesive and well-communicated programming agenda 

Sanction and Execute a City Cultural Planning Process Driven by Cleveland’s Arts Communities 

A key component of the newly developed city arts infrastructure will be the execution of a city-wide cultural planning process. This process will enable the city to identify needs, scope the landscape of the arts community and develop a set of strategies and tactics to support the arts community, leverage our creative and cultural assets and increase resident engagement with arts and culture 

Recommendations: Cultural Plan

  1. Establish a creative and cultural industry taskforce specified for this process
  2. Identify a research scope to launch the cultural plan process

1: Allocate ARPA funds to the arts and culture sector in 2022:

Allocating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to creative businesses, nonprofits and individual artists across the City of Cleveland who have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic will act as both a substantive and symbolic effort in the new administration’s support of the creative and cultural economy. We recommend working with Assembly for the Arts and Cuyahoga Arts & Culture to bring this funding distribution to fruition. 


2: Center Arts and Culture in Racial Equity and Inclusion and Other City-wide Planning by:

2a. Integrate arts and culture into city task forces addressing Racism as a Public Health Crisis  

2b. Integrate arts and culture into efforts around improving internal city affairs processes including government policies contributing to the systemic racism, siloed departments, city staff communications and morale, slow response rates for residents and others 

2c. Partner with arts and cultural groups to enhance public safety efforts 

2e. Prioritize neighborhood cultural preservation 

3: Expand the City’s Definition of Arts and Culture:

Cleveland’s arts and culture sector and creative industries represent a broad range of individuals, cultures, institutions, organizations, disciplines, events and experiences. Recognizing and understanding the contributions that all parts of the creative ecosystem make to our city’s vibrancy, economic development and overall progress will be key when developing an effective narrative of Cleveland as an arts-rich city 

3a. Include individual artists, creative for-profit businesses and arts and culture nonprofits in the city department scope of work 

3b. Recognize an expanded range of creative disciplines in city-wide arts and culture planning decisions, including but not limited to craft, dance, design, film, literature, media, music, performance, theatre and visual arts 

4: Develop a Cohesive Multi-Disciplinary Arts Programming Agenda including:

4a. Establish a City of Cleveland Artist in Residence program 

4b. Sustain public art programming including funding for the established Mural My Neighborhood program 

4c. Support BIPOC Creative workers through commissions, grants and fellowships 

4d. Build a cohesive arts events communication structure. Continue and build upon arts programming from the prior administration 

5: Elevate and Protect Creative Workers Driving Neighborhood Development: 

The arts and culture communities have been core partners in the successful redevelopment of Cleveland’s most notable destination neighborhoods like Tremont, Gordon Square, and the Waterloo Arts District. Artists and creative businesses are often the driving forces and pioneers for these redevelopment efforts. We recommend a coordinated effort to mitigate gentrification and the displacement of the creative people and businesses in these and other developing areas. 

5a. Work within community development programs and policies to extend support to artists and creative businesses 

5b. Invest in arts spaces for necessary accessibility-related infrastructure updates

5c. consider a reduced tax rate for the sale of artwork and tax abatements for renovation 

5d. Consider piloting programs to standardize wages and guarantee basic income for creative workers  

5e. Address the admissions tax for small and mid-size music venues 

5f. Reduce restrictive permitting and lessen bureaucracy for events, such as  outdoor arts events, busking, and other publicly restricted arts activities 

6: Work Closely with CMSD to Enhance Arts Education:

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) has committed $32M for Year 1 of a District-wide Arts Plan for K-12 students. We recommend the administration support the continuation of this new plan: 

6a. Partner with CMSD’s Director of Arts Education and the Cleveland Arts Education Consortium 

6b. Communicate with large and small arts organizations providing school programming to understand needs 

6c. Support safe and equitable student access to these arts programs during out of school time 

6d. Support the District’s tech needs and purchase of visual art supplies and musical instruments  

7: Brand Cleveland as an Arts City:

7a. Partner with Destination Cleveland and Assembly for the Arts to expand and better define arts promotion 

7b. Include arts and culture prominently on the City’s website  

7c. Promote a developed narrative that speaks to the power of arts and culture and its importance within the city and across sectors 

The following items are recommended as priority goals for the City Arts and Culture Liaison and corresponding staff structure 

Quarterly Assemblies

With a vision of ensuring that everyone benefits from a diverse and equitable arts and culture sector, we invite the people of Greater Cleveland to assemble for our quarterly state of the arts.

Quarterly Assemblies

Stay up to date on the most recent creative-industry-wide information over a meal and good company. Each quarter, we share updates on industry data trends, public policy, artist funding, racial equity initiatives, and more. As Assembly continues its work to expand resources and increase equity in Cleveland’s arts and culture scene, weigh-in on what you’d like to see. Share your voice and join the discussion by offering feedback. This event is for anyone, whether you work directly or indirectly with the arts industry. Attendees typically include artists, arts administrators, creative businesses, public officials, and anyone interested in connecting with the arts and cultural industries.

Each Assembly is held a different venue each month. Sign up for the Cadence to get receive updates on content and location as we approach the date.

And as always, if you have time after the discussion, stick around with us and continue networking with the amazing folks in our creative fields.

2024 Assemblies

(tentative schedule)

Thursday, March 7, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., at moCa

Wednesday, June 5, 6-7:30 pm., The Hildebrandt Building

Thursday, September 5, 11:30 – 1:00 p.m., location TBA

Wednesday, December 4, 6-7:30 pm., location TBA


Quarterly meetings are $15 and include a lunch or dinner. Members attend for free; login before you register. Topics of each Assembly vary as we shift direction, services, advocacy, and organizational output to meet community needs.

View Calendar

ARPA Funding Program

Funding Status Notifications were emailed on November 8, 2022 to all applicants of the Cuyahoga ARPA for Arts program through Assembly for the Arts.

Notifications were sent to the email address provided in your application. Be sure to check your spam and junk email folders.

If you submitted an application and have not received a Funding Status Notification, please contact

If you received your Funding Status Notification and have questions about receiving your relief funds, please carefully review the materials included in your award email. If your questions are still unanswered, please email Due to the influx of inquiries and attention to detail required to process funds responsibly, staff will not be returning phone calls unless immediate action is required.

Notes about receiving your ARPA relief funds

Watch this video to walk through completing forms and

Complete Your Forms

All artists and businesses receiving funds must complete and submit a W-9 form to process their payment. You can do this one of two ways:

Direct Deposit

  • Your ARPA funds can be received through direct deposit (ACH)
  • You must either complete the ACH Form or disable the form included with your electronic W-9 to move to the next payment step. To disable the form, click the Opt-out button at the bottom of the direct deposit instructions page.
  • All ARPA funds recipients will receive an email invite through to process your payment as a direct deposit. PLEASE NOTE – you will not receive this invite until Assembly has your completed W-9 form

Other Options

  • You can choose to submit your W-9 by mail (see address above) and receive a paper check.
  • All paper checks will be processed after direct deposit payments
  • Paper checks can take up to two weeks to reach you, after Assembly has received and processed your complete and accurate W-9 by mail

Applications are now closed

The deadline to apply for these funds was September 30, 2022

View GuidelinesArtist Application (ARCHIVED)Business Application (ARCHIVED)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

I applied but can’t find my funding notification email. Where is it?

All applicants of the Cuyahoga ARPA for Arts program were emailed a final funding status update on November 8, 2022 from Assembly. These notifications were sent to the email address you supplied in your application. If you’re unable to locate your email notification, please be sure to check your spam, junk and promotions folders. You can also search “ARPA” or “Assembly” in your email search bar. All notifications came from

I don’t have any checks. How do I include a voided check with my ACH form?

If you do not have any checks, please take a screenshot of your banking routing number and account number from your banking mobile app. You can also request starter checks from your bank, most banks will give those out for free.

If you’re still having trouble, please Disable the ACH form using the button at the bottom of the direct deposit instructions page included with your DocuSign forms.

I submitted my DocuSign documents. Did Assembly receive them?

If you were able to complete, electronically sign and click the submit button, your documents were successfully submitted! If you saw a pop-up confirmation when you clicked Submit, you’re all set. You may not receive a DocuSign confirmation email, but do not worry, it is likely your documents were still received successfully.

Please do not contact Assembly offices for a document receipt confirmation or submit a second DocuSign packet. Doing so will delay your payment. An Assembly team member will reach out to you directly if there is an issue with your payment information. So no news from Assembly is good news.

I submitted my DocuSign documents. Where’s my invite from

Please hang tight. Within approximately 7-10 business days your W-9 will be processed. Once processed, you will receive an email from inviting you to create an account. All Bill .com invites will come from Bill. com, not Assembly. Please DO NOT create a Bill .com account without having received this invitation. Getting an auto-reply email from Assembly after emailing ARPA is not an invitation to Bill .com. Please monitor your inbox carefully.

Please also keep in mind that Assembly is a small staff and is processing hundreds of W-9s; invites will be sent on a rolling basis as all applicant paperwork is processed.

When will I receive my ARPA funds?

Funding distribution timing will vary depending on when your payment information is received and processed. Please do not call Assembly offices to inquire about disbursement timing.

ARPA payments will be disbursed on a rolling basis depending on when your information is received and processed. We are working hard to ensure that all payments go out as quickly as possible.

When should I contact Assembly about ARPA?

If you have not received a Bill .com invite or further information to process your payment by December 1, 2022, email If you have not received your ARPA funds disbursement by December 15, 2022, please email us at the address above.

If you are having tech difficulties with any platform or require assistance due to a disability, please contact

About Rescue Funds

On March 28th, Cuyahoga County Executive, Armond Budish announced that $3.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds have been dedicated to arts and culture .

Assembly for the Arts and Cuyahoga Arts & Culture partnered to distribute these dollars directly to the community through special relief funding programs for nonprofit organizations, individual artists and creative businesses. You can still Tweet, email and thank your County reps for their support and consideration.

Assembly will distribute $1.65 million of these funds to Artists and Creative For-Profit Businesses. Nonprofit Organizations were invited to apply for funds through Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. Visit CAC’s website for more information on their ARPA funding program.