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 

Integrate arts and culture into city taskforces addressing Racism as a Public Health Crisis  

2a. 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 

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

2c. 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 

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 


Assemble for a Unified Voice

Designed to keep us accountable and keep you in the know.

Assembly was created to build unity among greater Cleveland’s arts and culture fields so that we can make an even bigger impact in our communities. To help shift the power dynamics often seen in institutions, Assembly’s founding Board members built in a mechanism for consistent and open dialogue with community. These dialogues create space for peer creative businesses, artists, and cultural nonprofits to discuss their collective work toward a greater Cleveland.

Stay current and provide consistent input and timely feedback to Assembly about what you want to see from your service organization.

Quarterly meetings are free and open to all. Topics of each Assembly vary as we shift direction, services, advocacy, and organizational output to meet community needs.

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ARPA Funding Program

Rescue Funds

Assembly is currently working with Cuyahoga County to develop an equitable model to distribute ARPA rescue funds to creative workers and businesses. More information will be posted here as it becomes available. Sign up to receive emails as news unfolds and applications become available. Read more below.

Cuyahoga County ARPA Allocations

Cuyahoga County has proposed an allocation of $3.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to help bolster the creative economy, County Executive Armond Budish and County Council President Pernel Jones, Jr. recently announced.

The relief funding was secured through a collaborative effort of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) and Assembly for the Arts.

Following approval by County Council, funds will be evenly divided between CAC and Assembly for the Arts. CAC will develop guidelines for distribution to eligible CAC nonprofit grant recipients that have a primary mission of arts and culture. Assembly will similarly develop guidelines for distribution to arts-related small businesses and creative workers.


Cuyahoga County to Award $3.3 Million in American Rescue Plan Act Funds to Cuyahoga Arts & Culture and Assembly for the Arts

Cuyahoga County to Award $3.3 Million in American Rescue Plan Act Funds to Cuyahoga Arts & Culture and Assembly for the Arts

Funds will be distributed to support arts nonprofits, creative workers, and for-profit creative businesses

CLEVELAND (March 28, 2022) – Cuyahoga County has proposed an allocation of $3.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to help bolster the creative economy, County Executive Armond Budish and County Council President Pernel Jones, Jr. announced today.

The relief funding was secured through a collaborative effort of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) and Assembly for the Arts. Following approval by County Council, funds will be evenly divided between CAC and Assembly for the Arts. CAC will develop guidelines for distribution to eligible CAC nonprofit grant recipients that have a primary mission of arts and culture. Assembly will similarly develop guidelines for distribution to arts-related small businesses and creative workers.

“The economic vitality of our region depends on the revival of creative workers–individual artists, cultural nonprofits and for-profit cultural businesses. The County’s investment will help bring us back from historic losses.  We thank the County Executive and County Council for channeling resources to strengthen the creative sector. As we have seen with prior investments in arts and culture organizations, each dollar invested increases the size of the overall pie” said Jeremy Johnson, president of Assembly for the Arts.

CAC’s Executive Director Jill M. Paulsen said the funding is critically important to the hard-hit arts and culture sector in the county. A CAC report on the impact of COVID on the nonprofit arts sector in the county shows 65 organizations that receive support from CAC have lost $171 million in revenue and more than 5,000 workers have been laid off, furloughed, or faced reduced hours since March 2020. Prior to the pandemic, the creative economy in the Cleveland MSA generated $9.1 billion annually.

“The creative economy is core to the identity of Cuyahoga County, and it has been slower than other industries to begin to recover from the pandemic. We appreciate County Executive Budish, County Council President Jones and other leadership at the county for recognizing the importance of arts and culture and for understanding the needs of nonprofit organizations of all sizes,” Paulsen said. “Every bit of funding helps nonprofits arts organizations recover so they can serve the community well into the future.”

Cleveland artists ask for a portion of ARPA funds from city council in a colorful way: postcards

Source: News 5 Cleveland


CLEVELAND — You’ll find no shortage of art from Cleveland’s West Side to its East Side, it enriches thoroughfares and fills the seats in local theaters. Painters, photographers, poets and performers showed up at Cleveland City Council’s meeting to tell city leaders that they need help and funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

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Assembly for the Arts plans Cleveland City Hall rally advocating for $10M in federal COVID relief for the arts



CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Assembly for the Arts, the nonprofit umbrella group for Cleveland’s nonprofit and for-profit cultural industries, is pushing City Council to allocate $10 million of the city’s $511 million in federal COVID relief money to the arts.

They planned to deliver more than 500 artist-designed postcards representing constituents from across the city’s 17 wards during a Monday evening rally at City Hall.

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Cleveland artists lobby for ARPA relief funds with postcard campaign

Source: Ideastream


Cleveland-area artists plan to rally on the steps of City Hall Monday. This group of painters, photographers and others are using their skills to convince officials to allocate federal pandemic relief funds to support the arts.

The advocacy organization Assembly for the Arts tapped the talents of local artists to produce a series of postcards, each bearing an illustration and making the case for a $10 million share of the city’s $511 million allotment of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

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ASSEMBLE at City Hall


Thank you to all who helped make our Artists for ARPA campaign possible these past few weeks. We’ve made amazing progress in such a short amount of time! We’re gathering, one last time before the vote, in front of City Hall on Monday, March 28th at 6:30 PM in support of allocating 2% of ARPA funds for the arts. We invite you as well as all of our creative Clevelanders and supporters of the arts to ASSEMBLE with us. We would love to see you there!


  • Artists
  • Non-profit professionals
  • Creative business professionals
  • Arts & culture advocates


Rally in support of Artists for ARPA


Monday, March 28th at 6:30 PM

Personal View: A Rescue Plan for Cleveland's Creative Communities

Source: Crain’s Cleveland


What makes a neighborhood vibrant? A vibrant community is filled with jobs, creativity, art, music, theater, dance and voices that represent our diversity and experiences. In the coming months, Cleveland will have an opportunity to reinject vibrancy into communities harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a working artist in Cleveland, I’m joining hundreds of local artists to ask the Cleveland City Council and Mayor Justin Bibb to invest a portion of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds into arts and culture. Cleveland’s rebound from COVID requires an investment not only in public safety, health and human services, but also in the creative sector. Artists, creative businesses and cultural nonprofits form the backbone of Cleveland’s economic vibrancy.

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Two Cents: Creatives Campaign for a Slice of Cleveland's Rescue Plan Funds

Source: FreshWater


Before the pandemic, Ohio’s creative sector generated $9.1 billion for the economy and accounted for more than 65,000 jobs, according to Ohio Citizens for the Arts’ 2018 report, Ohio’s Creative Economy: The Economic Impact of Arts & Creative Industries.

When COVID-19 arrived in 2020, Cleveland’s creative community was the first to shut down and has been the last to return to any sense of normalcy. Even now, the region’s creative community continues to suffer, says Jeremy Johnson, president and CEO of Assembly for the Arts, the nonprofit organization focused on increasing equity in Cleveland’s arts and culture industries.

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