Opinion: Investments in artists pay dividends for regional economy

Source: Crain’s Cleveland Forum

Date: August 28, 2023

Abstract: Arts and culture play an outsized role in the economic and social vibrancy of Greater Cleveland. Some $9.1 billion is generated annually by Northeast Ohio’s creative economy industry — a mix of nonprofits, cultural businesses and individual artists — according to pre-pandemic research from Ohio Citizens for the Arts.

Read Full Op Ed

Cleveland names Rhonda K. Brown its first arts czar

Source: ideastream

Date: June 15, 2023


Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb announced Thursday the city’s first senior strategist for arts, culture and the creative economy.

Shaker Heights native Rhonda K. Brown most recently served as president at the City Colleges of Chicago Foundation. The Ohio State University graduate previously held development roles at Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet and Museum of Science and Industry. An artist herself, her parents founded the first for-profit, Black-owned fine art gallery in the country in 1980 in Shaker Heights.

Read Full Article

Ohio could reverse course on potential Cuyahoga County vape tax, allow higher tax on cigarettes

Source: Cleveland.com

Date: June 26, 2023


COLUMBUS, Ohio—State lawmakers are considering rolling back a recent state law designed to raise more money from Cuyahoga County’s cigarette tax, though they’re seeking a replacement plan that could bring in even more revenue by allowing an increase in the tax rate itself.

Read full article here: https://www.cleveland.com/news/2023/06/ohio-could-reverse-course-on-potential-cuyahoga-county-vape-tax-allow-higher-tax-on-cigarettes.html

Cleveland creatives boost arts entrepreneurship as city looks to pump up arts economy

Source: The Land

Date: April 25, 2023


It’s a cliche that artists can’t make a living, but Cleveland creatives are ramping up efforts to help each other avoid that fate. As the city prepares to use a $250,000 Cleveland Foundation grant to hire a full-time senior strategist for arts, culture and creative economy to help foster an arts economy here, local artists are working to boost the entrepreneurial power of their creative community.

Read the Full Article

Arts group hopes grants will spur change in long-ignored neighborhoods in Greater Cleveland

Source: Signal Cleveland

Date: April 14, 2023


Few people associate redlining and art. Assembly for the Arts says that redlined communities often lack arts investment, including “areas of significant arts activity” that can help make a neighborhood more walkable. Assembly’s Creative Impact Fund (CIF), which is accepting applications through May 7, will award $6,250 grants to artists and artist collectives to create “transformative arts projects” in 16 Greater Cleveland communities.

Read Full Article

Where Cleveland artists can affordably live and create is up for discussion Thursday

Source: ideastream

Date: April 10, 2023


Greater Cleveland’s creative sector, still recovering from the pandemic, is considering where it will live and work in the future. A recent survey of Cuyahoga County artists receiving ARPA funding found that 79% were concerned about having enough money to pay bills. A panel discussion Thursday brings together artists, community leaders and real estate professionals focused on ways to make housing and creative space more accessible and affordable.

Read Full Article

Assembly for the Arts Opens Applications for ARPA Funding


August 22, 2022 

Media Contact:
Malissa Bodmann


Artists, for-profit creative businesses are eligible to apply 

CLEVELAND, OHIO — Assembly for the Arts announced today that applications are open for creative workers and for-profit creative businesses to apply for funding made possible by American Rescue Plan Act through Cuyahoga County Council and the County Executive. 

Assembly for the Arts and Cuyahoga Arts & Culture worked collaboratively to secure support from Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and County Council President Pernel Jones, Jr. County Council approved $3.3 million, which was evenly split between Assembly and CAC ($1.65 Million to each). 

Assembly will award funding ranging up to $2,500 per artist and up to $45,000 for businesses, depending on annual revenue. Professional creative artists aged 18 and older who live in Cuyahoga County and have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for these ARPA funds. For-profit creative arts business headquartered in Cuyahoga County that have lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for these ARPA funds. Visit https://assemblycle.org/arpa/ for eligibility guidelines and application. 

“The arts and culture sector was the hardest hit of all industries during the pandemic,” said Jeremy Johnson, President and CEO of Assembly for the Arts. “We know this ARPA funding will help artists and small creative businesses get back on their feet to reignite the diverse cultural jobs and services that are the backbone of a $1.9B creative regional economy.” 

Assembly will hold a series of information sessions on the application process for artists and for-profit creative businesses. Visit https://assemblycle.org/arpa/ for more information. 

About Assembly for the Arts: Assembly for the Arts is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that serves as a unifying voice for greater Cleveland’s creative sector. Assembly strengthens and supports those who create, present, experience and appreciate all forms of arts and culture. The organization is attentive to the needs and impact of BIPOC artists, nonprofits, and small creative businesses. Assembly seeks to expand the pie of financial, technical, and capacity support for the arts and cultural sector; and increase equity for BIPOC and historically disadvantaged communities within the sector. For more information, visit AssemblyCLE.org. 

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 

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 arpa@assemblycle.org

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 arpa@assemblycle.org. 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 BILL.com.

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 Bill.com 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 arpa@assemblycle.org.

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 Bill.com?

Please hang tight. Within approximately 7-10 business days your W-9 will be processed. Once processed, you will receive an email from Bill.com 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 @assemblycle.org 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; Bill.com 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 arpa@assemblycle.org. 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 arpa@assemblycle.org.

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.

Get Involved

Get Involved

Learn from Issues

If you are interested in being more politically active, or at least more publicly engaged, the best place to start is by building the foundation.  CPAC has developed some content on arts- and culture-related policy that provides a good place to start.

Know Your Public Officials - and What They Are About

For many of us, our interaction with our public officials ends when we submit our ballot; however engaging in our community leaders’ decisions should not stop there. Public officials are in place to represent our best interests. As their constituents, we should take the time to learn more about them. What are her goals? What is his voting record? What is on the agenda at the next public meeting? Before you send an email or make a phone call to share your opinion, remember that public officials were put in place because of their own values and decision-making strategies. Understand where your representative is coming from and learn more about the issues they care about. Once you have that knowledge, you will be in a much better position to share how your interests may align with their goals and the goals of your community.

Become an Artist Activist

Once you have the knowledge you need, make your move. We talked a lot about being an artist activist in our From Rust Belt to Artist Belt 2 conference; here are some key strategies you can follow to be successful:

Start early

  • Start early; and if you can’t, do not let that discourage you from starting at all
  • Officials are sometimes the obstacles, so work on campaigns and become involved in the political process to help get the best ones elected
  • Familiarize yourself with the bureaucratic process

Bring the arts to them

  • Bring public officials into direct contact with the arts by inviting them to special events, adding them to your mailing lists and regular sending press releases to them
  • Counter misinformation and stereotypes of artists and the artistic community

Get a group together

  • Put together a coalition among peers to build consensus on which policy goals to prioritize
  • Reach out to everyone, even those who may not be known arts supporters; you never know what passion or connection they may harbor for the arts
  • Enlist the help of friends with additional connections and form strategic alliances

Refine your message

  • Make sure what you are asking is doable. Be united around a workable and well-thought-out plan. Use data to support your case or demonstrate economic benefits like job creation.
  • Strategically frame your cause to appeal to the broader community in order to get the attention of public officials. Communicate the benefits of your plan so they can understand and help you communicate its value.
  • Presenting your message may be even more important than the message itself. Tell moving and interesting stories to help you appeal to the human side (as opposed to the data-driven side) of officials.
  • Don’t be discouraged if you are not initially heard. Persevere and build a bigger voice by collaborating. As you build your movement, check to see if you are advocating for the same end goal as a larger group or sector. Use their size to help you win support for the cause.  You may have to give up a little control to achieve a mutual end result; however, a success after all your efforts will be worth it.

Build relationships

  • Establish relationships with key leaders like government administrators and elected officials before you need something
  • Ask good questions, especially those that help you figure out the official’s taste in the arts. What would motivate her to help? What end result he trying to achieve?
  • Ask for advice and referrals.  This will enable you to reach more people  and will add buy-in for your public official
  • Find common ground, make a connection and help your officials realize the win-win for you and their constituents