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.


Cleveland Arts Prize Announces 2021 Award Winners

(Cleveland, Ohio) — Cleveland Arts Prize Board of Trustees announce the 2021 Award Winners in the following categories:


Emerging Artist awarded to two artists currently living in Northeast Ohio who have already created significant work or projects and show remarkable promise for further development of their artistic careers.

Mourning [A] BLKstar (Music)

James Longs - vocals, LaToya Kent - vocals, Kyle Kidd - vocals, Dante Foley - drums, Theresa May - trumpet, Pete Saudek - Guitar/keys, William Washington - trombone, RA Washington - samplers/bass

Mourning [A] BLKstar is a collective of musicians, writers and multimedia artists formed in Cleveland, Ohio. In dialogue with Hip Hop production techniques and live instrumentation, M[A]B bears witness to the pathways and frequencies that have sustained the African Diaspora and beyond. Since 2016, Mourning [A] BLKstar has received critical acclaim for their five recordings and had the opportunity to share bills and tour in support of some of this generation's most amazing musical outfits including US Girls, Oshun, Algiers, Kyp Malone (TV On The Radio/Ice Balloons), and the legendary Doom Gospel pioneers, ONO.

In 2019, M[A]B performed at The Kennedy Center in the nation's capital and their fourth full length release, Reckoning was released by Don Giovanni Records to rave reviews. The Wire Magazine's Neil Kulkarni said this about the collective's work - "It is, impossibly, even better than Garner and one of the finest albums of 2019 thus far, from a band whose importance is fast becoming evident."

In 2020, M[A]B released a double album entitled, The Cycle which garnered the collective massive praise from NPR All Songs Considered, AFROPUNK, and The Wire Magazine.

Lauren Yeager (Visual Arts)

Lauren Yeager (born 1987 in Nashville, Tennessee; lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio) is a conceptual artist working in sculpture and photography. Utilizing found objects and landscapes, she preserves the identities of these familiar components while reconfiguring them into abstract compositions. The works have the ability to fluctuate between contexts, to be both formal works and relics of personal histories and daily monotony.

Yeager is the recipient of the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award 2019 and 2021. Her works have been exhibited extensively throughout Cleveland, with notable exhibitions including FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, 2018. Women to Watch: Ohio, Reinberger Galleries, 2015. Realization is Better than Anticipation, MOCA Cleveland, 2013, and currently Sculpture Milwaukee 2021, for which she recently completed four outdoor sculpture
commissions. Her works are included in the collections of the Cleveland Clinic, Metro-Health, Worthington Yards, and the Progressive Collection. She holds a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and is represented by Abattoir Gallery in Cleveland.

Mid-Career Artist awarded to two artists who have resided in Northeast Ohio and whose work has received both regional acclaim and national recognition.

Alice Ripley (Theatre & Dance)

Alice Ripley is a Tony award-winning actor and Kent State University alumna. Alice appeared in Playhouse Square as Diana in Next to Normal and Fantine in Les Miserables. Original Broadway Cast credits include: Next to Normal, (Tony award, Best Actress in a Musical), Side Show (Tony nomination), American Psycho, The Rocky Horror Show, James Joyce's The Dead, Sunset Boulevard, The Who's Tommy. Off-Broadway/Regional: The Pink Unicorn (Holmdel Theatre Company), Civil War Christmas (NYTW), Cather County (Playwright's Horizons), Five Flights (Rattlestick Theatre), Sunset Boulevard, (NSMT), Company (Kennedy Center), Television: GIRLBOSS, Blue Bloods, 30 Rock, Hee Haw. Film: The Pink Unicorn, SUGAR!, Isn’t It Delicious, The Adulterer, Sing Along, Muckland, Bear With Us. Cabaret: Ripley Prescription (2019 BWW NJ Award), Unattached (Available on Broadway Records). Original Streaming Music: Drive, Pieces, Calling All Angels, Beautiful Eyes (available on all platforms). Ms. Ripley works on canvas with acrylic and mixed media, and paints and designs digitally. Alice is an accomplished songwriter, playing guitar and drums live with her band, RIPLEY, and on her self-produced records Everything's Fine, OUTTASITE, and RIPLEY EP.

Corrie Slawson (Visual Arts)

Corrie Slawson’s work explores forms and narratives related to social and environmental equity. The Cleveland Heights native earned her BFA at Parsons School of Design in New York and her MFA at Kent State University. Her work has been exhibited in the US and internationally, including at MOCA Cleveland, The Toledo Museum of Art, Akron Art Museum, The Massillon Museum, Centro Culturel de Tijuana, SPACES and in Dresden and Sardinia. She has received two Individual Artist Awards from the Ohio Arts Council (2012 and 2019). With support from SPACES Satellite Fund, The Andy Warhol Foundation and Akron Soul Train, Corrie and a team of NE Ohio-based artists produced Feast: a ballet, the film adaptation of which was awarded a Gold Laurel at the Virgin Spring Cinefest in Kolkata, India. Slawson is part-time faculty in the Painting and Drawing Department at KSU School of Art. Her work is represented by Shaheen Modern and Contemporary Gallery in Cleveland, OH.

Lifetime Achievement awarded to one artist who has worked in Northeast Ohio over a period of decades and whose artistic achievements have brought distinction to the artist individually and to our region as a whole.

Raymond McNiece (Literature)

Ray McNiece has authored eleven books of poems and monologues and CDs, most recently Love Song for Cleveland, a collaboration with photographer Tim Lachina and Breath Burns Away, New Haiku. The Orlando Sentinel reporting on Ray’s solo theater piece “Us — Talking Across America” at the Fringe Festival called him “a modern day descendant of Woody Guthrie.

He has a way with words and a wry sense of humor.” He toured Russia with Yevgeny Yevtushenko, appeared on Good Morning, Russia and performed at the Moscow Polytech, the Russian Poets’ Hall of Fame, where he was described as a born poet and performer. He has toured Italy twice with legendary Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He fronts the band Tongue-in-Groove. Among many awards, he received a Creative Workforce Fellowship and residencies at The Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Jack Kerouac House. He is currently Poet Laureate of Cleveland Heights.


The Robert P. Bergman Prize is awarded to an individual whose life and work are illuminated by an energetic and inspiring dedication to a democratic vision of art. The Bergman Prize recognizes the highest possible expression of art stewardship through long term commitment.

Dr. Joseph J. Garry, Jr.

Joseph Garry’s contributions to Cleveland theater and northeast Ohio are immeasurable. In the early 1970s, Garry’s production of the cabaret-style musical revue Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris was chosen to bring audiences back to PlayhouseSquare—which it did for two-and-a-half years and 550 performances, the longest theatrical run in the state of Ohio. Along with his contributions to PlayhouseSquare theaters, Garry has created and directed numerous record-breaking productions, a travel and arts show on PBS with his late partner David Frazier, “Odysseys & Ovations“, plus 30 original theater scripts which were presented around the world. Garry has staged concerts for legends that include Ray Charles and Rosemary Clooney and was honored to stage Audrey Hepburn’s final tour for UNICEF. He has lectured at international theater conferences from Bombay to Budapest.

As head of the Theater Department at CSU, Joe served as a professor and mentor to generations of students. He received an Honorary Doctorate from Baldwin Wallace for his 30 years of contributions to the theater program as director, lecturer, and author. In 2014, Garry was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Cleveland Play House. He received the prestigious PlayhouseSquare President's Award in 2012 and continues the 48-year relationship as host of the “Broadway Buzz” lectures that precede most performances in PlayhouseSquare’s Broadway Series.

The Martha Joseph Prize is awarded to an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to the vitality and stature of the arts in Northeast Ohio through exceptional commitment, vision, leadership, and/or philanthropy.

Sean Watterson

Sean Watterson is a passionate advocate for artists and the arts. He’s a co-founder and co-owner of The Happy Dog, an independent live music venue and community gathering place, where he has hosted thousands of musicians, academics, artists, poets, comics and storytellers over the past thirteen years. He has served on the boards of the Cleveland Arts Prize, Arts Cleveland, and the Gordon Square Arts District locally, and spearheaded the effort in Ohio on behalf of the National Independent Venue Association to Save Our Stages - an effort that led to the passage of the largest arts funding bill in the history of the United States, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to Ohio’s independent venues, performing arts centers, museums and movie theaters. He champions the importance of individual artists and small businesses, and is an advocate for broadening traditional concepts of arts & culture to include the creative industries and creative workforce.

The Barbara S. Robinson Prize is awarded to an individual or organization for extraordinary commitment to advancement of the arts through leadership in public policy, legislation, arts education and community development.

Clara Rankin

Clara Rankin has spent a lifetime in service to the Cleveland community and beyond. Among numerous honors, CIM bestowed upon Rankin the “Women’s Committee Distinguished Service Award.” Rankin has served as a major contributor to, and volunteer for institutions including CMA where she has been a member of the Women’s Council since 1950 and joined the Museum's Board in 1967. She is now an active CMA Life Trustee Board Member. Clara has long supported the museum including the campaign for the acquisition of Asian Art and specifically, the Galleries of Chinese Art named in her honor.

Clara made significant contributions to the conception, planning and creation of Hopewell, a nonprofit residential therapeutic farm community providing nature-based care for adults reaching for mental well-being, which she founded in 1993.

Rankin was recognized as a member of Crain’s Cleveland’s “80 Over 80” in 2017 and the YWCA in 2013 as their “Lifetime Achievement Award” having broken barriers and shattered stereotypes. She is the recipient of the Goff Philanthropic Leadership Award and Hathaway Brown’s Distinguished Alumnae Heads Award for her work at organizations in Greater Cleveland and beyond. A longtime supporter of The Cleveland Orchestra and an avid concert goer, Rankin has been a Cleveland Orchestra Board Trustee for nearly twenty-five years. Special Citation presented by Cleveland Arts Prize Trustees to an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the arts and culture of Northeast Ohio.

Franz Welser-Möst

Franz Welser-Möst is among today’s most distinguished and recognized conductors. The 2021-22 season marks his twentieth year as music director of The Cleveland Orchestra, with their partnership extended to 2027, making him the longest-serving musical leader in the ensemble’s history. The New York Times has declared Cleveland under Welser-Möst’s direction to be “America’s most brilliant orchestra,” praising its virtuosity, elegance of sound, variety of color, and chamber-like musical cohesion.

With Welser-Möst, The Cleveland Orchestra has been praised for inventive programming, ongoing support for new musical works, and innovative work in presenting semi-staged and staged operas. The Orchestra has also been hugely successful in building up a new and, notably, young audience with its Center for Future Audiences programs. In 2020, they launched the ensemble’s own recording label and a brand-new digital streaming platform (Adella) to continue and extend sharing their artistry globally. The 2020-21 season inaugurated an original, global, digital concert series titled In Focus.

2021 Jury Members

Felise Bagley (CAP ‘15), Tizziana Baldenebro, Dr. Adam Banks, Cindy Barber (CAP ‘07), Sheba Marcus Bey, Christi Birchfield (CAP ‘17), Raymond Bobgan (CAP ‘14), Bill Busta (CAP ‘14), Michele Crawford, Eric Coble (CAP ‘07), Michael Dalby, Derin Fletcher, Helen Forbes Fields (CAP ‘20) , Dr. Adrienne Gosselin, Erin Guido, Jason Hanley, Ph.D., Maria Restrepo Hamilton, Peter Lawson Jones, Esq., Sarah Kabot (CAP ‘17), Yolanda Kondonassis (CAP ‘11), Jonathan Kurtz (CAP ‘12), Lisa Kurzner, James Levin (CAP ‘12), Karen Long, Dave Lucas (CAP ‘16), Robert Maschke, FAIA (CAP ‘11), Dianne McIntyre (CAP ‘06), Jeff Niesel, John Orlock, Dee Perry (CAP ‘16), Gabriel Pollack, Megan Reich, Brad Ricca (CAP ‘14), Jan Ridgeway, Judith Salomon (CAP ‘90), Jeffery Strean, Arnold Tunstall, Doug Utter (CAP ‘13), Andrew Valdez, Mary Weems, Ph.D. (CAP ‘15), John Williams (CAP ‘18)

61st Annual Awards Event

Cleveland Museum of Art | Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The 61st Annual Awards Event will feature performances from past Arts Prize winners and the presentation of the 2021 Cleveland Arts Prize Award winners. The ceremony is held in the Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. Discipline winners receive an unrestricted prize of $10,000. Special Prize awards are honorary. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available now at

About Cleveland Arts Prize

The Cleveland Arts Prize (CAP), founded by the Women’s City Club of Cleveland in 1960, is the oldest award of its kind in the United States. The Prize is a testament to the standard of excellence and quality of artists in Northeast Ohio. In addition to artists, Cleveland Arts Prize honors individuals and organizations that have expanded the role of the arts in the community. Since its inception, CAP has honored over 350 artists and arts leaders. Today, CAP continues as a trusted, peer-directed arbiter and guardian of the city’s creative history. Through its prize winners, CAP is the nucleus of Northeast Ohio’s arts and culture legacy and the living archive of our community’s triumphs. CAP is proud to honor and support them. For more information or to contribute to the Annual Artist Prize Fund visit