Health and Safety

Cleveland is known for its strong health and human services sector. In addition, Cleveland has a very dynamic arts and culture scene. In a number of ways, the arts and health sectors are working together and improving our personal, and broader community’s, health and well-being. From expressive arts therapies and healthcare facility design to community public health engagement and arts-infused medical education, the arts and health sectors are coming together to benefit us in a number of ways at this Cleveland creative intersection.

Creative Minds in Medicine

White paper and case studies illustrating arts and health intersections in Cleveland. 2014

Cleveland is fortunate to be home to world-class healthcare and arts and culture assets. Increasingly, these sectors are developing creative intersections and partnerships which are impacting individual and community health and well-being. From expressive arts therapies and the design of healthcare environments to addressing public health issues and enriching medical education through the arts, Creative Minds in Medicine explores a broad range of Cleveland’s arts and health intersections and poses recommendations for strengthening them in the future. Learn more about this innovative work through six case studies, which demonstrate how Cleveland’s arts and health practitioners are creating positive outcomes for individuals while also leading our city to a healthier future.

Reopen Every Venue Safely (REVS) Cleveland/Akron

Guidelines and best practices for live music venues in Cleveland/Akron as part of the national Reopen Every Venue Safely (REVS) campaign.

With COVID-19 came the shutdown of many businesses. While most places reopened late spring/early summer, live music venues remained closed. In the midst of COVID-19, live music venues have often been called the first to close and the last to open due to the many concerns around the safety of live music. To work towards reopening local live music venues safely, in May, Cleveland/Akron got involved in the Reopen Every Every Venue Safely (REVS) initiative launched by Music Cities Together. This initiative is focused on helping venues open as safely and as soon as possible by providing best practices and guidelines. The best practices and guidelines you will read below were built from meetings and discussions between Arts Cleveland and local music venue owners and directors, musicians, and public health professionals.

At Its Very Best

At Its Very Best is a commissioned short documentary by local artist, Donald Black Jr. Interviews begin to illustrate the impact of violence and what the arts can do in the lives of those affected by trauma. In partnership with Arts Cleveland, he interviews youth, educators, healthcare providers and public safety experts.

After the 13-minute video was released in December of 2018, Black spoke on his experience creating the video and invited a conversation. Scroll down to watch the full video.

A woman in the audience recalled drawing quite a bit when she was growing up. The arts, she said, kept her and her friends, many of whom lived under the poverty line, out of trouble. As an adult, she was working with a group of kids who were labeled “troubled” or “bad.” They were given paintbrushes and asked to paint a mural for a daycare center. She had her doubts that the project would be taken seriously, but something amazing happened. To her surprise, these kids, some from gangs, others from rough areas, and all from different backgrounds worked together on this project with a camaraderie she hadn’t seen from them before.

It was a great example of what we are trying to say with the video. While editing the documentary, Black, who was himself defined by his art-making, was continuously listening for something to hit on a very personal level. What stood out, and ultimately became the title, was something said by Toni Starinsky late in the video. She was Black’s photography teacher in high school who he describes as “a white person who has really been in the mud.” In her interview, she says, “If arts does anything, it should teach thinking, empathy, and give children hope. That’s what it does at its very best.” Throughout his life, art acted as the counterbalance to what violence did to Black. He didn’t realize at the time that he was healing himself with art because it was happening in a very subconscious way. But the longer he has created art, the more he has realized its impact on his life. “For Starinsky to say that at its very best, art can heal some simple ails, that’s what this is all about.”

As an adult and successful artist, Black wants to be in the neighborhood where he grew up for precisely this reason. He was being pulled in other directions including his life in New York and neighborhoods throughout Cleveland he called “white bubbles,” but he was committed to being present in his own community.

As a kid, Black grew up on the southeast side of Cleveland. From 7th grade on, he had to ride the RTA from his neighborhood to Cleveland School of the Arts, where he was a student. “There was a huge divide between what was going on where I was living and what was happening where I was going.” Black wants to make the community where he grew up a place for people visit to see artwork, and a place for black kids growing up in urban communities to see and experience artwork. His now owns a building on Kinsman. It allows him to be there when people want him, especially young people.

About his murals in the neighborhood that stand roughly 20 or 30 feet tall, Black adds that he wants his little cousin to feel as big and tall as those murals they see themselves in. “Kids say, ‘That’s me in the mural.’ There are lots of young people showing up,” and he and the art are there when they need him.