Photos: Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization; Baldwin Wallace University Community Art School; Karamu House; Refresh Collective
Unprecedented. Devastating. Unlike any other. These are just a few of the words that came to mind when we reflected on 2020. For many, the past year carries a weight that cannot be put into words easily. For our arts and cultural community, the COVID-19 pandemic caused devastation that simply cannot be compared.
Artists and nonprofits lost jobs and crucial revenue as events and programs were canceled.
Friends and family lost connections and shared experiences as it became unsafe to gather.
Our creative sector lost momentum and cohesiveness as it navigated uncertainty and change.
As we acknowledge the grief and loss of the past year, we also cannot overlook the fact that our arts and cultural community is the very thing that so many turned to over the past year for healing, connection, and hope. Artists and organizations developed new programs and moved existing programs online – and CAC responded with accelerated funding. See the impact of COVID-19 on 65 Cuyahoga County-based arts and cultural nonprofits as of December 31, 2020 – and see the community response by hovering on the down arrows:
Photo: Progressive Arts Alliance
Photo: Cleveland Institute of Art
Photo: Chagrin Documentary Film Festival
As you navigate this report, we ask that you join us in embracing the mixed emotions. Lean in to the stories of inspiration from groups who embraced the difficulties and created despite challenge. Explore the online and virtual programs that helped us to stay connected, if only through a screen. And join us in recognizing the value of public funding for arts and culture that is strengthening our community.
Delivering Arts Education to Kids’ Doorsteps
Each year, hundreds of campers descend on Baldwin Wallace University’s campus to participate in summer arts education camps. Last year, instead, hundreds of campers unpacked boxes that were shipped right to their doorsteps to provide a camp experience at home.
Faced with the pandemic challenges of 2020, the BW Community Arts School (CAS) staff quickly pivoted and devised the CAS UNBOXED™ program to deliver arts education virtually, shipping hands-on supplies right to a student’s doorstep. Baldwin Wallace University receives a Project Support grant from CAC to support the Community Arts School’s summer programs.
“We asked ourselves, ‘what are things that make people most excited right now?’ and the answer was mail and packages. We knew we needed to stay connected to our students at home,” said Adam Sheldon, BW CAS Director. “That’s how CAS UNBOXED™ was born.”
In 2020, BW CAS faculty led virtual classes that were specifically designed for an online, 5-week format. The virtual program drew students from 12 different states who joined students from Northeast Ohio. They received weekly interactive video lessons and opportunities for personalized feedback from the instructor. The boxes themselves contained everything a student needed to participate in the program.
“Other organizations were doing great online programming but the programs required people to buy supplies. UNBOXED provided everyone with the same baseline of materials,” Sheldon said. “That accessibility was really important to us.”
Putting Interesting Sculptors and Unexpected Works on the Map
What do a tombstone of a formerly enslaved person and the striking pink Malley’s Chocolate silos along Interstate 480 have in common?
In 2020, The Sculpture Center identified them both (and a half-dozen others) as sculptures that occupy public spaces in resonate ways, but that might not conform to traditional notions of sculpture.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Sculpture Center, which receives a General Operating Support grant from CAC, created Cleveland Outdoor Sculpture Reconsidered, an outdoor interactive sculpture tour to allow people to explore the region safely, on their own time.
“The curators wanted to push the boundaries of what sculpture is and to represent women and artists of color, which is why it’s called Cleveland Outdoor Sculpture Reconsidered,” said Grace Chin, Executive Director of The Sculpture Center. “The tour guidebook contains history of the pieces so people can uncover what makes these sculptures interesting.”
Stories such as that of Sara Lucy Bagby Johnson, who in 1861 was the last person to be captured and returned into slavery under the Fugitive Slave Act before coming to Cleveland after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. For 106 years, she was interred in an unmarked grave in Woodland Cemetery until a successful campaign provided a headstone for her plot.
Or those iconic Malley’s silos. The color is similar to Baker-Miller pink, which has been shown to have a calming effect. Erected in 2011, the silos each measure 12 feet wide and 88 feet tall, and can hold up to 100,000 pounds of raw material. Malley’s originally planned to use them to store milk, cocoa, and sugar, but the company nixed that plan before the silos were fully installed.
“In 2020, our exhibitions were outright postponed. We were glad to bring attention to these interesting stories so that people could enjoy them in ways that felt safe to them,” Chin said.
Preserving Cleveland’s Forest City Legacy
Cleveland has been known as the “Forest City” for more than 150 years, but the tree canopy that inspired that distinctive nickname is in danger of disappearing. That’s why Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC) launched the Reforest Our City initiative in 2016 to distribute trees to residents of Cleveland through their Trees4CLE program.
WRLC receives a Project Support grant from CAC, which it uses for its tree stewardship programs. CAC’s definition of “arts and culture” includes nature and science programming.
“Over the last 70 years, Cleveland has lost so much of its tree canopy because of development or lack of maintenance. Today, Cleveland’s total tree canopy is only 18%, and a healthy urban tree canopy should be about 40%. We are trying to halt the decline,” said Ellen Matlock, WRLC Development Officer, Foundations & Corporations.
In 2020, Trees4CLE distributed 250 free trees to residents in the Detroit Shoreway, Union Miles, Mount Pleasant, Buckeye-Shaker, Buckeye-Woodhill, Cudell and Slavic Village neighborhoods, chosen because these communities have been historically under-resourced or redlined.
Residents selected from a variety of small, medium and large native trees, such as flowering dogwoods, eastern red cedars and river birch. WRLC guided residents on how to plant the tree and provides deer caging, staking, mulch and a watering bucket.
COVID-19 presented some outreach challenges, but businesses and libraries stepped up to distribute flyers to residents and find new ways to spread the word.
“We met our goal and didn’t have any trees left over, which speaks to the community’s interest in reforestation efforts,” said Tom Schreiber, WRLC Community Forestry Specialist (AmeriCorp member). “Trees are essential to human health. There are environmental, health and economic benefits to having trees, and our goal is to increase the tree canopy so Cleveland residents reap the health and wellness benefits of trees.”
Strengthening Human Connection in a Virtual Space
Music from movie musicals has the power to be timeless. With passionate fans across the age spectrum, not many can forget earworms like “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music or “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady.
Capitalizing on Northeast Ohio residents’ love of movie musicals, The Musical Theater Project pivoted to online programming to deliver its 2020 children’s and adult programs designed to peel back the layers of popular musicals: Kids Love Musicals! and Let’s Go to the Movies…At Home!.
For Let’s Go to the Movies…At Home!, participants viewed an introduction and the movie on their own schedules, and then meet up online for a live discussion of the movies, such as The Music Man and Stormy Weather. To date, the program has shared 25 movies and have 50 people turn up each week for the discussion, plus several hundred for the intro and film.
Bill Rudman, Founder of The Musical Theater Project, said the decision to pivot to online programming was a no-brainer. “Our staff reconceived educational programs in a completely different medium, and they stepped up to the call quite quickly. Movie musicals have been so important to our culture for so long, and it’s fun to explore them with audiences in a different way,” he said. “Having virtual group discussions allow us to get into deep conversations about how race, class and gender and other social issues are represented in our favorite films.”
When the pandemic threatened the in-person collaborative programming between The Musical Theater Project and The Benjamin Rose Institute, the organizations took advantage of The Musical Theater Project’s virtual programming, which gave seniors an opportunity to chat with others and reminisce. Seniors connected over Camelot and other films during a six-week series conducted over Zoom and the phone.
Allison Morford, Benjamin Rose Development Manager, said arts and culture is part of the programming for seniors. “Arts and culture is very important for older adults in our focus on health and well-being,” she said. “Socialization is meaningful to older adults, and these activities promote reflection and ways to engage with their peers.”
Tracey Dwyer, Managing Director of The Musical Theater Project, said: “What is always underneath everything The Musical Theater Project Does is healing and human connection. It’s all about bringing people together and connecting through song.”
The Musical Theater Project and The Benjamin Rose Institute receive funding from CAC.
The best way we could safely be together last year was on a screen.
In 2020, our creative community of CAC grant recipients created thousands of new programs and events — all online or virtual — to bring arts and culture to the eyes and ears of Cuyahoga County residents. On your computer screen, TV, or phone — here are a few of our favorite programs and events you can connect with, share, and enjoy — all virtually!
2020 Financials (Unaudited)
Arts & Cultural Grantmaking
General & Administrative
Change in Net Position
Net Position Start of 2020
Note: CAC’s 2020 Financials reflect the distribution of $3 million in CARES Act Funds, provided by Cuyahoga County, to 94 arts and cultural nonprofits in Cuyahoga County to help cover necessary expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2021 Grant Recipients
Cuyahoga Arts & Culture is investing more than $12 million in grants to 295 nonprofit organizations in 2021.