Supporting Arts & Culture: As long as it’s safe…

Recently I stumbled across a link to the Cuyahoga Arts & Culture group.  They were offering grants to two programs in the Cleveland area and the grants would be awarded to 2 of 6 finalists based on votes from the community.  Cool.  Thank you once again, Cuyahoga County Library, for turning me on to something else awesome (I’ll get into that more later this week).

Of course I would love to see something new around arts & culture in the area.  I’m always jealous of cities like Pittsburgh who have such strong public art ideals.  I took a look at the projects, many of which sounded like something I could support.  Here’s a quick overview of the finalists (reposted from cacgrants, where you can find video overviews of each project as well):


Lead Organization: LAND studio

Project Partners: Cleveland Public Library, Positively Cleveland, Downtown Cleveland Alliance and others.

This project is a free, multi-day festival of lights in downtown Cleveland’s public spaces to celebrate the recent development boom and “illuminate” changes to our urban landscape. AHA will bring together people from across the region in the spring or summer of 2014 to highlight these beloved public spaces through art installations using light, video projections and live cultural performances by a combination of local, national and international artists.


Lead Organization: Cleveland Museum of Art

Project Partners: The Transformer Station, LAND studio, the Great Lakes Science Center and others.

Celebrate historical, contemporary and emerging image-making during the Cleveland Image Festival in April 2014. Throughout the month, at programs and displays at museums galleries, and public spaces throughout Cuyahoga County, you’ll have a chance to discover and learn how digital image technologies are transforming culture through the widespread accessibility of the Internet and social media. Engage and participate through social media platforms and other avenues in this collaborative project by Cuyahoga County’s leading arts and culture venues.

dancing_wheels3. DARING TO BE “DUMBO”

Lead Organization: Dancing Wheels

Project Partners: WKYC-TV Ch. 3, The Diversity Center of Cleveland, Girl Scouts of America and others.

Led by Dancing Wheels, this project will expand on the dance company’s world premiere performances of the multi-media ballet “Dumbo” (May 6-11, 2013) to create an entertaining and educational TV documentary based on the issues of bullying and social injustice.  Using the life stories of artists and community figures, the documentary will explain how they rose above the ridicule to become successful.  The program will be made into a school assembly program that will be performed at schools and in the community throughout the county.  The documentary will premiere in March 2014 and will air on WKYC-TV Ch. 3 in Northeast Ohio, and outreach programs will take place between April and August 2014.


Lead Organization: Zygote Press, Inc.

Project Partners: LAND studio, St. Clair Superior Community Development Corp., Gordon Square Arts District and others.

This project is a year-long, community-wide collaboration between businesses, artists, commuters, neighborhood residents and city government intended to bridge the east (via Superior Ave.) and west (via Detroit Ave.) side divide of the Detroit-Superior Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.  Between August 2013 and August 2014, EmW will employ a multi-media approach to bridge this gap using sign-painting and artist installations to unite the neighborhoods along this corridor while giving artists the opportunity to work collaboratively with businesses beginning in the Gordon Square Arts District on Detroit and ending at East 55th St. and Superior Ave.

clemuseum_history5. MOBILE ENCOUNTERS

Lead Organization: Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Project Partners: Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, Bike Cleveland and others.

This projectwill temporarily transform two streets in Cleveland into physically active cultural corridors.  Concentrating multiple urban acupuncture points of activity, the temporary interventions will stimulate long-term change, complete with safe bicycle amenities, pop-up shops, reactivated vacant lots, organized play activities and interactive public art installations, which respond to the distinct cultural flavor of each neighborhood.  To take place on Payne Avenue between E. 30th St. and E. 40th St. (May 18 – June 9, 2013), and on Lorain Avenue between W. 41st St. and W. 32nd St. (August 24 – September 14, 2013).


Lead Organization: Cleveland Public Theatre

Project Partners: Cuyahoga County Public Library, Northeast Shores Development Corporation, St. Clair Superior Development Corporation and others.

Cleveland Public Theatre seeks to build on the momentum that inspired Gordon Square Arts District and energize neighborhoods in the process of revitalization.  By commissioning artists to make great performances inspired by neighborhoods, and transforming vacant spaces into exciting new places to make art, we break out of the confines of conventional arts institutions into the community.  A dozen performances throughout Cuyahoga County to take place in vacant commercial, industrial and public spaces are planned, beginning in February 2014, culminating with a festival of performances in July 2014 (performances will be free or pay as you can).

Really cool stuff, right?  I was particularly drawn to the number of projects that were focused on utilizing and revitalizing spaces around Cleveland.  Needless to say, I voted for the last 3 projects for this reason.  They felt bigger than the others and more long-term.  In my mind one of the keys to Cleveland’s success is going to have to be rebuilding of the surrounding neighborhoods.  Who could be against re-purposing the vacant, neglected spaces in area into something more productive than homeless squats and crack houses?  It sounded like fun to have something on a larger scale that would provide an influx of art and connection across town.

It turns out 6,500 people voted in the end.  Doesn’t sound horrible?  Considering there are over 400,000 people in Cuyahoga County it’s a pretty depressing 1.6% of the population.  So, with that little participation (many of whom were probably from the surrounding suburbs and not city, I’m sure) can you hazard a guess as to which two projects won the grants?

The festival of lights and Daring to be Dumbo documentary.  Both sound like fine projects but I am extremely disappointed in the results.  These are “safe”, short-term projects.  A multi-day festival downtown, short-lived and destined to not leave a lasting mark, and a documentary highlighting everyone’s very topic du jour – bullying!  Just what we needed more of!

I realized the common theme in the projects I voted for that most likely turned people off.

“Gordon Square Arts District on Detroit and ending at East 55th St. and Superior Ave.” translated by the upper class arts advocate from Shaker Heights into,  “eww…I don’t want to be going through those neighborhoods.”

“To take place on Payne Avenue between E. 30th St. and E. 40th St. (May 18 – June 9, 2013), and on Lorain Avenue between W. 41st St. and W. 32nd St. (August 24 – September 14, 2013). ” translated by the housewife from Strongsville into, “I’m afraid to go to those areas, let alone take the kids.”

“A dozen performances throughout Cuyahoga County to take place in vacant commercial, industrial and public spaces” translated by average, somewhat ignorant suburbanite as, “what do I want to do in a vacant warehouse?  besides, Cleveland Public Theatre is weird.”

It was an unfortunate turn of events.  Am I surprised?  Not really.  Just discouraged.  However, I do now have a couple of new organizations to learn about and a handful of projects to find kickstarter campaigns for.


About Mama's a Mess

Who am I and what am I doing here? Well, at the end of the day I'm a mother and a wife, a lover of classic monster movies and comic books, of music, TV and movies. I'm a sucker for pop culture. I'm a fangirl. I'm an artist. As my husband always puts it, "Baby, you're a mess!" I have a penchant for creating and collecting. I feed my brain with a mix of anything from hot rods and pin-ups to handmade and natural. I like to dig in the dirt and grow things but sometimes picture myself doing it like Donna Reed. I will always, always choose to wear a dress first. I am head over heels in love with my husband and have a fantastically crazy life with him. Follow all our adventures and musings on our blog at Twitter: @mamasamess Pinterest & Polyvore: mamasamess
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