Local artists calling on Cuyahoga Arts & Culture to award more grants to minorities

Posted at 6:12 PM, Dec 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-12 18:12:29-05

A group of local artists is calling on the Cuyahoga Arts and Culture Board to award more grants to minorities.

Vince Robinson is an African American artist and photographer who co-owns Larchmere Artsin Shaker Heights. While he said he loves Cleveland and has lived in Northeast Ohio for about three decades, he said a racial divide still exists.

“I don't think I was given a fair shot, going through the application process and receiving the outcome that I did,” he said. “In spite of that, I had to take initiative to create opportunities for myself and others have to do the same thing.”

Robinson is part of the ‘Support for Artists Planning Team,’ which is pushing for Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC) to better distribute $400,000 of grant money to deserving artists among all races.

Nearly 30 percent of the population in Cuyahoga County is African American. However, of the 160 grants given to artists by CAC in the last eight years, only nine percent of them were African American.

Leaders of CAC were very receptive to the call for change, agreeing the racial makeup of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County need to be represented in the artists they support.

“We are all built on models that recognize art with a capital-A out of a Western European tradition. Think of Mozart or Leonardo Divinci,” said Karen Gahl-Mills, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture Executive Director. “But when you look at the demography of America, we don't look Western European anymore.”

After months of meetings, the ‘Support for Artists’ group recommended, among other things, reaching out to more minority artists, so they know these grants are available.

“For me, being a part of the ‘Support for Artists Planning Team’ presented an opportunity to connect with other artists in our community, who are different from me,” said Jake Sinatra, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture Special Projects Manager.

Artists of different races agree they can learn and be inspired by each other.

“My hero is Gordon Parks. I am inspired by artists of African-American descent, but at the same time I’m inspired by E.E. Cummings,” said Robinson.

The Cuyahoga Arts and Culture board will meet in February to discuss changes on how it distributes grants to different races.