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Cleveland artists ask for a portion of ARPA funds from city council in a colorful way: postcards

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Posted at 7:05 AM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-29 07:05:06-04

CLEVELAND — You’ll find no shortage of art from Cleveland’s West Side to its East Side, it enriches thoroughfares and fills the seats in local theaters.

“The arts are a huge part of our infrastructure here in Cleveland and they provide a lot of healing and support in our community,” said Morgan Shumway, who works for a nonprofit theatre company called Second Act.

Painters, photographers, poets and performers showed up at Cleveland City Council’s meeting to tell city leaders that they need help and funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Liz Maugans is an artist and an art advocate who spoke Monday. She said the pandemic has been devastating for the art industry.

“People had to get rid of their studios. People lost their houses, lots of businesses didn’t even open,” she said. “It really was crippling for a lot of our art community.”

Jeremy Johnson is the president of the nonprofit organization Assembly for the Arts.

“We are an organization that advocates and supports and brings together all of the entire arts and culture industry across greater Cleveland,” he said. “Our job is to bring them all together as one voice to lift up Cleveland as a city of the arts and a city of equity.”

The group is made up of hundreds of creatives in Cleveland and organized those artists to make and deliver postcards to city council members on Monday that describe why they’d like $10 million of the $511 million, federally funded, ARPA dollars Cleveland received.

“We are still in a state of emergency when it comes to our creative folks and creative industry and businesses,” he said. “The postcards have art from literally 17 wards in the city. They’ve written their notes about what the arts have meant to their lives, as educators of children in the arts, as performers but also how the pandemic stopped everything. If they were gig workers, if they were musicians, if they were teachers, if they were dancers. It’s been really hard.”

He said the $2 million allocated from the city would be a return on investment.

“We are part of the solution. We are part of the return. We are part of the resurgence,” he said.

Maugans said the money would go to creative nonprofits, individual artists and businesses to keep them and the city’s vibrant culture afloat.

“If we get healed and if we can be more resilient with this support, then I think we can help with the incredible work at city hall,” she said.

Mayor Justin Bibb recommended allocating the 10 million dollars to the arts in his transition report, but Johnson said a recommendation isn’t a commitment and that’s why the postcard project is so important.

City council should decide where the money is going within the next few months.