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Surveying Local Art: Expectations, Outcomes and Funding

On Sunday, March 15th, we attended a Sunday forum at the First Unitarian Church in Shaker Heights titled "Surveying Local Art: Expectations, Outcomes and Funding" featuring Mr. Michael Gill who is the Editor/Publisher of the Collective Arts Network (CAN) quarterly magazine and Ms. Karen Gahl-Mills, who is the Executive Director of Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. This was our only event for Sunday but it was a very informative as well as necessary place to be because, hopefully, this November there will be an initiative on the ballot to renew the $15 million cigarette tax in that funds Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. Ms. Gahl-Mills and Mr. Gill talked about the need to retain this organization which, according to what they and their literature said, makes grants to support arts and culture programs and events in Cuyahoga County. Its goals are to enrich our quality of life, enhance education, and support our local economy. It has invested more than $125 million in our region and has funded more than 300 organizations since 2008 and each year supports tens of thousands of programs and events.

Attending today's forum was our Dr. Ray Gehani from Akron who emphasized the need for the programs supported to be representative of the global community as a whole. Ms. Gahl-Mills replied this is indeed true and cited next month's Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival which celebrates Indian classical music as an example of an international program that Cuyahoga Arts and Culture supports.

Mr. Gill said that Cleveland's history is diversity; he knows because his wife is a ESL teacher at Lakewood High School and is aware that people are immigrating to the United States and Northeast Ohio from "wherever there is a war." Thus, we are becoming more diverse all of the time. Even the Lakewood area, which one thinks of as predominantly white, is composed of people who have immigrated here from such places as Eastern Europe and Ireland. What's more, this diversity is reflected in our art. Mr. Gill is looking forward to our community evolving and being even more inclusive.

We, ourselves, met an artist who was Mr. Roger Fuhrmeyer, a retired teacher from Chagrin Falls who draws pictures of the participants at these Sunday forums. He showed us the drawing that he had done of Mr. Gill and Ms. Gahl-Mills which was very good. He will have a little show of his work this Friday at noon in Hamlet Village in Chagrin Falls. We wish we had the time to go.

Ms. Gahl-Mills talked about the process of getting the measure on ballot and said that it was not a sure thing to be there but in all likelihood it probably will be. If this is the case, we can count on Cuyahoga Arts and Culture giving many more forums such as this one to get the community behind them so their existence can be prolonged. We may help out because, as someone said at the forum, "arts nourish the soul. They make us lose ourselves and find ourselves at the same time. They contribute to a collective sense of well being."

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