Advancing the Arts in Your Community

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Arts Advancement

A vibrant arts and cultural community has long been one of Cleveland’s greatest assets, and the Cleveland Foundation is committed to supporting and enriching our vast array of arts and cultural organizations. We have created major initiatives to bolster the arts in our community. In addition, we seek to be responsive to the changing needs of these organizations, and we welcome grant requests.

Arts & Culture Initiatives

Our proactive grantmaking focuses on several initiatives:

Creative Fusion

Creative Fusion is an urban-based, community-engaged residency program for international artists created by the Cleveland Foundation.The program consists of two, three-month residencies in Cleveland in the spring and fall each year.  Each residency period hosts up to six artists from cultures not well represented currently in Cleveland’s professional arts sector.

Arts & Ideas Blog

For more on Creative Fusion and other arts matters, check out Kathleen Cerveny’s Arts & Ideas Blog.

The program is primarily interested in artists from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, New Zealand and Australia. Invited artists get the opportunity to develop new work and share a contemporary view of their culture with our community.

Artists are nominated for the program by a panel of international nominators. Cleveland cultural organizations are able to select an artist from this pool of vetted nominees to serve as the artist’s host and creative home. The host organization is fully responsible for the artist, providing housing, transportation, orientation to Cleveland and other supports. The host also provides the conditions to support new creative work, creative exchange with local artists and for engagement with the Cleveland community – in particular with young people. Host organizations receive a grant from the foundation that covers all major costs of the residency. 

Click here to meet the Spring 2014 Creative Fusion artists.

Hear from Spring 2013 Creative Fusion artists on what they learned in Cleveland.

Click here to view a current video from one of our Fall 2013 Creative Fusion artists.

Frequently Asked Questions About Creative Fusion

What are the dates of the residencies each year?

Spring Residency: March 1 through May 31

Fall Residency: September 1 through November 30

Can we host an artist during a different timeframe?

No. A core value of the program is to have a critical mass of artists here at the same time.

Can we bring in our own artist, outside of the nominated pool?

No. The foundation makes a great effort to educate our nominators so they recommend high quality artists who understand the requirements and opportunities of the residency. It is important that all artists be adjudicated and selected through the same process. 

How much is a Creative Fusion grant?

$25,000. This adequately covers airfare, a per-diem of $4,500, the cost of renting an apartment if necessary, overhead for the host organization, a part-time artist ‘buddy’ or residency coordinator, and support for materials, collaboration and co-hosting of an informal dinner for all artists during the residency. Artists are not paid a fee.  They do not earn money during the residency (there may be some exceptions, depending on the type of visa the artist has).

Does the foundation provide any management services for the residencies?

Yes and no. We manage the artist nomination process and initial communication with the artists and provide help for visas (see below). We will do a deep orientation for all hosts prior to their artists’ arrival. We will do a basic welcome and orientation for the artists and host a celebratory farewell event. We contract with an artist liaison whose responsibility is strictly limited to overall program management on behalf of the foundation. The artist liaison DOES NOT manage your artist in any way. The host institution is totally responsible for the ‘care and feeding’ of its international visitor. That is why there is money in the grant to support a part-time ‘artist buddy’ or ‘residency coordinator’ the host would engage. Host organizations need to be prepared to take full responsibility for every aspect of their artist’s presence in Cleveland. We would like to stress, however the value of having collaborative partners to share the burden and expand the artist’s community engagement.

What are the deadlines to apply for a grant?

The prospective host must meet with the foundation to indicate their intention to apply and to be give access to the pool of artists. This should take place at least one month prior to applying for a grant. Earlier would be better. This gives us the chance to assure the artist’s availability for the residency and know who intends to apply, to be sure there are openings or so we can suggest synergies between and among prospective hosts.  The deadlines are:

Spring Residency (next year)

July 1 (or sooner): Meet with the foundation, re. interest in a spring residency the following year and to open the artist selection process.

August 1: Deadline for application for a spring residency the following year. The artist should be chosen prior to this date. 

Fall Residency (same year)

January 1 (or sooner): Meet with the foundation, re. interest in a fall residency later that year, and to open the artist selection process.

February 1: Deadline for a fall residency the same year. The artist should be chosen prior to this date.

Why these deadlines?

The primary reason is so we can give artists notification in a timely and predictable manner. They put their lives on hold waiting to hear once they have applied, and we owe them a deadline by which they can either start planning for the residency or move on. Secondarily, the foundation needs to be able to know how many applications we have for the available slots for each residency so that, if necessary, we can either try to fill open slots or work with hosts around alternatives if there are too many applicants for the available funding.

How do we get access to the artist pool?

For an organization that has not before applied, the foundation will provide the link to the cloud-based pool once an organization has been approved as a host and permitted to apply. This is one of the reasons for the meeting a month before applying for a grant. Organizations that have hosted an artist recently already have access.

What if we don't know how to get visas for international visitors?

The foundation contracts with the Council of International Programs – a local organization with a contract from the U.S. Department of State to issue visas -- to provide hands-on visa assistance to each host organization.

How do we get started?

Organizations wishing to apply to Creative Fusion must first meet with Program Director Kathleen Cerveny to receive a full briefing on the program’s requirements. If the organization is approved as a potential host, it is given access to the pool of vetted artists and to the dedicated application form for the program. Only proposals submitted through this process will be accepted for review.

Interested cultural organizations should contact:

Kathleen Cerveny, Program Director



to arrange an initial briefing session.

Organizations that have hosted a Creative Fusion artist before may not need the briefing session, but we still need to know when you intend to apply, so contacting us regarding your continued interest is important.

Additional FAQs For International Artists

How can I apply for a residency?

Artists must be nominated by the program’s special panel of international experts. At this time, individual artists may not apply directly. 

What kind of artist is selected?

Our nominators identify mid-career or rising-star artists in all disciplines: visual arts, literature, music, dance, theater, film, and multimedia.  In addition, they seek artists eager to share their creative perspective and techniques with local artists and the public, work with youth and young adults, and enjoy an authentic live/work experience in a cultured, heartland American city. 

What happens during the residency?

Artists will spend at least half of their time on their own creative work. The balance of time will be divided among personal downtime, cultural and educational activities arranged by the foundation, and community-engagement activities with their host organization. While the program does not require a finished project, most artists will be able to develop work that can be showcased by their host – either as a finished work, a work in progress, or a series of presentations shared with our community.

What are the costs of the residency to the artist?

The residency is fully funded by the foundation’s grant to the host organization.  There is no application fee, and artists will receive a per diem of $4,500 US.  All material, studio, housing, travel, transportation, and other costs will be covered. Artists are responsible for their own food, personal items, and entertainment.  Artists will not earn money, but they retain ownership of all works created during the residency.

Additional FAQs For Host Organizations

How do we learn more so we can decide if we want to be a host?

The first step is to schedule an information meeting with Program Director Kathleen Cerveny to discuss program details. If a residency seems mutually appropriate, you will be given access to the electronic application form. You may read more about the program and preview the questions on the Creative Fusion application.

What are the deadlines for application?

The next deadline for host applications is Feb. 15, 2013.  This will cover residency periods for fall 2013 and spring and fall 2014.  New deadlines will be set in the future as the program transitions to a new schedule.

How much does a three-month residency cost?

The foundation will make a grant of up to $25,000. Based on our experience, this amount will adequately cover the costs of the residency for the artist and for the host organization. Details can be explored with the program director in the initial information meeting.

How do we choose our artist?

A large pool of vetted artists is created each year by our nominators. Host organizations are given access to the artists’ work samples, CVs, and application forms to review.  As a host, you will be able to identify three top choices for the residency.  Beginning in late 2013, you will be able to apply for either the spring or fall residency period for the following year.

How are visa, housing, and transportation issues handled?

The host organization is responsible for making all arrangements. However, the foundation has retained the Council of International Programs, a local organization that contracts with the United States Department of State, to assist with securing visas. In addition, Creative Fusion’s artist liaison will provide information on local housing options.

Want to learn more?

2012 Artists of Creative Fusion

Kapila PalihawadanaKapila Palihawadana

Kapila Palihawadana is a Sri Lankan born dancer and choreographer. He is the artistic director of nATANDA Dance Theatre, the first modern-dance company in Sri Lanka, which he founded in 2002. nATANDA has actively promoted community dance education by conducting workshops in schools, often among low-income communities, and it tries to bridge boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and class by seeking to involve dancers of various social backgrounds. 

Palihawadana studied modern dance  in Europe, and he often blends traditional Sri Lankan dance forms — as well as martial arts — with Western elements in his choreography. Palihawadana believes that “dance is a form of art that should, can, and must talk to each community without arguing about any social states.” His host organization is Inlet Dance Theatre.

Learn more about Palihawadana in this blog post and by listening to his interview on WCPN 90.3 FM’s “Around Noon” program. Read a Plain Dealer preview and review of his performance with Inlet Dance Theater.

Sanjib BhattacharyaSanjib Bhattacharya

Sanjib Bhattacharya has a distinguished record of dance performance in India and abroad. Born in Calcutta and now a resident of New Delhi, Bhattacharya served as a dance coordinator in an international school, but he’s been an independent artist for the past decade.

He has worked extensively with youth in his home city, as well as with respected choreographers around the world. He works with major artists on collaborative productions, appears as a soloist, runs workshops, and directs his own dance company. Bhattacharya was selected as the Indian dance representative for the prestigious Asia Pacific Cultural Exchange Program organized and hosted by the University of California at Los Angeles.

The Rainey Institute is hosting his Creative Fusion residency. 

Creative Fusion artist Lucineh HovanissianLucinch Hovanissian

Lucinch Hovanissian of Armenia is the 2002 UNESCO Laureate in Music. In addition to her career as musician, she is also a medical doctor, has worked in journalism, done theoretical work in neuroscience, and practiced as a child’s dentist. Hovanissian has been performing on stage since the age of 9. Her performing and recording accomplishments are extensive as is the list of international awards she has won. She has performed in Armenia, Georgia, France, Canada, and Italy.

While in Cleveland, Hovanissian is introducing her country in classrooms and is making music in worship services at Trinity Cathedral. (Her host is Music and Performing Art at Trinity Cathedral) As part of her residency, she composed “Quo Vadis,” based on an ancient Armenian melody, for the cathedral’s choir.

Read her biography, and learn more about Hovanissian and her work in this blog post.

Creative Fusion artist Guillermo TrejoGuillermo Trejo

Guillermo Trejo is a Mexican artist living in Ottawa, Canada, who specializes in visual arts, printmaking, and graphic arts, with an emphasis on social issues and the relationship they have with art and culture. He has extensive teaching experience and a profound knowledge of the graphic arts in Mexico.

Trejo studied at the National School of Painting, Sculpture and Etching in Mexico City, and is currently completing his Master of Fine Arts at the University of Ottawa.

His Creative Fusion residency is being hosted by Young Audiences, and has provided him the opportunity to teach printmaking at area schools, including John Hay High School.

Creative Fusion artist Ivan LecarosIvan Lecaros

Chilean artist Ivan Lecaros has won many international awards as a visual artist and printmaker, and his work is in the collections of museums and corporations in more than a dozen countries.

He teaches advanced lithography at Universidad Finis Terrae, Santiago de Chile, and frequently travels to teach printmaking and show his work.  Lecaros has worked with youth and in community settings as well. Zygote Press is hosting his Creative Fusion residency. When Lecaros isn’t working on his creations at Zygote, he is teaching classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art and elsewhere. He also has worked with students in Esperanza, the educational program for Hispanic students in Cleveland. ,

Read about Lecaros’ experience learning the technique of silkscreen printing is this blog post.

Artists of Creative Fusion 2011

George SerembaGeorge Seremba

George Seremba, a native of Uganda, is an award-winning actor and playwright. His notable “Come Good Rain” relives his political protests in Uganda and his botched execution attempt by the military intelligence, leading him to seek asylum in Kenya, then in Canada, and finally in Ireland. He received his doctoral degree in drama from Trinity College, Dublin.

Seremba’s two-year Cleveland residency is being hosted by Case Western Reserve University and Cuyahoga County Public Library. He is teaching about African plays, playwriting, and methodology classes in the English department of CWRU, offering public programming through Cuyahoga County Public Library, and writing and launching new works on Cleveland stages. 

Case Western Reserve University, Cuyahoga County Public Library, and the Cleveland Foundation welcome visiting writer and Uganda native George Seremba, who will live and work in Cleveland for two years as part of the foundation’s Creative Fusion International Artist-in-Residence Program. Read his biography.

Creative Fusion artist Cristian SchmittChristian Schmitt

Christian Schmitt is a Chilean architect and design artist. He is a professor for the College of Architecture at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, where he is leading the university’s reconstruction plans for cities destroyed by the 2010 earthquake in south Chile. 

During his sixth-month residency in Cleveland in 2011, he worked with area architects, manufacturers, artists, and students to develop and build a prototype of a replicable structure or product that can be manufactured in Cleveland and sold nationally or internationally. Schmitt’s residency was supported by the Cleveland Foundation, Playhouse Square, the Kent State Urban Design Collaborative, Cleveland Public Art, and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, and collectively this group launched a unique program called Cleveland tm (teach + make). Read his biography.

Artists of Creative Fusion 2010

Sevi BayraktarSevi Bayraktar

Sevi Bayraktar is a professional Roma (Gypsy) dancer and teacher from Istanbul, Turkey. Her work is based on her belief that the creativity of dance can be used to assist in developing effective solutions for community issues, and she incorporates dance and theater with arts-based education methods focusing on at-risk youth.  Bayraktar earned an undergraduate degree in political science and international relations, and has received her certification in racism and discrimination education. She is completing a master’s degree in sociology at Turkey’s Bogazici University.

Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio hosted her three-month residency in 2010.  During this time, she led dozens of workshops at schools throughout Greater Cleveland, primarily K-8 schools in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. She also worked closely with Morrison Dance, including choreographing and collaborating on pieces performed at Cleveland Public Theatre, and participated in various community outreach programs. See what Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio has to say about her. And listen to an interview with Bayraktar on WCPN 90.3 FM’s “Around Noon” program.

Serpil SevgenSerpil Sevgen

Serpil Sevgen is a visual artist from Istanbul, Turkey, specializing in the ancient Turkish art form of paper marbling.  She is also an education planner and psychological counselor and has worked for the Turkish Ministry of Education.  Sevgen uses the arts to help both students and parents develop positive relationships with each other and to address issues of peer violence and social exclusion.  She was one of the Turkish artists participating in the 2008-09 U.S. Department of State cultural exchange program with Cleveland artists and the Turkish Ministry of Education, which brought the arts to marginalized youth in one of Istanbul’s poorest neighborhoods.

Sevgen was hosted by Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio in 2010. While in Cleveland, she taught Turkish arts and culture in the YA summer internship program, worked with Young Audience artist Carol Lynn Mitchell, collaborated with Morgan Art of Paper Making Conservancy and Zygote Press to share unique Turkish paper marbling techniques, and participated in public visual arts workshops and events.

See her paper marbling technique in action in this blog post.

Özen YulaÖzen Yula

Özen Yula is a Turkish playwright and director who is regarded as one of the world’s most daring avant-garde theatrical artists. His collected plays have been published in five volumes and translated into more than 10 languages. His work is characterized as dark, comical, visually daring, and at the forefront of controversial issues of social justice and human rights.

Cleveland State University and Cleveland Public Theatre partnered to bring Yula here for a nine-month residency in 2010.  During that period, Yula engaged university students in theatre and the social sciences and worked with Cleveland Metropolitan School District students and other urban youth, professional artists, and the general public. He created two original works during his stay, one of which was a world-premiere professional production. 

 Read his biography, a review of his work, and a story by Ozen Yula.

Engaging the Future

Ronn Richard

Engaging the Future is the Cleveland Foundation’s audience development initiative aimed at helping our vital arts institutions adapt to shifting demographics, technologies, and tastes, and attract the younger audiences they need to survive. The Cleveland Foundation has partnered with EmcArts to work with 11 Cleveland cultural institutions as they create innovative approaches for engaging younger and more diverse audiences.

  • Read this Plain Dealer story about Engaging the Future.
  • Watch this video from the first daylong seminar for the initiative.
  • Check out audio postcards from the participating organizations as they explain their starting conditions and current priorities.
Evaluators Report

Prior to the launch of Engaging the Future, the Cleveland Foundation carried out an Arts Advancement Program for Mid-Sized Arts Organizations, which targeted five at-risk cultural organizations.  Over three years, we provided grants, conducted seminars, and offered various other programming to help these organizations strengthen their leadership teams and improve their growth capacity and sustainability.

You can download an evaluation of this program by Annabel Jackson Associates. The firm has extensive international experience in the area of arts program evaluation, with more than 250 projects completed in the past 20 years.
Download Report

Other Arts & Culture Initiatives

Cleveland Institute of Art student painting

The Cleveland Foundation invests in developing supportive public policy for the arts.

We provided leadership to establish the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture and worked vigorously for the 2007 passage of Issue 18, a Cuyahoga County-wide tax that generates operating revenue for the arts sector. Funds from this tax are administered by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.

Both of these important developments emerged from recommendations in the foundation’s 1996 “Civic Study on the Performing Arts.”

Recent Arts and Culture Grants

  • $1.4 million for Engaging the Future, an audience development initiative aimed at helping arts institutions attract nontraditional, diverse audiences to supplement current patrons
  • $860,000 to Playhouse Square Foundation, to create a new theater complex to showcase more local productions and to host a residency for a foreign artist
  • $275,000 to Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio, to support initiatives including Art Works
  • $125,000 to the Cleveland Film Society, for the 36th Cleveland International Film Festival
  • $100,000 to the Cleveland Festival of Arts and Technology, for the 2011 and 2012 Ingenuity festivals
  • $20,000 to the Progressive Arts Alliance, for strategic planning
  • $20,000 to Opera Circle, for production costs related to its 2011-12 season and expanded concert series