Greetings, and welcome to what I intend to become a regular sharing of ideas and information from my world to yours. My world is complex and so the sharing may take many forms, but mostly I will focus on issues relating to the Cleveland Foundation and the arts – writ large.

Being a generally optimistic person, even in situations that seem to warrant a more cynical or hopeless outlook, I still must acknowledge that despite the very positive event last November in the passage of Issue 18, the arts remain in a changing and challenged environment in our city (a city that faces daunting changes and challenges of its own). To start, then, I’d like to share a favorite passage about hope:

Either we have hope within us or we don’t; … Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; … Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. … Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
Vaclav Havel, from “Disturbing the Peace,” (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990, pp 181 – 182)

I am hopeful. Among the things that renew my hope are things I learn from the foundation’s grantees who tackle challenges on the ground daily and are far more in touch with the practical strategies needed to keep moving ahead than I am.

In future blog entries I’ll post some of the lessons, advice and snippets of wisdom that the highly accomplished arts leaders from the Cleveland Foundation’s arts advancement program (and others) have offered to me in recent years. For today – and thanks to Marcie Goodman – here are two things that the team at the Cleveland Film Society remind themselves of at the start of every new program season:

  • The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. (Albert Einstein)
  • We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. (Carlos Castaneda)

In the coming months I will have some specific information about the direction in which the foundation’s arts grantmaking is moving – some things the same, some different, beginning in 2008.

For now, I’ll close this first post with a poem by Terrell Howard. Who, you say? Terrell is a Cleveland 5th-grader. He was one of 300 or so fifth- and sixth-graders who participated in the foundation’s SmART in the City summer arts program. This six-week full arts immersion was made possible by a generous grant from UBS Financial Services. I will share more about this program, which will be revised and reprised next summer, in future editions of the blog. For now, enjoy the creativity and wisdom of Terrell Howard, who modeled his poem after renowned poet George Ella Lyon’s “Where I’m From.”

Where I’m From
By Terrell Howard

I’m from maple syrup and pancakes on Sunday mornings.
I’m from chewing on candy and hating cheese.
I’m from Two Beats hip-hop and Rand B making me laugh.
I’m from my brother telling me “You should know better”
when I talk back to my Mom,
and “Anytime” when I tell him “Thank you.”
I’m from my grandparents being friends
from the time they were kids.
I’m from looking like my Uncle James
when I get my hair cut short.
I’m from wanting to be like my grandfather –
the way he loved my dad like a best friend.
I’m from wishing I had a remote control
so I could delete all the bad things I did.

Don’t we all!