Bravo to CAC and CPAC

Last year at this time I was at the national Grantmakers in the Arts conference, where I was thrilled to announce the success of our Issue 18 campaign. Grantmakers from across the U.S. were impressed with the campaign and the remarkable coming together of the arts community here, and folks from Cleveland were greeted with huzzahs and “How’dyadoit?”

As I prepare to leave for this year’s conference in New Mexico, I will be telling everyone about the success of Cuyahoga Arts and Culture’s (CAC) first round of grant decisions. The process developed and conducted by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture for the CAC was among the fairest, most transparent and most efficient I have experienced.

I have served on many panels – for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council and for other foundations – but this one, characterized by nine excellent panelists and the sustained engagement by the cultural community itself, as audience, was quite remarkable.

Much credit must be given to the nine out-of-town experts. They clearly had read the 72 applications in detail and took their responsibility as primary or secondary reviewer very seriously. I was also impressed with the many thoughtful comments by other panelists who weren’t charged with a primary review. Everybody had read everything, it seemed.

The nine panelists were surprised at the range and depth of cultural organizations in Cleveland, and I was impressed that they held many of the smaller organizations in as high regard as some of our largest institutions, applying the required criteria equally but within the appropriate context of each organization’s mission, size and aspirations.

Scores for the organizations were posted throughout each of the two days on the CAC Web site as they were compiled, and can be found there now at www.cuyahogaartsandculture.org. A minimum score of 75 points was required to qualify for annual operating support over the next three years. Organizations were judged on artistic quality, management practices and community service.

The next task for the CAC board will be to determine what percentage of the funds that derive from the excise tax will be allocated to the operating support pool, and what percentage will be retained to support a project grant program, which will be rolled out in January.

Those interested in learning more should sign up for regular email notices from CAC through their Web site and should plan to attend the open board meetings. A schedule of these meetings is also on the CAC site.

BRAVO! A great start to the long overdue structure providing local public support for the arts. CAC and CPAC are to be commended.