Creative Fusion: Connecting Cleveland With the World 

In 2008, the Cleveland Foundation created an unprecedented international artist residency program that has brought more than 80 foreign artists to Cleveland. Each year, Creative Fusion brings approximately a dozen accomplished or rapidly rising artists from around the world and from underrepresented cultures to Cleveland. Each artist is hosted by a local cultural institution during a three-month residency. There are two residencies each year: one in the spring and another in the fall.


What makes the Creative Fusion residency unique is that, in addition to undertaking innovative work in their discipline, each artist is spending just as much time, if not more, on making strong connections and exchanges with local artists, students and the Greater Cleveland community. The deep engagement that Creative Fusion offers at the artistic level generates a rich and lasting impact. Beginning in 2016, the program strengthened collaboration between local Cleveland artists and the visiting artists-in-residence by focusing each Creative Fusion cohort along a single theme. 

Creative Fusion: Cuba Edition Creative-Fusion-Logo-Cuba-Edition

Spring 2017

The spring 2017 residency, Creative Fusion: Cuba Edition, is likely the first-of-its-kind exchange connecting cultural institutions of a major Midwestern city with a selection of celebrated Cuban artists for an extended project-based residency.  The multidisciplinary cohort includes internationally renowned artists showcasing the best in architecture, design, printmaking, photography/mixed media, the written word, ballet and modern dance. Seven local arts organizations will host Cuban artists, who will participate in a variety of projects.

Learn about the projects below, and follow the Creative Fusion: Cuba Edition residency on social media using #CLEvana and #CLExHAV. 

Cover image of CAN Journal Spring 2017 issue






The Projects

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Cleveland Institute of Art

The Cleveland Institute of Art plans to host a Cuban jewelry and metals artist, who will be selected during a trip to Cuba in January. The artist, in partnership with Matthew Hollern, professor of Jewelry + Metals, will likely explore the subject of innovation and hybridity through the lens of design thinking/design theory: innovation from scarcity compared with innovation through materials and technology. The selected artist will teach numerous classes at the college, give demonstrations and participate in at least one free public lecture during the residency in Cleveland. The college will also partner with the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) and its resident Cuban architects to repurpose a Glenville building as an integrated arts space. While CUDC students focus on the exterior of the building, Cleveland Institute of Art students, led by Interior Architecture department Chair Michael Gollini, will create design proposals for the building’s interior space. In the fall of 2017, Cleveland Institute of Art will mount an exhibition of Cuban artists in Reinberger Gallery, including work created during this residency.

Cleveland Print Room + Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Print Room (CPR) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) will host award-winning Cuban artist Sandra Ramos, whose work has been shown in solo exhibitions and residencies around the world. While in Cleveland, Ramos will program artwork on digital billboards throughout the city, including the digital Mediamesh® on the exterior of the Cleveland Institute of Art. Ramos will also visit a Cleveland Metropolitan School District program and assist CPR’s instructional team in a self-portrait workshop, where she will discuss her native culture of Cuba. CPR will mount an exhibition of Ramos’ work at its gallery with a tentative date of May 2017, and will partner with CMA to feature an artist talk and a community talk during her stay. CPR and CMA will also host local photographer Greg Martin, who will produce wet plate photography during a trip to Cuba in January. Given the difficulty sourcing and transporting the necessary materials, this will likely be the first time in decades that the wet plate collodion process has been used in Cuba. Upon his return to Cleveland, Martin will exhibit his work from Cuba and take the wet plate collodion process to the streets, photographing portraits of residents at Public Square and the West Side Market.

Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative

The Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) will continue a partnership launched by Kent State University last year with Havana-based architects Sofía Márquez Aguiar and Ernesto Jiménez of Fábrica De Arte Cubano (Cuban Art Factory), a vibrant community arts space housed in a repurposed cooking oil plant in Havana. The architects will work with a 2017 CUDC Urban Design and Landscape Architecture graduate studio and a Cleveland Institute of Art Interior Design studio on design proposals for two neighborhood projects: one in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, where Fábrica De Arte Cubano is located, and another in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood. In April, Márquez Aguiar and Jiménez will travel to Cleveland to review the students’ design proposals for Vedado and will remain in Cleveland for two months as they work with students to generate and fabricate the project to be built in Glenville.

Collective Arts Network Journal

Collective Arts Network (CAN) Journal will host accomplished culture writer, poet and editor of Ediciones Vigía Laura Ruiz Montes of Matanzas, Cuba, who will learn and write about the community of Latin American artists in Cleveland. Ruiz-Montes’ work will be published in both English and Spanish, and will appear in the print edition of CAN Journal, as well as the journal’s website and CAN blog. Ruiz-Montes will partner with Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) professor of modern languages Damaris Punales-Alpizar, who will assist with translation of the writing and serve as an ambassador to the Cleveland community with support from Cuban-born painter Augusto Bordelois. Ruiz-Montes will interact with area artists, students and residents through partnerships with Case Western Reserve University, The Morgan Conservatory, Zygote Press and others.


DANCECleveland will host internationally renowned Cuban modern dance troupe Malpaso in May and June 2017. Praising Malpaso, Siobahn Burke of The New York Times said, “They have the pristine technique but none of the rigidity that comes with that kind of training….They’re both humble and sparklingly present.” During their residency, Malpaso will deliver two free performances June 2 and June 3 at the Ohio Theatre in Playhouse Square. Each performance, which will feature a pre-performance talk and post-performance question and answer session with the dancers, will include a new work titled “Indomitable Waltz,” choreographed by renowned choreographer Aszure Barton. The work, co-commissioned specifically for the Cleveland residency by DANCECleveland and the Cleveland Foundation, will have its Midwest premiere at the Ohio Theatre before touring nationally and internationally. While in Cleveland, the Malpaso dancers will also lead educational master classes with local dancers, teach at the Cleveland State University Dance Intensive and have studio time to rehearse and create new work.

Verb Ballets

Verb Ballets will bring artist Laura Alonso, daughter of world famous Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso and renowned ballet teacher and coach Fernando Alonso, to Cleveland for a residency in February and March 2017. Laura Alonso, herself a renowned ballet teacher with a 25-year career performing with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, will train Verb Ballets dancers, host master classes in the community and stage a select repertoire from Ballet Cuba. Alonso will collaborate with 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award recipient and multi-award winning local artist Dianne McIntyre, whose career spans four decades with choreography for dance, theatre, television and film. During the residency, Alonso and McIntyre will gather stories from residents at Eliza Bryant and Eliza Jennings nursing homes and bring the residents’ personal stories to life in choreographed dances, tentatively titled “Dancing Memories.”

Creative Fusion: Street Art Edition 

Fall 2016

Read about the 2016 Creative Fusion Hingetown project here, and see the murals here

Frequently Asked Questions About Creative Fusion

What is the process?
  1. Six local nonprofits per cohort apply to be a host organization. Going forward, each cohort topic or concentration will be selected by the Cleveland Foundation with ideas emerging from the community. The concentrations will center on opportunities emerging in the both Cleveland community and globally issues and opportunities.  For example, In the Spring of 2017, Creative Fusion will create an artist exchange between Cuba and Cleveland that will include 6 Cuban and 6 Cleveland artists, dancers, architects collaborating on projects on Cuba and in Cleveland. In the future, a cohort may be designed to:
  • Select artists all from one country
  • Have Artists all in a particular medium (all in theater, visual arts, photography, authors, dance, etc.)
  • Locate the artist all in one neighborhood (place based)
  • Select the artists based on a theme or a current global issue (for example: all refugee artists or all artists dealing with social justice).
  1. Each of the nonprofits host organizations then select their international and local artists. International artists may come from a list of artists from a panel of international nominators or from their own research.  The host organizations select the local artists based on the collaboration with the international artist, the quality of their work and their expertise in the specific residency topic that will be taking place. The host organization is fully responsible for the artists, providing housing, transportation, and 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.
How has Creative Fusion evolved?

Creative Fusion engages with the community at the conclusion of each residency. While many local artists were engaged with the international artists, we believe there could be a stronger commitment and that Cleveland artists should and could be a more integral part of the residency. Hence with the fall 2016 residency, six local artists have been invited to be partners in this residency working with the international artists and the community and are compensated for their work. Based on creative discussions between the local and visiting artists, there may be opportunities for collaborations or the artists may select to work independently. Each local artist will create their own piece for this residency. This practice will continue and grow as we discover and develop more ways to engage local artists and communities. Creative Fusion believes it is essential to have the collaboration of local and international artists as we work to enrich our communities.

Why is international exchange important?

International arts exchange is fundamental because it creates an environment for genuine compromise and conciliation, enhances the education of all citizens, fosters tolerance of diverse cultures within our country, and prepares us to contribute both artistically and economically within the global society. Valuable cultural exchange is mutual and offers the opportunity for deeper and prolonged commitment between artists and encourages responsible global citizenry.  – from Guiomar Ochoa and Michael Orlove Grantmakers in the Arts.  

Interested cultural organizations should contact:

Lillian Kuri, Program Director for Arts & Urban Design

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 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 USD. 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 for Arts & Urban Design 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.

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.

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.

Additional Resources


  • Learn more about Creative Fusion by listening here.
  • Read about the partnership between Creative Fusion and CAN Journal here