CAC and Individual Artist Grants: What Would Be Fair
“If you do not understand White Supremacy (Racism) – what it is, and how it works – everything else that you understand, will only confuse you.” –Neely Fuller Jr.
I have found myself in the middle of what I would call an all-out war against people of color in Cuyahoga County. I have been learning the city’s history on racism. The history that I am learning is making my lived experience make sense. Now I understand why the city is so divided. The way that I have navigated through the art world has allowed me to interact with multiple groups. Because of my relationships with various institutions I am able to see this world from multiple perspectives. Whites are dominating a majority Black city. Cuyahoga County is a system functioning in a larger system that has stifled the development of communities of color for centuries.
The art community will not grow unless wounds start to be mended. We need a system developed that produces fair outcomes. The art world can be an innovator for the rest of the communities plagued by institutional racism.
An individual artist grant is rare to come across. It is not often that a community invests in its artists for the sole purpose of making art. Yet, Cuyahoga County created an individual artist grant and promoted it as an opportunity for all artists living in Cuyahoga County.
However, the data is showing that all artists are not receiving the grant. The people who are the major contributors seem to be the minority recipients. This implies that there are issues with the structure of the individual artist grant. It looks like Black people are paying for white people to make art.
The distribution of the individual artist grant has been very lopsided. It has brought to the surface a very needed conversation about race and equity. The grant represents a form of exclusion – taxation without representation. It seems to be designed for white people. One could view such exclusion as a tool to implement racism in America.
What do we need to do? We need to call it what it is: unfair treatment that has been going on for a very long time. It is exhausting thinking of all the history that has been gathered over the past few hundred years saying this same thing. When Blacks get close to the money historically that is when the system tends to redesign itself.
What needs to happen for people of color to be treated fairly in this city? The awakening of this idea is very detrimental to the possibilities of real change. It is time to really start re-thinking some of the patterns that keep repeating themselves. These are not mistakes, accidents or oversights – it is more than that. It has been an epidemic of exclusion for many years. It functions more like a habit. The repetitive exclusion meets all the criteria of an epidemic. We need to seek counsel from the people that have been affected in a negative way. The conversations that need to take place are the ones about what is fair. We need to be honest about the possibility of fair. There needs to be a shift in control and power. Artists of color should be awarded over one hundred fellowships for the next eight years. That would be fair.