As CAN goes to press, a conservative US Congress is mulling over a budget document that includes complete elimination of a public support system that has been around longer than most of us have been alive: the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Grants those agencies provide constitute a minuscule portion of the nation’s arts economy, but an inspiring seal of approval, leveraged many times over, to build programming, quality of life, and jobs.
The suggestion of cutting that meager sum has resulted in a splendid cornucopia of analogs: that complete elimination of both agencies would save each US citizen about 92 cents per year; that in total their budgets amount to almost nothing, just three one-thousandths of one percent of the total budget cut, or that the full budget of a federal agency– the NEA– is less than New York’s cost of security to keep the First Lady and child in their Big Apple digs for a year.
But however we understand this ill-conceived notion, we can rest assured that in Cuyahoga County, we will never have to worry about such a travesty. That’s because arts leadership here had the foresight to create an independent revenue stream for our public arts dollars. Cuyahoga Arts and Culture is not a line item in any general fund. It is not subject to the whim of a posturing legislature. Cuyahoga Arts and Culture stands on its own, as long as the citizens approve.
That makes it especially important to resolve the recent controversy over individual artist grants in such a way that artists and arts administrators will go to work as foot-soldiers –as they have in the past—the next time public support comes before the citizens to vote.
The fact that artists of color have not benefited equitably from this public grant program; the fact that individual artists and administrators—including some of the most savvy ones in the region—were blindsided by a proposal to rectify that inequity; the creation of an artificial divide among artists based on the nature of their practice; and the perception of disorder in what should be one of this region’s greatest sources of pride—all are strokes against us. Arts leaders need to fix this. The people who have been left out of the process–artists, it is remarkable to say–need to be engaged.
In this issue of CAN, you’ll find a lot of information about all of the above,as well as a guide to help you speak up to decision makers. You’ll also find the first in a series of articles about efforts to build the local art economy by drawing in people and money from outside the region. The series is funded in part by CAN’s first ever project support grant from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. We are grateful and proud.
We are even more proud to be able to show you the boisterous dialog of images and ideas in the exhibits and other activities that follow. Dozens of galleries and museums and other organizations are ready to welcome you. As always, we look forward to seeing you at the shows.