The Cleveland Foundation Presents: Creative Fusion Data Art Edition / Creating Art to Inspire Collective Accountability and Action

I confess, when I see an Excel spreadsheet or a large data set, art is not the first thing that comes to mind. And while I do not personally identify as an artist, I am cognizant of the historic impact art has had on inspiring civic change and furthering critical discourse. Art has a singular power to elicit an emotional response, and people act on their emotions. In Cleveland, many residents can rattle off traumatic statistics related to lead poisoning, infant mortality, poverty and other societal ills with empty expressions. We are numb to the numbers, and our collective desensitization to social disparity will only make our problems worse. I believe art can change that.

Over a year ago, I began asking myself questions that ultimately led to the central question of the 2018 Creative Fusion Data Art Edition: How can we use data related to Cleveland’s environment to create art that inspires collective accountability and action? With this question as the nucleus for this effort, it was time to find a team that could lead an unprecedented Creative Fusion cohort.

Many organizations work on the ground to serve Cleveland residents, but only one had a neighborhood-level data tool, deep ties with community development corporations, and a record for activism and community organizing around local issues: Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP). CNP is the perfect fit to explore this question.

Creative Fusion: Data Art Edition is the latest iteration of the Cleveland Foundation’s longstanding Creative Fusion artist residency program. Since 2008, Creative Fusion has brought more than ninety accomplished or rapidly rising artists from around the world to Cleveland for a three-month residency designed to foster strong connections and exchanges between the visiting artists and the community. Beginning in 2016, the program strengthened collaboration between local Cleveland artists and the visiting artists by focusing each Creative Fusion cohort along a theme.

Creative Fusion: Data Art Edition aims to link art, data and technology to frame our understanding of Cleveland in an entirely new way. Leveraging data visualization tools, software and expertise, five local artists and three international artists will examine aspects of Cleveland’s environment, crafting compelling visual art from the data to strengthen the bonds between the technology, art and civic sectors.

On the following pages you will hear from CNP, an indispensable partner in this work, as well as the artists, who will share their unique perspectives. In the coming weeks there will be a number of opportunities to engage with the Creative Fusion: Data Art Edition artists at community events and convenings. I invite you to join us as we explore how art and technology together can revitalize our understanding of the conditions around us and inspire us to take action for a brighter future.