Ronayne’s Nominations for CAC Board

For more than a year, artists have complained that Cuyahoga Arts and Culture –the entity that administers the cigarette tax for the arts–did not meet the requirement that at least two of its members “devote a major portion of their time to practicing, performing or teaching any of the arts, or […] are professional administrators in any field of the arts or cultural heritage.”

Whether it technically has met the criteria or not, County Executive Chris Ronayne’s nominations to the board for terms beginning in 2024 will change that dramatically: The two new nominees have extensive experience as arts administrators representing performing artists and presenting organizations.

Two board terms are expiring and will be filled when County Council votes on Ronaynes nominations. The longest-serving member of the board, Charna Sherman, did not seek re-appointment. Ronayne has nominated Leonard DiCosimo –Executive Secretary of the North Shore AFL-CIO, and President of the Cleveland Federation of Musicians Local 4– to replace her. Karolyn Isenhart’s term is also expiring, but she has sought (and Ronayne has nominated her for) a new term. The Board will see another new trustee when current president Nancy Mendez steps down after the April meeting. Ronayne has nominated former Playhouse Square CEO Gina Vernaci to replace her.

It’s a small board, with just 5 members, so changing two of them could significantly shift the tone of discussions as the likely cigarette tax levy, and any relevant discussions, approaches.

The County Executive’s press release follows:

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH – The Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) Board could soon get new leadership. Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne will nominate Leonard DiCosimo and Gina Vernaci and reappoint Karolyn Isenhart to serve on the Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Board. The DiCosimo and Isenhart nominations will be introduced at the March 12 County Council meeting. The County Council will consider Vernaci’s nomination at a future meeting. All appointments require council approval.

Leonard DiCosimo is currently the Executive Secretary of the North Shore AFL-CIO. He is also the President of the Cleveland Federation of Musicians Local 4 AFM. Over his career, DiCosimo has performed as an opera singer, upright bassist, recording artist, songwriter, cruise ship performer, small business owner, and music educator.

Karolyn Isenhart has served on the CAC Board since November 2021. She has decades of experience in fine art sales, having worked as a gallery manager, auctioneer, and administrator for multiple galleries and auction houses.

Former Playhouse Square President and CEO Gina Vernaci brings 40 years of experience working with the performing arts community. She began her career as an intern with Playhouse Square, and ascended through various roles including Senior Vice President, Executive Producer, and COO. She has been instrumental in elevating Northeast Ohio’s position within the arts industry.

“These new leaders have a passion for the arts and a strong commitment to enriching the community, which perfectly aligns with the mission of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. They possess the essential qualities necessary for cultivating a dynamic cultural landscape throughout our region,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne.

Vernaci will replace Nancy Mendez, who will step down as the board chair after the April 17 Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Board meeting. DiCosimo will replace board member Charna Sherman.

“We express our sincere appreciation to the departing members of the Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Board, Charna Sherman and departing Board Chair Nancy Mendez. They have brought unwavering commitment, innovation, and a forward-thinking approach to the Board,” adds Executive Ronayne.

The Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Board supports a strong, vibrant, and diverse art and culture sector through public funding and fostering a community invested in the value of its arts and cultural assets. The Board ensures reliable public funding and support for the arts by awarding grants in Cuyahoga County. For more information about Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, visit

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.