Cleveland Mayoral Candidates and the Arts: Sandra Williams

Cleveland Mayoral Candidate Sandra Williams. Photo courtesy of the Sandra Williams campaign.

CAN Journal and Assembly for the Arts partnered to learn from the 2021 candidates for Mayor of the City of Cleveland about their perspectives and proposed policies related to Arts and Culture.

Arts and culture play a vital, often underrecognized role in driving Cleveland’s economy, workforce and communities forward. According to a study from Ohio Citizens for the Arts, the creative economy generates an economic impact of $9.1 billion in the Cleveland metropolitan area, supporting 62,499 jobs and supplying more than $3.3 billion in wages and proprietor income. The industry comprises nonprofits, for-profit businesses and individual artists.  Collectively, they stimulate innovation, strengthen regional competitiveness, enrich education, infuse creativity into other sectors and challenge us to become a more equitable society.

Ongoing research proves how investing in a strong arts and culture ecosystem is an investment in our community’s overall progress. Children who receive arts education have greater success in math, reading, critical thinking and social skills and are more likely to stay in school. In healthcare, the arts provide proven benefits to patient and caregiver support, public health outreach and community wellbeing.  The arts contribute to Cleveland’s national and international reputation. The creative economy boosts travel and tourism to our area, raises our national prominence and improves quality of life indicators.

Despite these facts, Cleveland is still one of the largest cities that does not fully embed and promote arts and culture into its government structure, even though the sector has one of the largest sources of local support in the country. During this critical moment, we ask Cleveland’s mayoral candidates to respond to a series of questions about their vision for arts and culture in Cleveland’s future.

The Cleveland Mayoral Primary is September 14.

Winners of the primary will face off in the general election November 2.



The Candidate’s Own Experience of the Arts

1) Please describe a memorable art experience you have had as an adult or child?

Sandra Williams: My most memorable art experiences are the ones that happen right here in Cleveland. I enjoy walking and driving through the neighborhoods of Cleveland to see the beautiful murals and local art. I have fond memories of trips to our local art museums with my mother and family.

2) How are you connected to Cleveland’s art scene? Do you participate in local arts activities and events, such as art walks and festivals, rock shows, theatre, dance, film, orchestral concerts, art collecting, museum and gallery exhibitions, photography, writing, spoken word, design and architecture?

Sandra Williams: I regularly enjoy going to art walks and shows throughout the community. I have also attended several orchestral concerts and museum and gallery exhibitions. The local art scene in Cleveland is brilliant and robust. There is always so much to see.


Arts and Neighborhoods

3) Cleveland has repeatedly seen artists invest in and revitalize neglected neighborhoods, and by their activity, attract additional investment. We’ve seen this in Little Italy, Tremont, North Collinwood, Gordon Square, and other places. How would your administration support development to ensure that artists, people of color and those who have been historically excluded can participate in neighborhood growth?

Sandra Williams: The City of Cleveland needs a dedicated funding source and to allocate more resources to the arts community. My administration will welcome everyone to the table to discuss the needs of our community and the communities within our communities.  I also believe the city can do a better job at highlighting local artists, creating a local platform, and supporting events that support the arts in our neighborhoods.

4) The arts have a profound social impact on other sectors according to researchers at Americans for the Arts.  How would you engage the arts in other sectors, such as health, or public safety, housing, or neighborhood development?

Sandra Williams: As previously stated, in my Administration, everyone will have a voice. The arts community has long contributed to social change and I would welcome those conversations, hold town halls and office hours, and create a dedicated role to facilitate that relationship with City Hall.


Arts and Public Policy:

5) Would you establish a cabinet-level position that would support artists and arts activity in the city?

Sandra Williams: Yes.

6) Would you work with the arts and culture community to create a cultural plan to inform and guide progress of the arts sector?

Sandra Williams: Yes.

7) Would you allocate a line item in your budget to support the arts and cultural industry?

Sandra Williams: Yes.

8) What kind of support structures would you see for the for-profit arts sector, such as music venues that are such an important part of our arts eco-system in the Rock and Roll capital?

Sandra Williams: Yes.



Ballotopedia entry for Sandra Williams

Sandra Williams Campaign Website

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