Cleveland Mayoral Candidates and the Arts: Who Gets Your Vote?

Cleveland Mayoral Candidates. Top row, left to right: Justin Bibb, Dennis Kucinich, Sandra Williams, Zack Reed. Bottom row, left to right: Ross DiBello, Basheer Jones, Kevin Kelley.

Readers of CAN Blog and CAN Journal know the Arts sector has had enormous impact on Cleveland’s economy, neighborhoods, and quality of life.  And for the first time in 16 years, the city is about to have a new Mayor. In Fall of 2021, voters will first narrow a primary field from seven candidates to two, and then in November will choose that person.

Where do those candidates stand with regard to the Arts? What kind of support would they offer? What structures and leadership would they provide? Collective Arts Network is thrilled to have partnered with Assembly for the Arts to develop a list of questions for the candidates.

As we said in our preface to the emailed interview, “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.  …  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.  …  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.”

The response has been outstanding. All seven candidates answered our questions. We asked questions to get to know them via their personal relationship to the arts. We asked questions that gave them the opportunity to talk about ideas and policies. And we asked questions with yes/no answers about specific choices they would make if elected.

And this is noteworthy: Every single candidate said they would establish a cabinet-level position in their administration to support the arts; work with the arts and culture community to create a cultural plan; and allocate a line item in the city’s budget to support the arts.  Cleveland has none of that currently, and it’s about time.

Here’s a list of the candidates. Each is linked to their responses to our email interview. Each interview includes a link to the Ballotopedia page for the candidate, and a link to the candidate’s own website.

In Alphabetical Order:

The Cleveland Mayoral Primary takes place September 14.

The General Election takes place November 2.

Don’t forget to vote.


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