Cleveland Arts Prize Executive Director Steps Down After 7 Years at the Helm

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The trustees of Cleveland Arts Prize just announced that Executive Director Alenka Banco will step down from the organization after seven years as executive director and five years as a member of the board.

“Alenka’s extraordinary vision and leadership has been critical to the success of Cleveland Arts Prize and the growth of this premiere arts organization,” says Howard Freedman, Chair of the Arts Prize Board of Trustees, in a press release. “As we search for her successor, we look forward to building upon Alenka’s legacy. She will be greatly missed.”

Over the course of the past six decades, the organization has acknowledged more than 350 artists, cultural leaders and organizations. Each year, the Arts Prize selection process features a formal awards presentation at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Monetary prizes are awarded to artists for exemplary work in disciplines such as Design, Literature, Theatre & Dance, Music and Visual Arts. In addition, the organization awards three Special Prizes of honor for arts advocacy, community service and leadership in the arts.

To ensure educational access to the arts, the Arts Prize offers scholarships in Literature, Visual Arts, Dance, and Music for outstanding academic achievement in those fields.

While leading the organization, Banco developed several initiatives to advance the organization’s mission, including the implementation of the Barbara S. Robinson Award for "extraordinary commitment to the advancement of the arts through leadership in policy, legislation, arts education and community development." She also spearheaded the growth of yearly nominations for prizes and most recently helped launched the Verge Fellowship program for emerging artists with the support of the Cleveland Foundation.

“My departure won’t affect my commitment to Cleveland Arts Prize. I am so grateful to the Trustees, artists and supporters,” says Banco. “My life is truly enriched because of the people I have met through the organization. I am looking forward to resuming my development work in the community.”

After Oct. 31, her final day as Arts Prize director, Banco will serve in an advisory capacity at Cleveland Arts Prize and will focus her attention on the renovation of the Wagner Museum of Art in East Cleveland. The newly established non-profit acquired the former home of artist Albert Wagner earlier this year from the Cuyahoga County Landbank and saved the building from demolition.

“It is a mission close to my heart and an important project for the region,” says Banco.

A search committee will aim to find Banco's successor.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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