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Monday, May 4, 2020

Arts Cleveland Puts the ‘Unity’ in Community as the Pandemic Continues to Stifle Artists and Organizations

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2020 at 11:12 AM

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Arts Cleveland (formally the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, or CPAC) is offering weekly virtual forums to help the Cleveland arts and cultural community tackle some of the perplexing issues they face in the wake of COVID-19.

“Both weekly calls (one for artists, one for galleries/museums) really exist as safe, no judgement virtual spaces for the people of greater Cleveland’s arts community to come together and discuss the pressing issues facing them during the COVID-19 crisis. While both arts organizations and artists are facing some of the same struggles, challenges and fears, we found it to be more beneficial to dedicate discussion time for each group separately," Arts Cleveland Community Relations Manager Meg Matko told Scene. "As Megan Van Voorhis, our president and CEO, spoke with more and more directors of organizations, she saw there was a need to collectively navigate things like decisions around event cancellations, HR management, government aid, funding, and other more operational issues.”

After initially offering daily virtual meetings, Arts Cleveland shifted as it figured out what the community needed.

“Only a handful of people participated initially, but we noticed more interest when we based the discussions around a topic, rather than discipline. So, we moved it to once per week to discuss whatever people seemed to be talking about at the time and it grew from there. Megan initiated the Arts Leaders calls (on the first week), due to a huge volume of inquiries, questions and concerns from arts organization directors.”

The attendees on some of the these virtual meetings hosted through the Zoom application have included, lawyers, credit union reps, freelance artists of all disciplines, administrators of arts organizations, educators and arts businesses owners who want to stay connected. Arts Cleveland explains their resourcing implementations, “…most recently, we were able to create an emergency loan fund for artists through NoteWorthy Federal Credit Union, in partnership with the Char and Chuck Fowler Foundation. Noteworthy originated to provide lending options for the musicians union, so they understand and work with artists regularly. The Fowler Foundation provided funding to subsidize interest, so no payments are required for the first year, and it’s only $75 a month after that. We’ve also used the newly established Arts and Culture Caucus to show public leaders how the arts have been affected. Members of the Caucus are supportive of the arts and are looking for ways to ease the burden and get access to relief efforts.”

These are no small feats for these partnerships to foster so much support in the short amount of time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

With speculation on all fronts of the arts community across Cleveland, there is much to be learned from leaders and artists alike, coming together to diagnose the presented challenges faced and to prescribe potential solutions while rethinking how artists and arts organizations can stay fluent and connected as art, generally, tends to rely heavily on human inaction. This interaction remains indefinitely hampered by the vicious COVID-19 virus and the ever-evolving restrictions on how, when and where people are able to interact.

We asked Arts Cleveland what the future looks like for the arts community in Cleveland in the long term as far as exhibitions and artists being able to connect with their audience: “It’s tough to say what will change as a result of COVID-19, and some might say a change is long overdue, but the arts are a lot smarter and stronger than they often get credit for. We’re probably going to learn what the appetite for online content is, and we may even see some hybrid online/in person models emerge in the nearer term. I would also watch for more AI arts experiences. We may also see the role of art galleries and smaller venues change as online commerce grows. “

These virtual discussions offer a much-needed and desired outlet which the arts community members are able to use to collect resources. You can easily jump on these virtual meetings by visiting the Arts Cleveland website for details. You may also contact Meg Matko, Arts Cleveland Community Relations Manager for further inquiries.

“The (Arts) sector is under incredible stress - for some an existential threat - but this moment also represents an incredible opportunity to redesign its future. It’s our privilege to be here to help it respond to the threat and embrace the opportunity.”

Follow the Arts Cleveland event calendar here

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