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Cleveland faces a number of challenges in the area of Arts & Culture that, creatively addressed, could help these neighborhoods realize their full potential:

  • Public Unawareness of Cultural Opportunities: Ninety percent of the respondents to a public survey conducted by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture agreed that the area’s arts and cultural resources are a source of great pride—but more than 60% admitted they had not attended programs because they had not been aware of them. New ways must be found to capture the attention of today’s busy, message-inundated city residents.

  • Neighborhoods Lacking Art’s Stimulation and Affirmation: Art, in the form of public art or architecture, or the creative configuration of public spaces, calls us to excellence, self-realization and worthy aspirations, and reminds us of the power of creativity to rise above our failures and pedestrian thinking. It binds people and communities together by creating shared experiences (as music, cultural festivals and sidewalk performances also can do) and common points of reference. It may honor a neighborhood’s heritage or awaken pride in its contributions, hold up role models for the young, or form part of an area’s distinctive identity—and appeal to prospective residents and new businesses. Integrating the arts more fully into the fabric and the day-to-day life of a community, in short, provides food for the spirit while creating more attractive places.

  • Early exposure to the arts supports the development of creative and innovative thinking. [Karamu Early Childhood Development Center]

    Lack of Appreciation for What the Arts Provide: As a result of diminished arts education, our schools are denying young people the chance to experience the stimulation and rich sense of self and of life’s possibilities the arts can provide, not to mention the opportunity to discover and hone what may be marketable talents. Perhaps even more disturbingly, this deprivation will result in an urban population that does not recognize the value, never mind the very real satisfactions, of the arts: a narrowing of our horizons that will ultimately take its toll on entrepreneurial creativity and vision, limiting Cleveland’s future—beginning with the continued viability of its cultural institutions. With the decrease in demand, and supporters, some of this city’s most powerful assets could be in jeopardy. In the balance are the thousands of jobs and the tax revenue these activities produce, as well as our ability to attract the kind of educated, fresh-thinking people who will generate jobs—and make Cleveland competitive—in the new knowledge-based global economy.

    Arts and cultural education programs must be designed that expand and broaden the audience for the arts; this effort must be inclusive in character, finding creative ways to engage people of all ages, genders, ethnic background and economic status. Providing neighborhood residents with opportunities to experience the arts in a more familiar context could help demystify the cultural experience. The involvement of area companies must also be sought. Popular support—and the convinced backing of Cleveland’s business—are key to obtaining the funding necessary to restore and expand educational offerings in our schools and neighborhoods.

  • Slow Market Growth: A potential barrier to audience growth and support for arts and cultural institutions is the slowness of the city to increase its population. In most cities, it has been population growth, not an increase in public participation, which has resulted in higher attendance at cultural performances.

  • Electronic Competition: Traditional cultural venues are facing another challenge these days in the competition for the public’s limited leisure time and discretionary income—from the electronic media. Continual improvements in technology, including the quality, flexibility and interactive participation, of pre-produced entertainment are producing new entertainment options that are especially attractive to younger audiences.

  • Inadequate Access: Visitors complain of the difficulty of getting from one cultural venue to another, the stress of having to navigate unfamiliar streets, and the expense of multiple parking fees. A coordinated transportation system linking cultural amenities scattered throughout the area would be an important step in the right direction. Residents of some neighborhoods feel they lack equal access to these amenities because of geographical isolation or ticket prices well above their income, while members of some minority groups say their cultural interests or tastes are ignored or looked down on by arts programmers.

  • Insufficient Resources: Most local cultural institutions, scrambling just to stay in business in these challenging times, lack expertise much less the additional resources to adapt to changing circumstances. One way to help these groups function more efficiently while exploring ways and means of reaching a larger public is more collaborations and networking between arts and cultural organizations—and between cultural and non-artistic entities. A more businesslike approach to operations is also needed to ensure that what money is available is spent wisely. This will require the development of a strong pool of interested citizens combining practical skills with sensitivity to the special needs and goals of the arts who are willing to work as board-members and volunteers.

  • Limited Public Funding: There is limited local public funding support for cultural organizations. The decrease in federal funding for the arts has put more of the burden of support on state and local governments. Northeast Ohio lags behind other regions in per capita local and county support of arts and culture. Developing the consensus needed to establish comprehensive local funding will require broad-based leadership. The incorporation of more public art into public projects—along with having greater input from the arts community into the design of public capital improvements—would greatly improve the area’s “sense of place”, promote diverse neighborhoods, and preserve elements of each one’s distinctive character and heritage that is in danger of being lost.

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