Cuyahoga Arts and Culture to Award More Than $12 Million to Local Orgs, But Artists Unhappy with Reductions


  • Josh Usmani
Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, the organization tasked with disbursing funds from the 30-cents-per-pack county tax on cigarettes, has announced that it will award more than $12 million in grants to arts organization in 2018. The awards were unanimously approved by CAC's five-member board at its meeting Monday.

“We’re pleased to invest in a record number of organizations this year” said CAC's CEO Karen Gahl-Mills, in a statement. “Cuyahoga Arts & Culture is one of the largest public funders of arts and culture in the country. Because of our community’s commitment to arts and culture, CAC is able to help hundreds of organizations bring their work to life across Cuyahoga County.”

But the funding, which will go toward 257 organizations to provide general operating and project-specific support, is a sharp reduction from the last funding cycle. Sixty-one organizations will receive $10.2 million in general operating support, for example, which represents a 20-percent reduction from the $12.7 million that 57 organizations received last year. 

Another 196 organizations (including 25 new recipients) will receive $1.7 million in project support. That, too, is a reduction. Last year, 184 organizations received $1.9 million for the much smaller ($35,000 or less) project grants. This year, project grants were made in chunks of $30,000 or less.

At the meeting Monday, CAC board members characterized the cuts as a prudent response to the decrease in tobacco tax revenue, a decrease that's expected to trend in the same direction as fewer and fewer people continue smoking. But The Plain Dealer reported that opposition to the cuts was strong.

Artists packed the Western Reserve Historical Society for the public meeting to raise their voices against the cuts and to ask for more time to consider how best to dole out dwindling resources — CAC clarifies that attendance was on par with annual meetings in years' past, and that those who spoke were all representing organizations. They were not individual artists.

Artists were vocal in their opposition early this year as well, when it was announced that the Individual Artist Awards were to be significantly altered. At least one other commenter Monday supported the cuts, and thanked CAC for continuing to broaden the pool of recipients.

*This post has been updated with clarification from CAC regarding Monday's crowd size, and the proper number of 2018 grant recipients. Grants will be awarded to 257 organizations, not 254. 

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.