Democracy is stronger with the arts


Jeremy V. Johnson is CEO and Chairman of Assembly for the Arts, a new collaborative, non-profit artistic alliance, formed between Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, Cleveland Arts, and the Arts and Culture Action Committee which will focus on an ambitious advocacy and cultural policy agenda and racial equity initiatives. In this essay, Johnson pleads his case with candidates to pay more attention to the arts in Cleveland.

Jeremy V. Johnson, CEO and President of Assembly for the ArtsOur right to vote is one of the greatest rights we have as Americans. This right allows us to influence change and play a role in the appearance of our communities in the years to come.

Cleveland is at an exciting crossroads: voters will soon elect a new mayor for the first time in 16 years. Two finalists, nonprofit executive Justin Bibb and Cleveland City Council chairman Kevin Kelley, tout ambitious plans, each vying to improve the city.

As President and CEO of Assembly for the Arts I believe it is essential to ask mayoral candidates a singular question: how are the arts taken into account in your plan?

With a common goal of uplifting Cleveland as a city, we need a clear perspective from both candidates on their vision to do so. How are they going to engage the artists and make Cleveland the next great American city, revive its economy, and prepare the city for future generations?

The arts are at the heart of this progress. Crucial issues are at the forefront of voters’ concerns: Safety, services, jobs and education. And Justice. I implore constituents to poll our leaders on the arts, who can be a powerful catalyst for these issues. The arts mean more to the economy and the future of Cleveland than many people realize. In truth, our democracy is stronger with the arts.

We have already made progress. Before the pandemic, Cleveland was ranked in the top 20 of arts vibrant cities through National center for Arts Research. Earlier this year, the national website rent.com ranked Cleveland No. 11 among “Best cities for artists. “But we can and must do more to continue fostering an environment that elevates the bond with artists, communities and progress.

Candidates for mayor should understand how the creative economy stimulates travel and tourism in our region, increases our national awareness and improves the quality of our communities. The arts Account for $ 9.1 billion in economic impact in greater Cleveland, including 62,500 jobs and $ 3.3 billion in labor income.

The arts are part of our health and our quality of life. Research has continually shown the benefits of practicing arts and culture in supporting patients and caregivers, raising public health awareness, and community well-being.

Supporting the cause of justice and democracy, the creative sector is a catalyst for Cleveland’s solutions to bridge economic and racial divisions.

In his poem “DemocracyLangston Hughes, the famous African-American poet and native of Clevelander, wrote, “I have as much a right / As the other has a right / To stand on my own two feet / And to own the earth. “

In Hughes’ mind, let’s claim “The Land” – Cleveland embrace democracy through the power of the arts.

Our next mayor can make a difference by ensuring that the arts take center stage in their administration. We applaud the candidates who have committed to creating a cabinet-level position dedicated to the arts, devoting a support budget to the arts, and developing a cultural plan that benefits the whole city. The creative community is ready to work alongside the next mayor to achieve these goals. Our democracy depends on it.

It is the role of Assembly for the Arts to convene, coordinate and collaborate to strengthen and support local creators, presenters and artists. We strive to ensure that all who live and work in Greater Cleveland benefit from a diverse and equitable arts and culture sector, and recognize that the arts are an essential and defining component of the quality of life and economic vitality of the region.

While the Assembly does not endorse any candidate in the Cleveland mayoral race, we stress that voters remember this: Democracy is stronger with the arts.

Assembly for the Arts will sponsor the City Club and ideastream Mayor’s debate Monday October 11 between candidates Justin M. Bibb, nonprofit executive, and Kevin J. Kelley, chairman of Cleveland City Council. The debate will feature the voices of the Clevelanders on the issues that matter in their neighborhoods and communities. Assembly for the Arts and with CAN Journal will also sponsor Voting for the arts forum on Monday, October 18.

Since its founding on June 15, Assembly for the Arts has conducted research to better understand the arts sector in Greater Cleveland so that it can better serve artists, professionals and nonprofits by increasing the cake of resources and improving equity. Visit Assembly for the Arts If you want to know more about the work done so far or the activities planned for the future.


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