Arts & Culture Plays a Leading Role When Welcoming the World into a Community

Posted by Ms. Karen Gahl Mills, Jul 15, 2016 0 comments

Next week, the eyes of the world will be on Cleveland, Ohio, when 50,000 visitors roll into town for what is shaping up to be one of the most interesting political conventions in history.

While we can’t control the media narrative of the event, we can influence how visitors feel about our community while they are here. We want people to see that our community is more than our sports teams (although we are still pretty excited about the Cavs). It’s more than our “burning river,” an event that spurred an environmental movement nearly 50 years ago. It’s more than a major city in an important swing state.

Many people would be surprised to know that Greater Cleveland has one of the densest concentrations of cultural attractions and performing arts venues in the country—a cultural district that started more than a century ago. That’s why Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, a voter-supported, publicly funded agency, and several of our partner organizations have made a concerted effort to showcase the vibrant arts and culture community we offer to our residents and visitors 365 days a year.

Without a doubt, publicly funded arts and culture play an important role in our community’s identity. We want to make sure the world sees all the facets that make Cleveland a place so many of us love to call home, and there’s no better way to do that than to introduce people to the arts and culture experiences we value.

Taking a cue from Charlotte, North Carolina’s work during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, we have worked with the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee to develop and support a series of “Arts Interventions,” a set of pop-up, temporary arts experiences in public spaces, as a way to infuse Cleveland’s artistic spirit into this big public event.

We will help enliven the airport, downtown streets, and other spaces with performances by dancers, musicians, and artists of all ages, as a way to both welcome visitors and enrich the day-to-day experience for residents.

And, we aren’t the only ones working to infuse arts and culture into the convention experience.

  • Just in time for the RNC, University Circle Inc., offers CirclePass, one combined ticket for the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA), the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Western Reserve Historical Society's Cleveland History Center, which are all within walking distance from each other.
  • Western Reserve Historical Society’s Cleveland History Center will host Power & Politics, an exhibition and video series highlighting the significance of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio on presidential politics.
  • Americans for the Arts will host ArtsSpeak, an educational forum highlighting the transformative power of the arts to impact community issues, featuring elected officials and high profile artists and taking place at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Guests will also experience the Rock Hall’s “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics” exhibit, which explores the power of rock to change attitudes about patriotism, peace, equality, and freedom.
  • Many other cultural partners—too numerous to acknowledge—are incorporating themes of politics and free speech into their summer programming, as a response to the current political climate.

We are under no illusions that convention-goers will have hours to visit our museums, explore our local flora and fauna at our nature centers, or sit and watch performances. So, why make an investment in the arts during the RNC?

Simply stated, we are the hosts of this important community event. And good hosts aim to give their guests the best experience possible during their stay. Having an encounter with our community’s authentic arts and cultural heritage will, we hope, break through the political clutter and help our guests (and the area residents who are witnesses to this historic event) feel inspired, energized, and happy while they are here.

We believe that art empowers us all. It inspires social change. It encourages community dialogue. It is a way that we connect with each other.

Cuyahoga Arts & Culture looks forward to showcasing our tremendous cultural assets—and to helping visitors and residents alike find inspiration and beauty during this important political event. 

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