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Why Cleveland's artist map matters

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/21/11 @ 9:49am

Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC) mined the databases of large arts organizations such the Ohio Arts Council to provide a snapshot of where Cleveland-area artists are living. Their "Putting Artists on the Map" study looks at the top artist districts by categories (i.e. percent musician, visual, literary), their education, even alternative modes of transportation-how many artists bike or walk to work.

Not surprisingly, neighborhoods that promote walking, biking, lots of social interaction / public spaces, diversity, inexpensive and larger housing (with rooms for studios) tend to be Greater Cleveland's creative havens. (It's also interesting that artists tend to walk and bike to work in higher percentages than Cleveland's average).

In this passage from the report, CPAC hints at what it hopes to gain from mapping artists:

Artist-based community development is more than opening an art gallery or having an artist move into a neighborhood. This type of develop involves the creation of a more organic relationship between artists and their neighbors. This can mean a neighborhood takes steps to identify its hidden arts and culture assets by finding its gathering places, influential figures?artists can be engaged by making beautiful and interesting public spaces and help unite residents in the process."

In other words, cities like Lakewood and Cleveland Heights, which account for 70% of the region's artists, could really prioritize building on their current artist base. They might make their economic development arts-driven; they could engage the community in a discussion and find out if it's appropriate to create policies or provide incentives (i.e. to start a home-based business or to direct CDBG funds to reconfigure single-family homes with studio spaces). At the very least, engaging those 'influential figures' from the arts community in economic development discussions could begin to shape the community to be even more inviting for artists to live and work there.

These efforts matter because self-identified artists are a stabilizing force in the urban core and inner-ring-they are an important part of the social fabric drawing the public to galleries which serve as a third leg in the civic common. Galleries and artist spaces can be flexible-they are not necessarily centered on a simple transaction, not a space devoted exclusively to one age or type of person.

The top ranking artist clusters are:

  • Lakewood (292 artists)
  • Coventry Village in Cleveland Heights (217)
  • Tremont (155)
  • University Circle / Little Italy (130)
  • The Severance neighborhood in Cleveland Heights (between Severance shopping center and Oakwood ? 122)
  • South Shaker Heights (Onaway-Lomond ? 121)
  • Downtown Cleveland's Superior Warehouse District (110)
  • Detroit-Shoreway (84 and rising)

The top three categories in the region's artist districts:

  • Music ? 65.5%
  • Theater ? 64.9%
  • Literary ? 62.5%

The next three installments of CPAC's study include a survey of artists' preferences regarding buildings and neighborhoods, a regression analysis that predicts where artists will be living next in Cuyahoga County and an analysis of the type of building stock artists are currently living in. See a breakdown of where artists are currently residing in Cuyahoga County.

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