A thriving community

The Northeast Ohio arts and cultural sector is a viable, living, breathing, working industry that affects every part of our community, from the economy to education to quality of life. Though many enjoy and appreciate it, it often doesn’t get the attention it should, and some believe it’s time to change that.

Susie Frazier Mueller, a Northeast Ohio arts advocate, is dedicated to raising awareness that the local arts and cultural community is thriving. Mueller’s efforts have included displaying artwork in downtown storefronts and being involved in the March of Dimes Art Auction, which features the work of local artists.

“We’re drawing attention in an effort to save the arts in Northeast Ohio,” says Mueller. “Many folks over the past decade have gone to other cities to collect art or to patronize the theaters, thinking that there’s not a thriving art scene here. But there is, and it’s alive and well.”

Tom Schorgl, president and CEO of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, couldn’t agree more.

“The Northeast Ohio arts and cultural ecosystem is a major center for high-quality arts and cultural products and performances. Equal to or better than most cities in the United States, the Northeast Ohio area is certainly in the top five alongside New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., when it comes to quality, depth, breadth and diversity in arts and culture.”

There’s a lot to be gained from having a rich arts and cultural sector. Schorgl’s group reports the arts community circulates more than $1.3 billion in economic activity in Northeast Ohio and generates approximately 4,000 full-time, quality jobs.

“That’s significant,” says Schorgl, “especially when it represents family-supporting jobs that attract people to this community, who then encourage their friends and colleagues to join them for the local arts and culture.”

The result is an improved quality of life for everyone.

The arts have a positive impact on education, as well. Says Schorgl, “Studies have shown that if arts education is integrated into a school’s curriculum, students, regardless of socioeconomic background, tend to stay in school, retain more information, graduate higher in their class and score better on standardized tests.”

But with all the benefits arts and culture offer, Mueller says the industry remains untapped, not only as an economic engine, but as a resource for businesses.

“Northeast Ohio creative people have degrees from some of the best arts institutions,” says Mueller. “They are highly trained, talented and capable of filling the needs of various businesses.”

Mueller believes that if more businesses patronized vendors from local sources, Northeast Ohio would profit both economically and culturally. Instead of hiring an out-of-town interior design firm to renovate business space, find a local designer.

Art galleries such as the Art Metro Gallery in Cleveland’s Colonial Arcade may be rented out as an alternative for company parties or meetings.

“Folks tend to think they need to go to New York or Chicago to find the right resource for a special event or other business needs,” says Mueller. “They don’t need to do that. It’s all right here at their fingertips.”

On the business side, the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) is doing its part by adding a category to its Business Plan Challenge to encourage business planning and a connection between the arts and entrepreneurial fundamentals.

“The thought of a business plan can be intimidating to a lot of artists,” says Schorgl. “But COSE has developed the curriculum and teaching skills so that drafting a business plan isn’t a burden. It is regarded more as a tool to help them grow their business.”

Artists take ideas and turn them into something real that has value. COSE wants to help the entrepreneurial artists in the community use their talent to create wealth for themselves and the region. Mueller hopes one day to see the arts and cultural community as a bustling, bursting entity in Northeast Ohio.

“Everyone is starting to realize that the arts are a driving force that is now worthy of their attention,” says Mueller. “We just have to keep moving ahead.”