Use your local arts resources

Artist Brinsley Tyrell created the sculptural fences in Coventry Village. The public art project was managed by Heights Arts. [photo: Michael Weil]

In the past month or two, Crain’s Cleveland Business published no fewer than four articles and opinions about the importance of arts to the future of Greater Cleveland: "Investments in artists pay dividends for regional economy," by Jeremy Johnson; "Businesses that value innovation should support creativity of local arts scene," by Fred Bidwell; "To thrive, Greater Cleveland needs to integrate art into all aspects of life," by Jennifer Coleman; and "Region buoyed by abundance of talent, creativity," by Grant Segall.

Many lifelong residents take for granted our vibrant arts and music scene, or, worse, don’t take advantage of it at all. Cleveland has arts institutions such as the Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Orchestra that have few peers on the planet, yet it is a medium-sized and livable city in which gaining access to these institutions is enviably easy, and where the moderate cost of living lets a broader population enjoy the “finer things” (as well as the delightful gritty things).

At the same time that these grand institutions play their leadership roles here and internationally, a host of local arts organizations have been doing their part to bring the arts to everyday life. Together, these grand and grassroots assets add up to a special opportunity in Northeast Ohio, both for our quality of life and for our economic future.

I was incredibly privileged to work for the Cleveland Museum of Art for 30 years, spanning its 75th and 100th anniversaries, and to have been a founder and two-time president of Heights Arts, which will turn 25 in 2025.

The essential premise of Heights Arts, coming out of a citizen-driven visioning process that the city of Cleveland Heights conducted in the late 1990s, was that—as a community that was home to more working artists, musicians, arts educators, and arts professionals than any other city in our region—Cleveland Heights should be a place where the arts are a major power source in everyday life. Indeed, the Heights' prime location and creative population place it in a unique competitive position within, and even beyond, our region. There’s great potential here, but we have to do something with it.

From different perspectives, each of the Crain’s articles noted that living with the arts is much more than a way to add beauty and inspiration to your own life—it can inform creative problem-solving and innovation in many spheres, it can teach the value of focus and discipline toward high craft in whatever you do, and, ultimately, it can produce tangible economic benefits in addition to all the valuable intangibles.

Heights Arts and other organizations large and small across our region have worked hard to champion the “creative life.” For Heights Arts in particular, that has meant establishing a long-running gallery and shop on Lee Road, organizing musical and literary events, managing public art projects, and more—helping artists find broader audiences, helping Heights residents discover great art, and creating innovative new ways to bring creators and audiences together, such as, to cite one example, the “Ekphrastacy” series wherein local poets write and perform works inspired by art in Heights Arts exhibitions. It’s always revelatory.

Take full advantage of local arts resources, whether your interest is literature or nonfiction or poetry, or music or theater or performance in any genre, or visual art in all its diverse forms. Whether it’s creating art or appreciating it or some of each, make the arts a part of your life. You won’t be sorry, and neither will the city where you live, nor its economy.

Greg Donley

Greg Donley is a longtime Cleveland Heights resident and a founding board member of both Heights Arts and FutureHeights.

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 10:21 AM, 09.29.2023