by Jan Brown Checco

If you are a working artist living in Cincinnati, and you don’t have a salaried position within one of our prestigious arts institutions, you know how difficult it is to live from commission to commission, adjunct position to street fair, open studio sales evening to short-term project.  There are thousands of us out here.  We have been trained in BFA and MFA programs, and unfortunately have not found the magic synapse that fires on a regular basis to gainful employment, or even sustained professional activity.

Tonya Matthews, Queensgate, Spoken Word Artist, live performances at Community Centers and Schools

This year Cincinnati’s City Council is offering, for a second season, $50,000 in honoraria to be shared among seven of our creative community’s best and brightest.  How do you put yourself in competition to receive one of these $6000 stipends?  Read on…

About CAAC and CAAF:

The Cincinnati Arts Allocation Committee (CAAC) has been operating since 1989 and was established as a standing committee by City ordinance in 1990 to make funding recommendations to City Council and to advise City Council on other arts matters.  Nine volunteer committee members serve 3-year terms with a 6-year limit, all appointed by the Mayor.  The CAAC active members are Todd Wurzbacher, Chair; Carla Walker, Vice Chair; Jan Brown Checco, Cedric Cox and Stacie Dennison.  Four seats have been vacated by term limits, and Mayor Cranley will soon be approving four new committee members.

Terri Kern, West Price Hill, Ceramics, Open studios at her Pendleton studio, Exhibition at downtown gallery

Financial support to individual working artists was cut from the city budget in 2009, but then reinstated in 2012 thanks to the efforts of then Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan. Cincinnati’s annual budget negotiations make the sustainability of arts programming a precarious issue, and CAAC believes that a public/private sharing of the funding could make the Mayor and our City Council members more inclined to commit to annual support of this important working artists opportunity. The committee is seeking support from the private sector to match, or at least to support an annual CAAF program, allowing City Hall to confirm our reputation as a robust cultural center.

Tatiana Berman, East Walnut Hills, Multimedia work of composition, Collaborative Performance at Memorial Hall

What is the Cincinnati Art Ambassador Fellowships Program (CAAF)?

Art Ambassador Fellowships are intended to fund an artist’s vision or voice, regardless of the level of her or his artistic career point. The awards are used to support the realization of specific creative ideas that are expressed within the application process, concepts intended to enrich the quality of life of Cincinnati residents.  Fellows ideally will work together with businesses and organizations throughout our city’s neighborhoods, broadening our spectrum of cultural experiences and encouraging our public to be engaged, open and connected.

Nathanial Chaitkin, Mt. Lookout, “Bach and Boombox”

This competitive program provides awards to artists in recognition of the excellence of their past work.  Review of applications is provided by the CAAC, ten finalists are invited to interview, and the Committee makes a recommendation to be approved by the Mayor and City Council.  CAAF awards are up to $6000 each this year, and the work period is 10 months.  Due to the city’s budget constraints, this funding is contingent upon an approved City Budget, which was settled in the last weeks of 2013.  In 2012 and 2013, $50,000 of public funds have been allocated to this program from the General Fund, administered through the Human Services, Youth and Arts Committee (chaired by Councilperson Yvette Simpson) with Cincinnati Recreation Commission as the fiscal agent for program operation.

Melissa Godoy, Mt. Airy, Filmmaker, “The Art Carvers of Music Hall”

City Arts Funding Runs Through Recreation – So, Are We Having Fun Yet?

You may wonder how the Arts found their way into the Recreation Commission’s budget.  The migration can be traced to City Hall’s identification of art as a social remediation tool.  This was driven by the public’s fear of rising crime and delinquency.  Initially, 1.5% of the General Budget was earmarked for Human Services, .1% of which went to Cincinnati Recreation Commission and was managed by Carolyn Gutjahr when she staffed  CAAC for distribution of small art organization and individual artist grants from 1989 – 2009.  It is important to note that while City Council members have come to expect publicly funded artworks to be tools of social cure; our university programs are not training graduates for that kind of project design, management and production.  This is one of the broken links between public funding and our skilled arts industry: our schools are producing studio artists who want to express their talents without conditions, and with fine art exhibitions and projects.  The CAAF program strives to bridge that gap, and also intends to network the Fellows so that they learn from and can collaborate with each other.  Heavy lifting for all concerned, to be sure, but worth the effort.

Jesse Mooney Bullock, Northside, Puppetry Bear Boy Shows

Proposed Timeline for the 2014-15 CAAF Program

Applications for qualified artists will be offered online beginning March 3, 2014, at the Cincinnati Recreation Commission website:  Check the menu for Arts items to find the CAAF Application Form and FAQs document.  The deadline for applications is March 28, 2014, so turn around must be swift.  Applications will be reviewed from April 7 – 18, and interviews of the top ten applicants are tentatively scheduled for the week of April 22.  By the way, CAAF recipients must be residents of Cincinnati, at least 18 years of age and not currently enrolled in an educational program.

Casey Riordan Millard, Kennedy Heights, Sculptor, Installation at Yeatman’s Cove

Thanks for sharing this important information with those working artists you love!


Jan Brown Checco is a member of the Cincinnati Arts Allocation Committee.

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