Share This Page

Aiming for Inclusive Community Renewal, One Cleveland Artist at a Time


This op-ed originally appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on May 1, 2019.

By Tracie D. Hall, Director, Culture Program

Artists and community leaders gather in clusters in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ohio City. One group listens closely as Jim Walker of Big Car Collaborative in Indianapolis takes questions about his organization’s ambitious efforts to remediate abandoned homes and sell them at below market rate to low-income artists and workers in the neighborhood. A representative of a local arts organization chimes in enthusiastically, “Imagine what that would look like here.” Everyone nods in agreement.

Cleveland, like many major cities in the Midwest, is undergoing a renewal. And with change comes the challenge of making sure longtime residents remain central to the landscape.

Amanda King does this through Shooting Without Bullets, the youth photography program she founded to provide young people with the skills and means to produce and frame their own images and narratives. Daniel Gray-Kontar uses Twelve Literary Arts Inc. to cultivate the voices of young poets of color and to chronicle their lived experiences in areas of the city like Collinwood, East Cleveland, and Lorain-Denison where new development and rising housing costs are slowly bringing demographic shifts.

The work of King and Gray-Kontar is emblematic of a wave of artists and creative entrepreneurs in Cleveland who are generating new models of inclusive community renewal. The critical role that artists and arts organizations are playing as civic leaders and influencers is what prompted The Joyce Foundation to bring our second annual “Artist as Problem Solver” summit to Cleveland recently.

Read the full piece here.