Northeast Ohio Lawmakers Form Non-partisan Arts and Culture Caucus

Members from every level of government discuss relief efforts for creative industries

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Cleveland— On Friday, federal, state and local lawmakers from throughout the region met online to formally establish a new Northeast Ohio Arts and Culture Caucus. The non-partisan caucus was formed by Arts Cleveland to encourage and enable legislators to advance an arts-inclusive agenda.

The group recognized the arts as an economic engine as it discussed supporting creative industries during the aftermath of COVID-19. Latest data indicates there were at least 67.5k creative workers in Cuyahoga County alone, many of whom have seen devastating losses as a result of Ohio closures. As Ohio begins to reopen in May, social distancing guidelines will continue to negatively impact the arts and culture sector’s ability to produce work at full capacity.

Cleveland City Councilman Matt Zone volunteered as co-chair for the duration of the 2020 calendar year. Sean Watterson, owner of the Happy Dog will serve as the first arts representative co-chair for the initial two-years. The Caucus will continuously be co-chaired by one elected official and one arts representative on alternating two-year terms. Terms are staggered for continuity and limited to facilitate diverse leadership.

“The arts are critical to the health and wellbeing of our residents,” said Zone. “We need to support the arts community as they are an integral driver of our local economy.  The Arts Caucus will provide a consistent space for elected officials to focus on how we can best integrate and support the arts in our communities.”

“The changes in the admissions tax back in 2011 was an example of what can happen when the arts community and public leaders join forces to find solutions,” added Watterson, who also serves on boards of multiple arts nonprofits including Arts Cleveland’s.

Arts Cleveland presented a series of policy options to enable each level of government to support creative workers.  Caucus members showed support for including arts and culture in relief efforts. Officials were asked to consider the depression-era Works Progress Administration model for hiring creative workers and rebuilding livelihoods.

 The Arts and Culture Caucus will reconvene every other month to discuss progress, propose legislation and show support.

 “We saw immediate interest in the Arts and Culture Caucus when we proposed it last year,” said Arts Cleveland’s president and CEO, Megan Van Voorhis, “and we’re thrilled to see that enthusiasm in our public leaders continue with this formal structure in place. Their support is more critical than ever as we look to rebuild our creative economy.”

View a growing list of NEO Arts and Culture Caucus members at


Arts Cleveland is a nonprofit organization serving individual artists, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and creative businesses in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. Arts Cleveland influences decision-making in government, civic and philanthropic contexts; highlights and facilitates the intersections of the arts with other sectors; and offers knowledge, skills, resources and connections for the arts and culture sector. For more information visit:

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