Valerie Schumacher

Acting Managing Director

Valerie Schumacher feels a gravitational pull toward drawing. Not surprisingly, at at Baldwin Wallace University, her major was studio art and arts management. She’s also studied photography, including at Italy’s Umbra Institute, and has won awards for her work in that medium, but although she enjoys shooting pictures, she just isn’t as attracted to it as she is to process of “putting charcoal to paper. I love black-and-white, raw drawings,” she explains. “And,” she admits with a big flash of grin, “I like getting messy.”

Her hybrid role as an artist and arts administrator is a natural outgrowth of the intuitive connection she made, as early as during her college years, between her art and the “creativity” or “innovation” buzz words that were trending in the business community at the time. At BW, Valerie was among four students in her class to achieve Arts Management Program recognition with her focus in entrepreneurship. In addition to composing a full-scale business plan, including financial projections and a business pitch to local business leaders, she and her team of classmates launched a separate project in partnership with Playhouse Square. They conducted a market analysis of college-age students attending live theater. The findings were presented to Playhouse Square leadership and received an Ovation Award in 2008. The project followed a full-scale collaborative production and administration, with the music theater department, of an off-Broadway musical presented both at the theater and the college, and it contributed to a still-thriving partnership between BW and Playhouse Square.

Valerie joined Arts Cleveland in May 2008, just after earning her bachelor’s degree — and after putting aside her original post-school plans to open her own arts business. “I had no desire to go into the nonprofit world. I wanted to open a gallery,” she recalls, “but it didn’t work out. It’s a little ironic, though, because now I’m working at a nonprofit that supports other nonprofits.” Ironic or not, her association with the arts service organization was, she says, “the right fit at the right time. The gallery idea was about supporting other artists and building mentorship, so it was aligned with what I’m doing now. I’m more interested in supporting the people around me,” she says, than in working exclusively by herself as an artist.

Accordingly, her tenure at Arts Cleveland has encompassed a wide range of ventures, from program operations to managing the nonprofit’s online presence to implementing the award-winning Artists as an Entrepreneur Institute. Valerie also supported the execution and full run of the Creative Workforce Fellowship from its beginnings in 2008, and she directed the program from late 2014 until it ended in late 2016. She also serves as Arts Cleveland’s in-house designer and design collaborator, producing Arts Cleveland’s annual reports and research chronicles such as When Artists Break Ground and Creative Minds in Medicine. In addition, she represents the organization as a member of the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts Committee of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, and she previously served on Cleveland’s Council of Smaller Enterprises’ (COSE’s) Arts Network’s Advisory Council.

The project Valerie’s most proud of, however, is Creative Compass, Arts Cleveland’s online clearinghouse of information for artists in greater Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. The concept wasn’t hers, she notes, but she was tasked with shaping and carrying out the idea for Arts Cleveland, and she managed the site’s planning, content creation and realization. She’s passionate about linking arts and culture professionals with the resources they need, and Creative Compass provided her with a tremendous opportunity to initiate those intersections. She still loves connecting with and helping individual artists and is happiest when she can just sit and talk with artists to find out what she and Arts Cleveland can do for them. Although, she admits with an abashed laugh, she can get so wrapped up in those conversations that more time than she intends slips away.

This service to individual artists and to the larger artistic and general communities, with its concomitant opportunity to change the public perspective on arts and culture, is an extension of Valerie’s profound belief in the transformative power of art, something she knows about from her own life. “[Creating] art was the first time I felt I could communicate well — words weren’t always my strong suit,” she remembers. “I don’t know anyone who’s encountered any art who wasn’t positively affected by it.” Even if someone doesn’t like what they see or hear, she adds, the experience provides a new perspective, food for thought. “At a minimum,” she points out, the experience “is an interruption of the grooves people dig for themselves.”

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