Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Today’s short takes: Trump, wolves, crime, and art

National: The national news media let Donald Trump off the hook so many times during the just-concluded presidential campaign. It was extraordinarily frustrating to see interviewers fail to pin the candidate down on his slogan to make America great again. He used that phrase, borrowed without attribution from Ronald Reagan, repeatedly without being required to identify even a time frame, much less any measurable yardsticks.  A general consensus seemed to emerge, without help or direction from the candidate, that Trump most likely was referring to the 1950s, a decade when white male egos were unchallenged. White men controlled everything and Father Knew Best. Civil rights were openly suppressed, in many cases with the authority of law. Gays were in the closet, women had healthier relationships with home appliances than husbands, and the throwaway culture was perhaps at its zenith. 

That consensus appears to have been wrong. As the nominees of the Trump administration are rolled out, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the era Donald Trump has in mind when he talks of making American great again is pre-modern, perhaps even Paleolithic. The presumptive Secretary of Energy is … Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who wanted to abolish the Energy Department.

The foxes are no longer in charge of the hen house. Wolves are replacing them.

• • •

Tavis Smiley
National talk show host Tavis Smiley was in Cleveland last week for a forum, "Courting Justice," that among other things highlighted the harmful effect the high cost of fines, fees and bail have on the criminal justice system. The forum, which was filmed before a live audience at WVIZ/PBS ideastream, will be shown in two 30-minute segments, tonight and tomorrow at 11:30 p.m. on public television. Readers outside the Cleveland viewing area should check PBS.org their local viewing times.

The show’s panel included Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, Cleveland Municipal Court Administrative Judge Ronald Adrine, Lakewood Municipal Court Judge Pat Carroll and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Yvette McGee Brown.

Nothing against the chief justice or the Lakewood judge, but we can vouch from personal experience that Judge Adrine and former Justice McGee Brown are exceptionally thoughtful and knowledgeable.

The forum was part of a nationwide series. Previously aired segments were in Los Angeles [June] & Little Rock [Sept.] and are likely available online through Tavis Smiley show archives at PBS.org. Local sponsors included the City Club of Cleveland and the Cleveland Foundation.

• • •

Speaking of ideastream, we attended a spirited public meeting there yesterday afternoon that addressed the way Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, the agency that determines which arts organizations get funded from the county’s dedicated 30-cents-a-pack cigarette tax, may change a core program.

Meeting of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Board of Trustees
at Playhouse Square, December 12, 2016
At CAC’s November 14 meeting, held at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood, where more than $14.5 million in grants was announced, public comments from two outspoken members of the local arts community, helped focus concerns on CAC’s proposed shift in how individual artists are funded. The comments, by CAC board member Gwendolyn Garth and Donald Black Jr., addressed perceived inequities in the administration of the

Joseph Gibbons chairs the Board of Trustees,
Cuyahoga Arts and Culture; Karen Gahl-Mills is CAC
executive director.
individual artists awards process, which is separately handled by the nonprofit Community Partnership for Arts and Culture.

Tension and concern over proposed changes being considered by CAC as to how individual artists awards may be handled in the future led to yesterday’s meeting being attended by an SRO crowd of nearly 200. The normal 15 minutes reserved for public comment at each board meeting had to be extended to nearly 90 minutes as a series of speakers, almost all of whom were disciplined enough to stay within their allotted three minutes, voiced support for the current system, decried proposed changes that would replace the current Creative Workforce Partnerships [aka individual artists awards] and replace it with new awards that would be managed by an entity based outside the state.

CAC trustee, Steve Minter
Of equal concern, judging from how the audience regularly responded with applause to the public comments, were sentiments expressing concern over how artists of color seemed not to find favor in the awards process, and how some neighborhoods, including Glenville, Hough, and Mt. Pleasant, were left out in the cold when public projects were considered.

It seemed clear that the trustees wanted to hear from the artist’s community, and that this was a dialogue that should have been routinely occurring during the decade CAC has existed. Board members announced even before the public comment that no decision on changing the Creative Workshop Partnership program would be taken at yesterday’s meeting. Following the public comment period, each board member addressed the crowd, and the prevailing sense was that the board would be doing its homework over the holidays before the next meeting.

While several artists of color spoke about their frustrations or questions regarding the distribution of funds, it was illuminating to see a significant number of nonminority artists also speak to inequities and process issues that disproportionately hinder black and brown artists. This first time visitor to a CAC session left with an appreciation for the robustness of Cleveland’s artistic community, its energy and sense of fair play, and the under appreciated role that public support of the arts must play in any genuine civic renaissance.

This last point was underscored by the attendance of both former Gund Foundation president David Bergholz and former County Commissioner
Dave Bergholz,
former Gund Foundation President
Peter Lawson Jones. Bergholz, who arrived more than an hour early and led off the public comment period, set the tone when he spoke strongly in favor of maintaining and strengthening the CWP awards and challenged the trustees to find more money to support artists. Jones, who is now perhaps the area’s busiest actor, did not speak; during his tenure as a public official he was a vocal and committed champion of the arts and a prominent spokesman for the tax that created what is now a strong contributor to the Cleveland arts scene.

The next regular meeting of the Board of Trustees is scheduled for February 13, 2017 at the Idea Center, 1375 Euclid Ave.