Community partnership for arts and culture scrutinizing economic impact of music, musicians in studies (Plain Dealer)

The Community Partnership for Arts and Culture wants to know where artists like Cleveland musician Denny Carleton perform, spend money and sleep. To find out, the nonprofit is doing two studies. One examines the economic impact of Cuyahoga County’s music sector. Another researches where artists live, with an eye toward matching them with abandoned properties to inject life in neglected neighborhoods. Some results will be ready by fall.

Carleton, 61, is active in his lifelong career as a guitarist and singer-songwriter. He plays with various groups and solo, donates his talents to churches and nonprofit organizations and teaches at the Fine Arts Association in Willoughby. When he buys new guitar strings, attracts a crowd to his pub gigs, or gets paid for a music lesson, he’s an important cog in the county’s economy. Expand that to include recording studios, nonprofits that teach music, concert venues from Severance Hall to the Agora, outlets for enthusiasts such as the North Coast Men’s Chorus, retail stores that sell amplifiers and CDs, and teens buying Lady Gaga tickets.

That scope is what the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, in conjunction with Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, will measure in its Music Cluster Analysis.

“There’s really a robust music industry here, and it’s our job to uncover it and explain it,” said Megan Van Voorhis, vice president of Community Partnership for Arts and Culture.

The analysis should be completed by mid-2011, Van Voorhis said. Future surveys will examine dance, visual art and other disciplines.

Community Partnership for Arts and Culture is also curious about where artists choose to live. For instance, Carleton lives in Collinwood, an area that has a high concentration of artists and uses the arts to drive neighborhood revitalization.

The Artist Home Ownership Research will identify artist-heavy neighborhoods and properties held by Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp. that fit artists’ needs, Van Voorhis said.

The corporation, also known as Cuyahoga County Land Bank, aims to return vacant or abandoned homes and commercial properties to productive use. The land bank can transfer properties to artists as soon as the study is finished, said Jim Rokakis, Cuyahoga County treasurer and land-bank board chairman.

“We’re looking forward to moving some property,” he said. “Artists create a certain energy. They’re a draw.”

The Cuyahoga County Land Bank’s properties are available at low or no cost to anyone who can afford needed repairs, which could cost as much as $100,000, Rokakis said.

In July, 3,000 artists in Community Partnership for Arts and Culture’s database received housing surveys, Van Voorhis said. The nonprofit is shooting to complete the research in September, including maps showing housing patterns.

It’s important to find places that welcome artists and have retail businesses to support them, Van Voorhis said. “Not every community may have that,” she said.

The way Carleton sees it, this is a region blessed with musical talent, but it needs to make the music industry a priority.

“It needs a fresh perspective,” he said.

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