A Perspective on the Arts from Rose Ann Cleveland, LISC Local Advisory Member

Rose Ann Cleveland joined LISC’s Local Advisory Committee in July 2006, just a couple months after she became the Executive Director of the Cafritz Foundation. Rose Ann has an extensive background in the arts. She was the former director of programming for the Washington Performing Arts Society and worked for over 20 years with an arts focused nonprofit affiliated with the University of Maryland.

At the Cafritz Foundation, giving to the arts and humanities has always been a high priority. From 1970 to 2009 they have awarded over $314 million in grants to 109 arts organizations.

Rose Ann contends that the arts can play an integral role in neighborhood revitalization. “They make bridges between diverse populations and can play a role in tourism. Just look at the corridors destroyed by the riots in 1968, H Street NE , U Street and 14th Street. These neighborhoods are all turning around and the arts were in there early helping to make those changes happen.”

In her capacity as Executive Director of one of the largest foundations in the area, she has seen how arts organizations are dealing with the economic downturn. “The arts, like other nonprofits are being very creative about dealing with the economy. They are trying to look at administrative efficiencies, salary freezes, hiring freezes, furloughs and downsizing. There are fewer shows, but longer runs. They are figuring out how they can partner more deeply and eating into reserves. They are also trying different marketing efforts using events to get attention and social networking.”

But she also notes that it is really important to keep the quality of their product intact.“Groups might be more cautious around artistic risk, but taking chances is such an important part of these organizations.”

It is that very risk that can carry some pretty big monetary rewards. Rose Ann cites some numbers released this past summer from the DC Economic Partnership. They report that Washington DC’s creative economy was valued at roughly $5 billion in 2007 with 75,000 jobs in the creative sector. Their report specifically mentions that vacant and underutilized sites should be re-activated with arts and creative uses to maintain stability in the economy, extend employment opportunities to residents, and enhance communities through arts and culture.

Today, Rose Ann’s connection to the arts isn’t just professional. Her daughter is studying drama at the University of Maryland and both her daughter and son enjoy writing plays. Rose Ann is a welcome voice at our table on this and numerous other facets that comprise a healthy, strong neighborhood.