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Great Lakes Theater "The Merry Wives of Windsor," 2014

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I Hate Numbers

Meg-Sommeil et le Reve

"Sommeil et le Reve" Meg Matko

I hate numbers. I have always hated numbers. Story problems make my toes curl; asking me to do addition typically elicits a blank stare and a long ‘Uhhhhmmmm…’ before someone else eventually answers. My method of measuring things like wood and paper, involves a well-developed technique I like to call eyeballing, so as to avoid dealing with a ruler, tape measure, or, god-forbid, fractions. Recently I’ve found myself in the presence of things like statistics and data. Statistics, of course, involve numbers and come from things like research. Research provides us with things like data. I have to admit, the idea of research is intimidating, particularly for someone whose brain shrivels up at the thought of numbers. And what could I, a visual art person, a sculptor, possibly want with research and data and statistics? I sew thorns into pillowcases, pull wax positives out of plaster molds and bind my limbs with ribbon – what the hell am I going to do with research?

As it turns out, quite a bit. Research and data afford us a factual platform to operate on, and sometimes us art folks need a bit of a reality check. Think about a statistic that tells us employment within the Cuyahoga County visual arts sector is solid (the overall share of total employment has remained almost unchanged between 2006 and 2012). Or how about while the rest of Ohio was witnessing a declining visual arts industry and the nation’s was sitting still, Cuyahoga County’s VACD sector was increasing (between 2011 and 2012, the VACD sector in Cuyahoga County grew by 1.7%). This stuff reminds us that arts are a really powerful force here. We know this, but these facts reinforce it.

Meg-Self Love

"Self Love" Meg Matko

Seeing these positive morsels of data about the visual arts industry here in Cleveland gives us an extra boost and the validation we need to keep us making, working together and doing what we do. What we’re doing is important and we can use this knowledge to collaborate and to create a richer, more supportive environment for those of us who are generating ideas and pushing boundaries through visual art. With the good, also comes the not so great, like the fact that artwork actually sells cheaper locally   (7% of art in Cuyahoga County sells within the $2- $3,000 price range, while 15% of work sold outside the county sells within that price range). But even this information is helpful because it gives us ideas on where improvements can be made to propel quality of life for Cleveland artists. 

Moving forward, the visual arts, craft and design research piece,Forming Cleveland, recommends ways we can take this community to the next level. It begs us to think about how we can:

  • Increase local and regional demand for the arts
  • Enhance knowledge of artists’ marketing and promotional skills
  • Encourage more collaboration
  • Increase visibility and importance of the sector in the eyes of regional decision makers
  • Utilize Cleveland’s great neighborhoods
  • Bring more monetary support into the arts community

Art-making is a way of life and it’s essential we all continue to create beautiful and strange things pulled from the thoughts that drive us. But sometimes it’s important to shift perspective and recognize a tie between things that seem completely unrelated to what we’re doing. It’s easy to get consumed in the making and not realize just how important it is to be active in maintaining a fertile soil to create in. Cleveland does have this fertile soil. We know it.

This research and these (gulp) numbers help us prove it. 

Categories: Artists, Cleveland, research, Visual

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