Nonprofit Assembly for the Arts appoints arts leader Deidre McPherson as its first Chief Community Officer

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The nonprofit Assembly for the Arts, an umbrella organization for the city’s cultural sector, announced Thursday that it has appointed consultant Deidre McPherson as its first chief community officer.

The appointment signals a strengthening of the Assembly’s efforts to improve equality and opportunity for individual artists and practitioners of all kinds, as well as among the city’s creative industries and non-profit institutions.

“I am very excited to have her join our endeavor,” Jeremy Johnson, President and CEO of Assembly since 2020, said of McPherson. “We want to continue to center Cleveland as a great city of the arts and as a great city of justice.”

McPherson, 45, a native of Cleveland Heights, has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Maryland.

She has served as Curator of Public Programs at the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art and as Director of Public Programs at the Cleveland Museum of Art. She also directs artistic and community programming for FRONT International in 2022: The Cleveland Triennial of Contemporary Art.

“We’re here to support creative businesses, artists and non-profits through our advocacy work, policy, race equity initiatives, research and marketing … so we have a thriving arts and culture scene,” said McPherson, who started his new job on November 14.

“I really want to talk to artists and consult with them in ways to understand what their needs are so I can go back to my team and various Assembly partners and advocate for those needs to help them to have sustainable careers,” she said.

Assembly for the Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that works in partnership with Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, the public agency that distributes $12 million annually to nonprofit cultural organizations, community projects and individual artists from money raised through 30 -the cents per pack cigarette tax.

Assembly for the Arts is also affiliated with Assembly for Action, a 501(c)4 nonprofit political action organization that is legally authorized to engage in lobbying and fundraising.

Assembly for the Arts was created to provide a unified voice for Northeast Ohio’s $1 billion creative economy, which includes both nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses ranging from architecture and graphic design to film, music performance and records.

McPherson’s recent projects include organizing the first round of FRONT Art Futures Fellowships.

Deidre McPherson, director of arts and community initiatives for FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial of Contemporary Art, announced the first four winners of the FRONT Art Futures Fellowship on Thursday, July 14, 2022, at the Cleveland Museum of Art.Steven Litt, cleveland.com

The four winners of the scholarship, announced earlier this year, will receive $25,000, a spot in the FRONT Triennial in 2025, plus travel opportunities and access to art world elites locally and nationally. McPherson said the program is designed to be a positive, life-changing experience for the artists.

At FRONT, McPherson also helped lead the recent FRONT Futures of the Arts Forum held at the Cleveland Clinic Health Education Campus and Case Western Reserve University.

During the forum, representatives of the best visual arts institutions in Cleveland described their efforts to improve racial equity in programming, hiring and other aspects of their operations. Black cultural leaders criticized these efforts in a separate afternoon session at the event as not leading to meaningful change.

Johnson said the Arts Assembly will continue to have similar conversations.

McPherson said another part of her work in the Assembly will involve quantifying the economic impact of the arts in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.

Related projects will include supporting local participation in the upcoming Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 national survey, which will be conducted by the Washington-based American Federation of the Arts.

The survey is conducted every five years to assess the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture spending and event-related spending on their audiences across the country

“This is the first time Cuyahoga County has been included in this study,” McPherson said. “We have invested a lot in art and culture. We are the envy of other parts of the country.”

She said the new study “will help quantify the number of jobs supported, income generated and the social and economic benefit of arts and culture and what they bring to local communities”.

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