Popular culture

A little help goes a long way for the artists who weave our communities together

Miss Honey Bell-Bey travel again. The Cuyahoga County Poet Laureate says she “takes Cleveland with me to Paris, Seattle and Ghana” in the form of her lyrics and poetry. Bell-Bey speaks to audiences in other countries and in Cuyahoga County settings with a message of hope.

Miss Honey Bell-Bey“I wanted to create poetry groups for young men after school: it seemed natural to me,” Bell-Bey says sardonically. “It’s really about the positive development of young people, whether it’s chess, poetry or basketball, it’s about having a positive relationship with an adult. Poetry is the byproduct, just the medicine that I sneak up on.

Hailing from East Cleveland, the Bell-Bey Poetry Mission is one of 22 projects in 2021 that won grants from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC) and Neighborhood connections in a common partnership that awarded $ 59,587 in grants to support artists and entrepreneurs working in Cleveland and East Cleveland. These resident-led arts and culture projects linked to the pandemic have received grants ranging from $ 700 to $ 5,000.

“People working in the arts and culture sector are among the hardest hit by the current pandemic,” said Jill M. Paulsen, Executive Director of ACC. “By investing in these grants, we make it safe for neighbors to learn, connect, get creative and feel inspired a little easier. We think it’s so important, especially in these difficult times. “

A total of $ 323,930 in Neighborhood Connections grants’ Neighbor up will be used to support artistic activities specific to the neighborhood. Since 2013, ACE and Neighborhood Connections have co-funded 396 resident-led arts and culture projects.

“People are resilient and strive to create amazing communities where they live despite many barriers, including the pandemic,” said Tom O’Brien, Neighborhood Connections Program Director. “The funded projects show what can happen when we invest in residents working together to make the change they want to see. “

Distinguished gentlemen of the spoken wordBell-Bey will use his $ 3,600 grant to continue training young men to write and perform oral works through his 20-year initiative, Distinguished gentlemen of the spoken word. Bell-Bey says she enjoys the challenge of introducing poetry and breaking the facade of harshness, an act that begins with understanding.

“I tell them, ‘I’m going to take you to Paris, and I’ve kept my word,’ she said, referring to a trip in 2019 where she presented the poetry of one of her groups to a Parisian audience. “In return, I ask them to take a code of ethics: do not steal or fight and be an advocate for your community. The goal is to have a stage to talk about social justice.”

Her voice will be heard at the Jan. 8 inauguration of Cleveland Mayor-elect Justin Bibb, where she will share a poem as part of the swearing-in ceremony. This historic moment prompted Bell-Bey to reflect on a career focused on giving young people a voice.

“I’m hard on [youth] on lyrics, but at the end of the day my love is harder, ”she says, adding that some of her early students are now her advisers in an organization she calls the Honey beehive. “Kids in college, they come back,” she said.

Even the simultaneous arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic with her mission as poet laureate has not dampened Bell-Bey’s morale. She ran online workshops – eight in all, she says – attended by 50 women she helped teach trauma healing writing. “I didn’t rest. I am using my platform to reach more people.

The youth platform that Bell-Bey and Honey Hive have built is what fellow East Cleveland native Taylor Calhoun aspires to build, to some extent, with ArtHub.

Calhoun received a grant of $ 2,250 to launch an online platform for arts and culture. Calhoun astutely realizes that a large audience awaits the entrepreneur who can come up with fresh content (videos, music and entertainment news, and views) and he plans to create ArtHub as a website that brings together and celebrates the best of popular culture. .

Celebrity-driven brands and opportunities in fashion design, for example, and the music scene in Cleveland and elsewhere from the perspective of artists doing the work and artists producing album covers will all be fodder. for ArtHub.

But Calhoun thinks beyond content to create a platform where collaborators will contribute to art.

“I want it to be a continuous flow with something new every day,” he says. “It will be easier to do when I get people to subscribe and upload their own art and choose what I want to promote. It’s all collaborative. You don’t do it alone. There are always four or five. other geniuses in the room. ArtHub, it’s not just me trying to get a good promotion, it’s me trying to find the other geniuses, [Marvel Comic hero] Nick fury this!”

Food deposit to healthMike and Veronica “Ronnie” Walton can be considered geniuses when it comes to expanding the knowledge of the people of Cleveland about the culture and appreciation of food. Walton’s latest venture, Food deposit to health, is actually a continuation of a little-known home sustainability practice for reducing food waste and improving soil called vermicomposting.

The couple held a series of workshops in 2019, introducing the concept of composting with worms, which can be done in large indoor bins (making it ideal for apartments). The $ 3,000 grant will be used to set up another group of residents with vermicomposting kits (and knowledge of how worm “casts” are a super food for plants).

This follows on from the work of the past decade as managers of the Gateway 105, a farmer’s market in the Glenville neighborhood that featured cooking demonstrations and placed the Waltons in the role of food gurus as a form of health care. It is this level of grinding that has built Waltons’ reputation as a champion of local food.

“We have a lady who brings two grocery bags full of food scraps to the farmer’s market because she knows we’re feeding the worms,” says Ronnie. “Even something as small as vermicomposting, people get so excited when they see food scraps turn into dark brown soil and they put it in their plants and can see the difference (in plant health ). “

In addition to Gateway 105, which is restarting after its COVID layoff in a space at 1332 Churchill in Lyndhurst, the Waltons are helping operate League Park Market Place on East 79e Street and Superior Avenue in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood and are working with a start-up farmers market called To stroll in East Cleveland.

“In 2020, many people asked us [who] felt hopeless and had no control over the food, ”says Ronnie. “I went to see how it was [during the pandemic] at the grocery store. I felt that the system we were relying on was not enough.

“It’s amazing how much joy it is when people who don’t think about it start creating their own food. They connect to the process. It’s empowering. ”