Ballot Box Project- Cleveland, OH

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Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Community vision and values, Education and youth, Health equity
  • Engagement Approaches Community meetings (townhalls, forums, etc), Engagement through art, Neighborhood events/ activities, Participatory budgeting, Youth Engagement
Project Description

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Ballot Box Project

Goals: Tackle problems involving Collinwood History, Vacancy, Healthy Eating, and Youth Engagement. 

Project Summary

The Ballot Box Project was North Collinwood’s first exercise in arts-based participatory budgeting. After being awarded a $120,000 grant from ArtPlace America, Collinwood residents gathered to determine how the funds should be spent. Of the many issues facing the neighborhood of Collinwood, the community determined that the funds from ArtPlace would be used to find creative solutions to tackle problems involving Collinwood History, Vacancy, Healthy Eating, and Youth Engagement. Project leaders and city officials hoped to not only generate (and execute) innovative ideas for community-based arts programming, but to strengthen residents’ sense of community and increase civic participation across age groups.  

Engagement Strategies:  

  • Open calls were announced for project proposals. Artists of all experience and age levels were able to propose as many projects as they liked, provided they only addressed one key issue and did not require funding in excess of $15,000. Over thirty proposals were submitted in total.  
  • Voting was conducted with actual voter enrollment information and facilitated by the local Board of Elections. 
    • Through encouraging people to vote for Ballot Box projects, residents were also encouraged to register to vote simultaneously. 
    • Children 14 and up were allowed to vote, generating excitement and encouraging youth to register to vote upon turning 18. 
  • To increase awareness and generate excitement for the project, a parade with corresponding activities was held just before polls opened. 


 The Ballot Box Project was a resounding success. “Over the course of five public meetings, residents decided what topics the art projects would address, what about those topics is most important to them, provided proposal feedback, decided the rules about voting and outreach, and participated in a community art day. In total, 120 people were involved in that process” (Ballot Box 2016).  

Ultimately nine projects received enough votes to continue. These projects offered a variety of entry points for residents to become curious, involved, and engaged. Projects included the creation of a local cookbook and community garden, a giant board game to teach youth about healthy eating, a performing arts project, and even a project called the Splice Cream Truck, where residents were given free ice cream in exchange for recording audio files of personal stories and experiences.  

Some Ballot Box projects have experienced continuing success. One example is the Collinwood Camera Club, a photography club for youth and teens. Collinwood camera club encourages youth to use photography as a tool for curiosity and self-reflection. They meet with professional photographers from the Cleveland area while also learning new techniques. The Camera Club members recently unveiled their first public exhibition in August, 2016.  

Cost of Project: Funded by ArtPlace America ($120,000 grant)
Timeline of Project: Approximately 18 months
Initiator: Northeast Shores Collinwood
Number of People Served: 36 artist proposals, 9 winners, 520 ballots cast, 124 attended planning meetings, approx. 3,400 participated in artist programs
Additional Resources:
Ballot Box Project website
Media Coverage
Ballot Box Project Review
Cleveland Scene
Art Place

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