The IRS recently granted nonprofit status to The Syndicate for the New Arts, an organization devoted to transforming the way contemporary music gets presented and experienced in Cleveland and throughout the Rust Belt. Founded by Joshua Rosner, OC ’14, the nonprofit builds connections in the Cleveland music scene by hosting touring artists and initiating collaborations with existing institutions such as restaurants, museums and schools. Syndicate musicians also highlight work by local modern composers and Cleveland and Rust Belt artists whose careers have gone unrecognized.
The Syndicate’s new nonprofit status qualifies it for key grants to support free programming. Additionally, as collaborator double-degree fifth-year Caitlin Mehrtens pointed out, the status strengthens the group’s credibility.
When applying to become a 501(c)(3), the Syndicate drew on the legal counsel of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts to guide them through the process. Rosner praised the Cleveland branch of the VLA for its tireless advocacy for the arts.
“A lot of times artists are so involved in their craft that they aren’t aware of licensing or copyright issues,” the team’s VLA attorney Jaclyn Vary said. “[My role] is to make sure they aren’t encountering any unforeseen obstacles. … I’m very excited for them; it is wonderful that they can continue their mission [as a nonprofit].”
The support of Vary and artistic mentors from other highprofile Oberlin ensembles, including contemporary sextet eighth blackbird and the International Contemporary Ensemble, proved invaluable. Both Rosner and Mehrtens said that learning the legal and business side of running a nonprofit has been a new and challenging experience. Vary said placing artists in administrative positions is a common approach with new nonprofits, challenging the musicians to learn new skills while keeping decision-making in their hands. Rosner said there exists a disconnect between the administrative and artistic components of other established music organizations with which he has been involved. He enjoys that musicians run Syndicate, since it streamlines communication and priorities.
Rosner said he wanted the organization to primarily promote Cleveland composers and musicians because of formative experiences he had as an intern with the Wet Ink Ensemble in New York City.
“I found that cities like New York and San Francisco are great for the arts but pretty bad for their artists,” Rosner said. “I was looking for a different model for making music that was appreciated not only for what it was but for how it brought people together and built community.”
Rosner said the possibility to foster and shape the contemporary music scene in Cleveland excited him and he saw Cleveland’s history as a former center of wealth and manufacturing as a goldmine for musical opportunity.
“I think there’s a real need and desire to build community here,” Rosner said. “I think it’s exciting to be here building art that is relevant to post-industrialization.”
Mehrtens said the Syndicate is committed to community development. “Building community [means] prioritizing voices within artists’ communities that need support, that we can help however they need,” she said. She also said she hopes to see circles of local freelance composers and musicians expand in the process.
For Rosner, the Syndicate’s goals hinge on one simple, central question: “How can the Syndicate supplement what is already here, as well as create new opportunities for people that are here and not here yet?”