The CLEVELAND ARTISTS FOUNDATION (CAF) is a nonprofit organization committed to preserving Greater Cleveland's artistic heritage, and to researching and exhibiting the work of Northeastern Ohio artists. Founding director William G. Scheele established the organization in 1984 with support from several foundations and a grant from the Ohio Arts Council. Although its original focus was on the "Cleveland School" of artists active from 1900-50, it later broadened its attention to encompass predecessors and successors of that central group. By the late 1990s, CAF also occasionally exhibited work by contemporary artists living and working in Greater Clevealnd. From 1986-89 CAF operated the Northeast Ohio Museum on Bellflower Road in UNIV. CIRCLE. After closing the museum for economic reasons, from 1988 to 1991 CAF was housed in the Junior League Mansion on Bellflower Road as one of the nonprofits the League served. During 1989 through 1991, CAF concentrated on producing exhibitions on a cooperative basis with such institutions as BALDWIN-WALLACE COLLEGE, the Sandusky Cultural Arts Center, and Mather Gallery of CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIV. Subjects of its exhibits have included AUGUST F. BIEHLE, JR., artists of the KOKOON ARTS CLUB, WM. SOMMER, HENRY KELLER's Summer School in Berlin Heights, and FREDERICK C. GOTTWALD and the "Old Bohemians." In 1993 CAF organized a two-day symposium at the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART on "Cleveland as a Center for Regional American Art." Many of the organization's symposia and exhibitions are documented through exhibition catalogues and publications.
From the early 1990s to 1999 the CAF occupied at space in BEACHWOOD. Since 1999 the organization has been housed in a large gallery space in the Beck Center for the Arts at 17801 Detroit Avenue in LAKEWOOD. With nearly 200 members, the CAF administers a collection of more than 300 paintings and works on paper, plus 2,000 original political cartoons by WILLARD COMBES. In 2004, Sharon Dean served as director.