share this

Share This Search

News . Press Releases

Press Releases

April 18, 2022

Cleveland Institute of Art welcomes Assembly for the Arts' Jeremy Johnson as Commencement speaker

Jeremy V. Johnson, president and CEO of Assembly for the Arts


April 18, 2022

CLEVELAND—Arts leader Jeremy V. Johnson—a connector, collaborator, and champion for cultural development and philanthropic partnerships—will serve as Commencement speaker for the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Class of 2022.

Johnson is President and CEO of Assembly for the Arts, a Cleveland-based nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen and elevate greater Cleveland’s arts and culture sectors with a commitment to racial equity.

“It is an honor to serve as the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Commencement speaker,” Johnson says. “The graduates represent the next generation of artists and designers. During their time at CIA, they have overcome incredible barriers to navigate a global pandemic. I want to impress upon them that Cleveland needs their creativity, resilience and brilliance. As the head of Assembly for the Arts, I want to encourage them to usher our region into a new age of innovation, inclusion and creative strength.”

“I am pleased to welcome Jeremy Johnson to be our 2022 Commencement speaker,” says CIA President + CEO Grafton Nunes. “Our graduating seniors will benefit from what he has learned from his decades in the arts, creating cultural plans for challenged cities and helping to raise millions of dollars for an anchor arts center. Jeremy is an inspiring speaker and dynamic personality—perfectly suited to inspire our students and launch them into their lives in the arts.”

The ceremony will take place at 10am Friday, May 13 at the Maltz Performing Arts Center in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. This ticketed event is open to CIA students, their families and members of the CIA community. It will also be livestreamed via Zoom Webinar. The Zoom link, as well as other Commencement details, will be posted at

The 2022 Commencement ceremony will be the first live, in-person Commencement for CIA since 2019. In 2020, Commencement was entirely virtual. In 2021, it was both virtual and screened at the Mayfield Road Drive-In Theatre in Munson Township. This year’s Commencement will also mark the final ceremony for Nunes, who will retire June 30.

“As I complete my final year at CIA, I approach this Commencement with joy and melancholy,” Nunes says. “I celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2022 for its personal, academic and artistic achievements. These graduates arrived at CIA as talented unsure children and leave as confident productive young adults. And I celebrate the faculty and staff that facilitated this transformation. But I will sorely miss the energy and the creative ferment of this remarkable place and its people.”

Johnson, a Cleveland native, enjoyed a successful career as a nonprofit and arts leader in New Jersey prior to joining Assembly for the Arts in 2021. He was the philanthropic liaison for Newark Mayor (now U.S. Senator) Cory Booker and Mayor Ras Baraka. He served on the fundraising team that built the $187 million, 11-acre New Jersey Performing Arts Center. He co-founded and chaired a higher education collective impact organization to increase college completion rates among city residents. As the executive director of Newark Arts, he led the creation of a citywide cultural plan.

Johnson’s return to Cleveland coincides with exciting leadership changes and community empowerment. He has energized the arts and cultural community, which generates $9.1 billion in economic activity across greater Cleveland and represents 65,000 jobs. Working at Assembly for the Arts, he helped win a $3.3 million commitment from Cuyahoga County to invest American Rescue Plan Act funds in individual artists, cultural nonprofits and small businesses. A similar campaign for $10 million in ARPA support is pending with the City of Cleveland.

Johnson was raised in Cleveland's Glenville and Hough neighborhoods, which instilled in him a strong and enduring love of arts and culture. He went to University School on scholarship and was the first in his family to attend college. He earned his bachelor's degree in Psychology from Kenyon College and his MFA in Arts Administration from the University of Iowa. He completed the Rutgers Cultural and Ethnic Arts Executive Leadership Program and is a recipient of the annual “Proud Award” from Newark Gay Pride.

Cleveland Institute of Art
Michael C. Butz, Director of College Communications + External Relations / 216.421.7404 /

Back to press releases


For more information about this or other CIA news, contact us here.

Upcoming Events view all