Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts

VLA logo 

The VLA's mission 

  • To facilitate access to legal services for Northeast Ohio artists and arts organizations, including pro bono legal representation and referrals to income-eligible artists and arts organizations in all disciplines
  • To develop educational resources for and build a living network of the region’s lawyers, artists, and arts organizations
  • To advocate for a strong and vibrant arts community

How we serve the community 

  • For artists: If you are an artist or arts organization in the Greater Cleveland area seeking free legal assistance, please contact the VLA to submit an application.
  • For the public: The VLA is committed to partnership with local arts and nonprofit organizations to present free, public law-related education programs.  Past presentations have focused on topics such as leasing, gallery agreements, sales, and intellectual property protection.  If you have an idea for an educational program, please let us know!
  • For attorneys: We are currently seeking attorneys to join the VLA Committee to help us carry out our mission.  If you are interested in joining the VLA, please submit your committee request form.

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 VLA Do Free Photo Small

"VLA Do Free" - Sculpture with neon and recycled materials by Cleveland-area artist Jeffry Chiplis, winner of the 2013 VLA Commission Design contest.

In the mid-1970s, a group of dedicated local lawyers formed the Cleveland VLA as a committee of the Cleveland Area Arts Council (CAAC). CAAC, a nonprofit agency led by Executive Director Nina Gibans, was an advocate for local art and artists. One of its lasting legacies was the coordination of “City Canvasses,” a series of 10 murals painted on blank walls of downtown Cleveland buildings, some of which remain today. A primary purpose of the CAAC and the original VLA was to disseminate information to local artists to give them the best opportunity to succeed. VLA attorneys were known for giving informal Saturday breakfast presentations to artists focusing on topics such as leasing, gallery agreements, sales and intellectual property protection.

The CAAC disbanded in 1979, but the VLA eventually found a new home as a committee of the Cleveland Bar Association (now CMBA). After this change, the VLA developed what is now its hallmark – a program of pro bono legal assistance and referrals for artists. VLA lawyers have aided dozens of local artists with pressing legal concerns on a pro bono basis. In its fourth decade of existence, the VLA continues to be an important source of legal information for artists by conducting educational seminars and presentations on a variety of topics.  


 Jaclyn Matayoshi Vary 



Jaclyn Matayoshi Vary 


 George H. Carr 


 Schneider, Smeltz, Ranney & LaFond P.L.L. 


Vice Chair 

 Janik L.L.P. 

VLA Committee members volunteer in many ways, including planning, hosting, and providing speakers for free public seminars on legal topics of interest to artists and arts organizations, as well as taking on legal work pro bono for local income-eligible artists and arts groups.

Arts Organizations and Galleries

Art House Inc 

Art House is a nonprofit art center, founded in 1999, and located in historic Brooklyn Centre, between the Ohio City and Old Brooklyn neighborhoods of Cleveland, Ohio. The organization was founded by local artists and residents who were dedicated to the belief that the arts enrich lives and help create better communities. Our 3,000 square foot studio facility is housed in a 1948 domed Quonset building.

Cleveland Institute of Art 

The Cleveland Institute of Art was established in 1882. Over the years it has earned a reputation for being among the top ten professional colleges of art and design in the country. It is accredited by North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design and the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education. The Institute attracts students who are serious about becoming professional artists and designers and who seek a school with a broad campus atmosphere that is both intellectually stimulating and artistically challenging. The Institute's goals of providing a superior education are consistent with its accrediting agencies and professional memberships.

Cleveland Public Art 

Cleveland Public Art, an independent, nonprofit organization, works to improve public spaces through art and design. CPA is Ohio's premier organization for the identification and evaluation of public art opportunities, bringing expertise to the selection of artists and the implementation of public art projects. CPA places art on Cleveland's streets, and in neighborhoods and green spaces, making it accessible to the entire community and part of everyday life. CPA works to educate Cleveland audiences about community reinvention and place-making through art. CPA believes that art in the community can attract residents and is essential for building healthier and safer neighborhoods. CPA also believes that a strong public art program can help attract investment and be the impetus for economic development. By actively engaging the Cleveland community, CPA works to enhance the quality of life in Cleveland.

Cleveland Public Theater 

Cleveland Public Theatre's mission is to raise consciousness and nurture compassion through ground breaking performances and life changing educational programs. Cleveland Public Theatre is an alternative performance company with a commitment to help develop original theatre artists from Northeastern Ohio -- particularly those whose work is experimental in form and/or challenging in content.

Cleveland State University Art Department 

The Cleveland State University Art Department offers undergraduate degree programs in Studio Art, Art History, and Art Education. Students may pursue an Art Major in any of these three areas leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree.

An Art Minor is offered in Studio Art and in Art History.

Graduate degree programs are offered in History/Art History (Master of Arts) and Education/Art Education (Master of Education).

Non-degree certificate programs are offered in Graphic Design.

The Cleveland State University Art Gallery provides visual arts programming for the university and community. In addition to important local and regional artists, nationally and internationally known artists have participated in exhibitions, workshops, and lectures at the CSU Art Gallery.

Community Partnership for Arts and Culture 

The Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC) is a nonprofit arts and culture service agency dedicated to Northeast Ohio's success by preserving and advancing its arts and culture sector. CPAC works to prove and promote our cultural assets, extraordinary contributions to our economy, education and quality of life. We help arts and culture prosper by fostering best practices in business development, sound cultural policy and in-depth research.

Cool Cleveland 

Cleveland Events Newsletter

COSE Arts Network 

Professional artists are faced with the unique challenge of working creatively every day, while also dealing with the same financial, technical, legal and marketing concerns many small businesses face. COSE aims to ease that burden for artists, so that they have time and energy remaining to do what they do best. COSE has made its health care and professional development resources more accessible to the arts entrepreneurs of Northeast Ohio. The COSE Arts Network, in partnership with the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC), creates an opportunity for the arts and business worlds to intersect through educational and networking events, access to resources, and unique promotional opportunities.

Great Lakes Theater Festival 

The mission of Great Lakes Theater Festival is to bring the pleasure, power and relevance of classic theater to the widest possible audience in northern Ohio. Since the company's inception in 1962, programming has been rooted in Shakespeare, but the Festival's commitment to great plays spans the breadth of all cultures, forms of theater and time periods including the 20th century, and provides for the occasional mounting of new works that compliment the classical repertoire.

Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative 

The UDC is a community service organization with a professional staff of designers committed to improving the quality of urban places through technical design assistance, research and advocacy. Supported by the Ohio Board of Regents' Urban University Program and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design at Kent State University, the UDC offers architectural and urban design expertise in the service of urban communities, design professionals, and the planning and public policy work of the state universities in Akron, Youngstown and Cleveland.

Museum of Contemporary Art 

Founded as The New Gallery in 1968, and then renamed the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art in 1984, MOCA Cleveland continues to evolve in exciting new ways while producing original, compelling exhibitions. Over the past seven years, MOCA has become a major producer of exhibitions, which has fueled its reputation as a visionary leader. In addition to featuring the work of national and international artists, MOCA consistently showcases established and emerging artists living in the Cleveland area through continuing exhibition programs like the PULSE Series and the Wendy L. Moore Emerging Artist Series.

Near West Theater 

There is no cultural arts program in Greater Cleveland like Near West Theatre (NWT). Based in the Ohio City neighborhood, it has a unique identity as a grassroots, intergenerational theatre with an emphasis on serving youth. Near West Theatre, through the theatre arts, delivers an inclusive, self-esteem building process that results in high-quality theatre productions and programming that help build Cleveland's Near West Side and surrounding neighborhoods; educates and raises awareness around issues of social justice, discrimination, and stigma; and provides people of all ages with the ability to nurture their sense of identity and strengthen their purpose as individuals and as a community.

Opera Cleveland 

Our Mission is: Opera for Everyone. In pursuit of this mission we will:

Enrich the community of Northeast Ohio by providing staged productions that emotionally connect each audience member to the drama and passion of opera by casting dramatic singers and collaborating with dynamic creative teams.

Connect our educational resources to our public, neighborhoods, and schools in a way that promotes an engaged and confident future audience.

RED DOT Project 

The RED DOT Project connects artists of Northeast Ohio with business opportunities. The project serves as an art resource for business, corporate, and individual clients, as well as gallery owners, curators, and art consultants looking for art to purchase, sell, or exhibit.

SPACES Gallery

SPACES advances the artist's vision. By providing freedom, resources and an audience, SPACES enables artists to engage the public in a vital dialogue about contemporary art. SPACES interacts directly with artists, promoting excellence and experimentation to produce challenging gallery exhibitions, public programs, residencies and publications.

Zygote Press 

Zygote Press is a non-profit, cooperative, fine art printmaking workshop located in the Quadrangle arts district in the Superior/St. Clair neighborhood. The mission of Zygote is to enable artists to produce fine art prints within an atmosphere of collective exchange by providing them with affordable workspace and exhibition opportunities. Zygote is a resource dedicated to increasing awareness about contemporary printmaking by creating active communication among artist-printmakers and the broader community.

Local Nonprofit Organizations

The City Club of Cleveland 

Established to encourage new ideas and a free exchange of thought, The City Club is the oldest continuous free speech forum in the country, renowned for its tradition of debate and discussion. The City Club firmly believes in the free expression of all ideas and the benefits of an open exchange. It is non-partisan and does not take positions on issues. All speakers must answer unfiltered, unrehearsed questions directly from the audience.

The Cleveland Foundation 

Established in 1914, the Cleveland Foundation is the world's first community foundation and the nation's third-largest today, with assets of $1.6 billion and annual grants nearing $85 million. The foundation improves the lives of Greater Clevelanders now and for generations to come by building community endowment, addressing needs through grantmaking, and providing leadership on vital issues.

Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition 

The Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition serves as the collective voice of community development corporations in Cleveland. Our mission is to assist members by proactively engaging in advocacy and public policy that benefits Cleveland's community and economic development industry, providing strategic opportunities for broad and meaningful peer interaction and developing customized training programs with exposure to the best practices in the field.

The George Gund Foundation 

The George Gund Foundation was established in 1952 as a private, nonprofit institution with the sole purpose of contributing to human well-being and the progress of society. Over the years, program objectives and emphases have been modified to meet the changing opportunities and problems of our society, but the foundation's basic goal of advancing human welfare remains constant.

Greater Cleveland Partnership 

With more than 17,000 members, the Greater Cleveland Partnership is the largest private-sector economic development organization in Ohio. We serve as a catalyst to increase economic vitality in Greater Cleveland and the region.

For more information on VLA activities, please contact:

Jessica Paine, Assistant Director of Community Programs & Information