Fans would say Harlan Ellison is Cleveland’s most distinguished native-born writer and an obvious choice for the Cleveland Arts Prize. So why did Ellison reject his 2009 CAP for lifetime achievement in such a deeply offended tone, calling the award a fraud and a sham? According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Ellison objected to having to pay for his and his wife’s travel and lodging expenses from their Los Angeles home to Cleveland for the awards event in June.
He also objected to an unsigned letter he received from Cleveland Arts Prize Executive Director Marcie Bergman, which stated he would have only three minutes for his remarks….
“I confess to being startled by it,” Ellison said.
He also wondered privately why there was money for a cocktail party honoring the winners, but none for travel expenses. The reason, Bergman said in response to The Plain Dealer’s question, is that the party is being donated.
The Cleveland Arts Prize has been awarded annually since 1960. Former CAP President Diane Tittle tried to explain in a letter to the editor:
During my tenure as CAP’s leader, we purposely chose not to honor Cleveland-born artists living outside the area, in part because we did not have the resources to underwrite travel expenses, in part because we wanted to shine the spotlight on individuals who had made a commitment to living here. This policy, regrettably, barred Ellison from receiving an award. CAP’s desire to rectify that has resulted in the unfortunate misunderstanding reported in Sunday’s Plain Dealer (“Ellison turns down arts prize”).
[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]