Art & Community in Cleveland

My memory of Cleveland from five years ago consists of three things: a college visit to Case Western Reserve University, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and the old school feel of downtown. So when the opportunity came to take a weekend trip to Cleveland with some friends, I was excited to discover more of what the city had to offer!

Our AirBnb was perfectly situated between the train station and Gordon Square Arts District (see comments for a link to our AirBnb). We hit up Brewnuts on our first night, which serves beer and donuts! Since we stayed until closing, the manager was nice enough to give us as many free donuts as we wanted! Their cocoa pebble donut wasn’t overwhelmingly chocolaty and the cocoa pebble cereal pieces on top gave it a nice crunch.

We started Saturday morning in Shaker Square to check out their farmers market before heading to University Circle.

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The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) happened to be free that day. Although I don’t always fully understand contemporary art, I appreciated the many interactive art installations that both adults and kids could enjoy. My favorite exhibition featured board games like Settlers of Catan and The Game of Life, which were re-imagined based on narratives that spoke to themes such as technology, business, cryptocurrency, and a decaying planet. The creativity, aesthetic design of the “games” themselves, and the different social messages came together seamlessly.

Next, we headed to the Cleveland Museum of Art which is free every day! One could easily get lost for hours, wandering halls filled with Medieval armor, Egyptian hieroglyphics, European portraits, sculptures of Hindu gods, Native North American baskets, and beaded regalia from Africa. It felt as if they had every type of art from every corner of the globe. Two hours is definitely not enough time to see it all!

Station HopeIn the evening we attended a community event called Station Hope. Across their 10 stages they featured spoken word poets, actors, dance groups, bands, and a myriad of other artists. It was a true community event infused with optimism, calls for freedom and justice and, as the name implies, hope. Afterwards, we grabbed some pierogis at JukeBox and joined all the Cavaliers fans in watching LeBron’s buzzer beater shot to win game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. It was fun to be a part of the hype!

On Sunday morning we walked down to Edgewater Park. It was a “must see” because whenever we asked people what we should do in Cleveland, Edgewater Park was the unanimous suggestion. For a sunny weekend morning, it wasn’t very crowded. I liked the combination of having areas of sandy beach and grassy fields, along with picnic tables, chair swings, and a great view of downtown Cleveland.

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We stopped by Westside Market where vendors were selling every kind of fruit and vegetable, including mangosteen! It brought back memories of Thailand.

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The rest of our Sunday was spent at Open Streets, where 40 blocks were closed off to cars and only open to pedestrians and bikers. I’ve never seen a community event where families of all backgrounds came together. I couldn’t help but smile while watching the neighborhood kids (and adults) play double dutch, draw some fantastic chalk art, and race each other during “Red Light Green Light.” Aja and I tried our luck at roller skating. Once I got my bearings, and my balance, it was fun doing some skate steps to the music.

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Although once again I was only able to spend a few days in Cleveland, I felt like I got to know the city a lot better this time around. Cleveland is one of the more integrated cities I’ve been to in terms of seeing families of many races (at least in the neighborhoods we visited). While Cleveland is a large city, some parts of it felt like I had traveled back in time; I could picture huge ships pulling in from Lake Erie down the Cuyahoga River to deliver goods and people waiting at the pier to purchase them. I feel like Cleveland is one of those modern cities that still preserves a lot of its history and old school vibes. Until next time, Cleveland!

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