After a weekend in Cleveland, I can now say I understand what Drew Carey means when he exclaims, “Cleveland rocks!” For my birthday this year, my dear friend Amanda and her sister Laura surprised me with tickets to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibition, but with a catch: we’d be taking a little road-trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art! Although we’d already seen Kusama’s installations when the feature came to the Art Gallery of Ontario, the opportunity to experience her works in a foreign gallery of a different city added excitement to an exhibit that is still fun and mesmerizing to experience in person.
Cleveland is only a five-hour drive from Toronto, which takes you through New York and Pennsylvania along Lake Erie. To give you a quick snapshot of the city, Cleveland is the second largest city in Ohio after Columbus, and is widely recognized as a benchmark for successful revitalization of an industrial city. It’s story comes from a history of manufacturing – a once destination for transforming resources such as ore, coal, oil, and steel. With that in mind, it’s no surprise so many of the buildings that comprise Cleveland’s urban-fabric are repurposed warehouses, abandoned buildings, and colossal iron bridges – interestingly enough, it is almost impossible to get from one side of the city to the other without having to cross a bridge.
What I gathered from my brief encounter with Cleveland is that it is a budding city, trying to build an identity of somewhere suitable for young and starting-out adults; they offer a tempting amount of quality craft breweries, colourful murals, as well as many other “Instagrammable” sights and attractions. We stayed in the area known as ‘the Flats’: a redevelopment along the Cuyahoga River, which is known as the nightlife and entertainment hub of Cleveland. However, I would say I was a bit more interested in food; we ate our way through “Cle” with beers and carnitas nachos at the Noble Beast Brewing Co., green juice at Beet Jar Juicery in Ohio City, and meaty appetizers at the Butcher and Brewer on trendy East 4th Street – a pedestrian street in the heart of downtown. We also enjoyed delicious donuts at Brewnuts, a donut-shop-brewery-stop with a kitschy tropical interior in Gordon Square, followed by comic book-themed cocktails at Ninja City. At the Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar, we watched talented piano entertainers duel it out through live requests from the audience, which honestly turned out to be a lot more fun than it sounds!
We managed to do some sightseeing during our short time in Cleveland, with highlights including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Cleveland’s waterfront, the historic West Side Market, and University Circle in Cleveland’s east end, which is home to major cultural institutions such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) is the fourth-wealthiest art museum in the United States and is one of the most visited art galleries in the entire world. The beautiful interior took our breath away: the majestic atrium, which opened in 2012, is enclosed under a spectacular glass canopy and is anchored by beautiful planters on either side. CMA is internationally recognized for its substantial collection of Egyptian and Asian art, and has a permanent collection of over 45,000 different works from around the world. Due to our tight schedule we only had time to visit the Infinity Mirrors exhibition (which was amazing), however, I would love to experience the remainder of the museum one day - in my opinion, that would be worth the drive to Cleveland, alone.