Anytime I write about Cleveland, I feel like I’m writing a love letter. We have museums, theater, music, galleries, parks, libraries, sports, business, medical facilities, and restaurants that can compete with most cities. We have Lake Erie as our northern boundary and our cost of living is low. Cleveland’s history and its people have stories to tell about a glorious past and hope for the future.
When I wrote the holiday window article for Yahoo! in December, I found that there ARE holiday windows in old department store windows downtown, and Tower City’s nooks and crannies were filled with animated carolers and elves. The windows and animated characters are reminiscent of the glitter and brightness of the windows at Higbees, May Company, and Halles a generation ago. They are part of what makes Cleveland, Cleveland (and no coincidence that TheChristmas Story was filmed here).
The hanging baskets along Euclid Avenue, East Fourth Street, and the Warehouse District brighten up entertainment spots where restaurants (operated by extraordinary chefs) open their windows and doors to sidewalk dining. The planters on the now-broad sidewalks and the boulevard-style floral displays on Euclid Avenue enhance the space that young professionals and empty-nesters now make their home; Euclid Avenue is returning to its great residential roots. At least three new real estate projects are underway — the Medical Mart, the Flats East Bank, and the Powerhouse Aquarium — and all are a testaments to creative entrepreneurship against a background of history.
The extraordinary renovation and expansion of the Cleveland Art Museum is only one facet of Cleveland’s thriving arts community. Art districts in Little Italy and Tremont and Midtown are complemented by galleries in Ohio City, downtown, and Coventry. Concerts this year ranged from Rat Dog at the House of Blues to the Orchestra at Severance Hall and Roger Waters at the Arena. The theater district thrives and our libraries bring in visiting authors and promote their own.
Earlier this year, the District of Design on Euclid Avenue hosted the Furniture and Millwork Fair at the Halle Building to bring together Northeast Ohio’s millwork companies and furniture makers into Cleveland’s “world-class design community” in a first-of-its-kind fair.
Cleveland’s International Film Festival is world-renowned; some people take a week off work to be part of it. Dance Cleveland’s modern dance, Dancing Wheels Company’s accessible performances, and GroundWorks Dancetheater are commited to developing new artists and presenting original dance. Theater-district theaters and smaller theaters like Cleveland Public Theatre and Dobama keep live performance alive. Festivals like the Ingenuity Festival are creativity contests, and writers compete with each other to create the best literary work in the country. The Emerald Necklace and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are dreams carried out by those who keep the originally dreamed.
A new shop in Gordon Square called Ohio Knitting Mills was recently opened by sculptor Steven Tatar. He took over space at 6505 Detroit Road to display garments created at Ohio Knitting Mills from 1947 through 1974. The shop highlights the history of Cleveland’s once-thriving garment industry and shows off virgin vintage clothing of rich textures that are part of that history. Sweaters, vests, dresses, and scarves knit from quality materials and created from inventive patterns were preserved by the family that owned the factory. The factory was founded by Harry Stone and Walker Woodworth in 1927, grew to become one of this country’s largest knitwear producers, and employed 1,000 workers at one time. When Tatar found out the family that owned the factory kept garment artifacts, he had the vision to know that preservation of the clothing is important to Cleveland’s history. The shop is part museum, but Tatar says it’s also his love letter to Cleveland.
All this is all against a backdrop of historical entrepreneurship, arts supported by philathropy, and hope. Cleveland has always had the power to create a better place to live, and it’s doing it now.
My love letter to Cleveland is to highlight Cleveland’s past and its promising future and by doing so, pay homage to those creative spirits who are expanding their idea of Cleveland’s potential.