Cleveland, Ohio, has long had a gritty image as an industrial city, where steel was king and numerous car companies once set up shop.
As its industries grew, so did Cleveland’s arts scene. The big manufacturers and steel mills may be gone, but the city’s music, art, and theatre scenes are still alive and thriving.
In fact, Cullen Fischel of Cleveland says they’re bigger now than ever before.
Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, thanks to Alan Freed who coined the term “rock and roll.” In 1952, Freed even produced the Moondog Coronation Ball, which was the first ever rock concert in the United States. Visitors can pay their respects at the Alan Freed Memorial, but this is only scratching the surface of Cleveland’s music scene and history.
The city is also well known as the home of the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra, as well as Severance Hall, a historic and still-popular concert venue that has hosted some of the most influential voices in music and continues to do so to this day. The Cleveland Orchestra also offers an innovative mix of music events, such as playing movie scores alongside live films, partnering with ballet companies, and sponsoring a string of small music residencies in different neighborhoods.
Local institutions such as the Foundry Concert Club, Mahall’s 20 Lanes, the Variety Theatre, and the Music Box Supper Club bring a diverse range of innovative and unique bands, genres, and local musicians to Cleveland every week.
First-time visitors to Cleveland often start their exploration at the Cleveland Museum of Art, considered one of the best of its kind in the U.S. The 44,000-square-foot space features works by Rodin, Renoir, Monet, Picasso, and more. And, to top it off, it’s free to visit.
There’s a lot more to Cleveland’s visual arts scene than its popular museum, though. In University Circle, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (also free) is home to an ever-changing collection of galleries featuring contemporary art, and has featured work by Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol.
The Reinberger Gallery at the Cleveland Institute of Art is the best place to discover local professional artists, and a visit to the Waterloo Arts District means exploring numerous indie art galleries, such as the Waterloo 7 Studio and Gallery.
Other fantastic art venues include Transformer Station, exhibiting curated contemporary art from the Cleveland Art Museum, and SPACES, well known for its experimental and mind-bending pieces.
The Play is the Thing
Much like its collection of art museums, Cleveland’s live theater venues are an eclectic mix of traditional and modern works.
The Cleveland Playhouse is considered one of the top 10 regional theaters in America, and celebrated its 100th birthday in 2015. Playhouse Square is the U.S.’ largest center of performing arts outside of New York City. With 10 different venues spread out over just one block, it offers over 1,000 performances a year, including many Broadway favorites.
Also of note is the Karamu Performing Arts Theatre, which was founded in 1915 and is considered the nation’s oldest African American-produced theater. Today, it reflects its original mission, showcasing remarkable experiences and fosters gatherings of people from different economic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.