“CLEVELAND IS MY PARIS,” read the t-shirt my sister proudly presented to me when I returned home, the ‘C’ formed out of the Eiffel Tower placed on its side. I was eager to begin my research in a neuroscience lab at the Cleveland Clinic, but I did not share quite the same level of enthusiasm for the city as she did. “But you’ve never been to Paris. Paris is probably your Paris,” I responded. In fact, I was initially hesitant to volunteer to write for this blog series because I was not sure how Cleveland’s art scene might measure up to that in some of the other featured cities (see Hadley Newton’s great post about her experience in Paris this summer).
I knew that the Cleveland Museum of Art was respected and had a fantastic collection. In fact, the Museum wasrecently awarded a competitive National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant in order to “fund [their] interpretation program which offers museum goers…tools to connect with artwork in inventive ways and therein develop a deeper understanding of it.” Attempts to engage the community at large at a deep level seem to define the art community in Cleveland. For instance, the Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the few metropolitan art museums with free admission. In addition, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Cleveland is only $5 for students and is free on the first Saturday of the month.
One interactive exhibit that I particularly enjoyed during one of my visits to MOCA was How to Remain Human. According to the museum’s website, the exhibit “continues MOCA Cleveland’s focused engagement with artists connected to Cleveland and the surrounding region… It features emerging, mid-career, and established artists, working across a wide variety of media, who question and affirm humanness.” A section of the exhibit contained a table with various art supplies and a sign encouraging museum goers to reflect on and express how they remain human.
The interactive element of the exhibit reminded me of an annual event SAB hosts called Inspiration Night during which we ask student groups and museum goers to respond to a selected piece. Last semester’s Inspiration Night focused on Andreas Gursky’s Shanghai (2000).
Not only does MOCA Cleveland attempt to engage the community, but it also puts it on display by exhibiting the work of many local or native-born artists. One such artist is Jimmy Kuehnle who lives and works in Cleveland. Kuehnle, according to MOCA’s website, makes “site-specific sculptures, representing a shift from personal performance to the activation of space. These works ‘get in the way, disrupting usual functions and raising questions about public versus private, and the ‘place’ of art.”