Every time we drive out East to visit my family, Mark and I tell ourselves we will stop in Cleveland to visit the museum. Mark lived in that city in the 1970s and has very fond memories of the Cleveland Museum of Art. This time we finally did it — we pulled off of Interstate 90 onto a lovely tree-lined parkway which took us to the museum in about ten minutes.
The parkway is Rockefeller Park, a 250-acre meandering drive that flows between steep slopes and open green spaces; John D. Rockefeller actually donated the parkland to the city in celebration of its centennial. This lovely drive spans the two miles between University Circle, where Clevleland's many museums are located, to the South and Lake Erie to the North. Dedicated to the peaceful cooperation of all the groups who settled Cleveland, it is hard to imagine an easier route from the highway to the gallery or one that could be more beautiful.
On this sunny summer day the museum (admittance is always FREE) was filled with people from all those diverse races, cultures and ethnicities viewing the art — and looking back at the visitors from the walls. A few of our favorite faces are below:
Even with part of the museum still under construction — and some art still not on view — we spent five fabulous hours. I can't stress enough what an amazing collection the museum has — a room full of Picassos, another of Rodins, a huge Monet waterlily, a killer Kline, great Rousseaus and Gainsboroughs, and on and on. The building itself is beautiful — both old and new parts — but I especially noticed gallery signage, safe but elegant sloping walkways, fun and funky doors in the behind-the-scenes areas.
The quality of every aspect of the Cleveland Museum of Art — including the art — is as good as any you'll find and well worth a visit. It is part of the heritage of the nation's older cities: the ones whose troubles, rather than their triumphs, are what usually make the news. But it is the 19th century riches — financial and industrial — of so-called "rust belt" cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, that make them the cultural treasures they continue to be. You can read more about the Cleveland Museum of Art here and about all the things happening in the nation's rust belt cities on my niece's blog, Rust Wire, here.
One aspect of the original 1916 building of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Read about the museum's 1916 cast of Rodin's "The Thinker" here.
To round out the day, we drove a short distance to Cleveland's Little Italy. We parked in front of Holy Rosary Catholic Church, perfect for two lapsed types like us. Alas we had missed the famous street festival to celebrate the BVM's Assumption, but saw photos and pictures of the event in assorted shop windows as we walked up the street to Guarino's. In business since 1918, Guarino's Restaurant is stuck in a 1950s time-warp. There were bowls of matchbooks at the ready should anyone still need to light up, vases of plastic flowers on the table, and a framed 1934 First Communion certificate from a member of the Guarino family right inside the front door. But our favorite touch was this face on the wall who stared at us all through our hearty dinner. Mama mia!