Get Your Culture On in Cleveland this Winter Term

Julia Hubay, Arts Editor

Many of us will be staying on campus for Winter Term this year, and if this is your first time braving Oberlin in January, get ready. During my first WT, I was one of about five students staying in Barrows, and it was quite an experience. You end up bonding with the few other people who are around, but you also end up spending a lot of time in relative isolation, bundled in a parka and snow boots and trudging back and forth between food and sleep. This is a completely different way to experience Oberlin: Sometimes it’s wonderful, and sometimes you want to get the hell out of town and see more than a dozen people at a time. When you reach that point, I hope you have access to a car, because Cleveland is a wonderful place to escape to for an afternoon.

If you haven’t seen much of Ohio outside of the immediate Oberlin radius, you’re missing out. I’ve lived in the greater Cleveland area since I was three, and I feel immense love for the city and all it has to offer. No, it’s not New York, and yes, some parts of it are more Rust Belt and depressed than hip or fun, but there are so many worthwhile little gems in my home city that I hope you will at least give it a chance.

My absolute favorite thing to do in town is to spend an afternoon at the Cleveland Museum of Art. After having been partially closed for about 15 years, the museum recently re-opened in its full glory. The CMA is a sprawling building of mixed architectural styles, and it houses sizable collections of art from around the globe. Some of the highlights include the collection of Tiffany glass windows and lamps, the arms and armor room and the collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works. And don’t leave without seeing the Hirst, Neel and Bourgeois in the Modern and Contemporary galleries.

Another great place to see contemporary art is in the new home of the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art. Not far from the CMA, the new MOCA building, which opened in October, was designed by Farshid Moussavi. It is a gleaming, geometric structure of glass and steel. The current exhibits on display engage with the architecture of the space and the material of the new building’s construction. A particularly wild installation is David Altmejd’s frightening and futuristic “The Orbit.”

Cleveland also has a great theater scene, one of the largest theater districts outside of NYC. Check out Playhouse Square for a professional production in one of the historic and luxurious theaters. And don’t forget about Oberlin’s own OASIS production at Cleveland Public Theatre, running Jan. 24–Feb. 4.

There’s also a thriving culinary scene in Cleveland, featuring everything from killer international cuisine to comfort food to the old-world West Side Market where you can find fresh and rare ingredients to cook up your own meal. Check out any of the restaurants in Little Italy for romantic charm and delicious, authentic Italian food. Tremont has a myriad of more expensive but hip restaurants, like Lolita and South Side.

Coventry is another fun neighborhood to spend some time in, with cute boutiques and a few more great places to eat. Tommy’s is famous for vegan and carnivore-friendly eats, and its kuchen (rum cake) is to die for. Coventry is also the home of the Grog Shop, a small, cavelike bar where you can see great bands for cheap. In January, the Grog is bringing indie-rock legend Jeff Mangum to Cleveland — don’t miss out. Another great place to see a concert is the Beachland Ballroom. Be sure to give yourself some time before the show to check out the vintage store in the basement. As I learned at a show in Williamsburg last summer, some people really are too hip to dance at concerts, but you won’t encounter this problem in Cleveland.

So just remember, if you start to catch a case of cabin fever from being in snowy, quiet Oberlin for a month, you can always drive about 45 minutes east and be in the middle of a cultural hub of the Midwest. Take advantage of all the free time on your hands, and explore the area that you’ll call home for four years — maybe more!