How to go:
What: Cleveland Museum of Art. On view through June 12 is a centennial exhibit, “Pharaoh: King of Ancient Egypt.”
Where: 11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland, in the heart of University Circle. The museum has an attached parking garage.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays. Closed Mondays. The Ingalls Library is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Admission: Free. Special exhibitions have an admission fee. The Pharoah show is $15. If your Dayton Art Institute membership includes the Ohio Reciprocal Program, you can receive two free adult tickets.
For more information: www.clevelandart.org
At the museum: You may want to start your visit by checking out The Collection Wall. It's an amazing 40-foot interactive, multitouch, MicroTile wall that displays in real time all works of art from the permanent collection currently on view in the galleries.
Where to stay: If you're looking for somewhere special, check out The Glidden House, a full-service Cleveland Boutique Hotel located on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. (www.gliddenhouse.com/)
Where to eat: The museum has two great dining options: Provenance and Provenance Café. Provenance is a fine dining restaurant and lounge that features locally sourced and globally inspired cuisine and a prix-fixe menu that complements current museum exhibitions. Provenance Café offers lunch, dinner and snack options with an open kitchen concept where patrons can watch as chefs create their dishes.
Cleveland's Little Italy has a very popular dining scene, and is very close to the museum.
The Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection, always renowned, is now surrounded by amenities that greatly enhance the museum experience.
A recent $345 million renovation has resulted in added gallery space, a fine- dining restaurant and new cafeteria, and a well-stocked gift shop. The building’s new anchor is a 34,000-square-foot sky-lit atrium which hosts activities ranging from wedding receptions and coffee klatches to mall-walking and reading.
“It took our breath away,” said Beavercreek resident Cheryl Lewis who grew up in Cleveland and returned to her hometown in December after reading a Dayton Daily News article about Cleveland’s recent garden exhibition. The show included the Dayton Art Institute’s treasured “Water Lilies” painting.
Lewis hardly recognized the museum of her youth. “It was always a wonderful art museum but it’s been totally transformed,” she said. “We’ve been to art museums throughout the world and Cleveland’s is now comparable. It’s magnificent!”
Celebrating a centennial anniversary, the museum is hosting a number of special events. Now on view is “Pharaoh: King of Ancient Egypt,” a collaboration with London’s British Museum.
Rethinking the museum
Jeffrey Strean, the Cleveland Museum’s director of design and architecture, had the formidable task of overseeing the ambitious 10-year renovation. “It went from fixing a mechanical problem to rethinking the whole museum,” he said. “There was not a piece of this complex or an object in the collection that went untouched.”
Strean said one of the highest priorities was solving the circulation difficulties. “People would get lost because you couldn’t take any rational route through the museum,” he said.
Another challenge was to add the extras that today’s museum visitors have come to enjoy. “People expect a day’s experience, they don’t just want to see the art, they want to shop and have lunch,” Strean explained. “We have about a half million visitors a year but we had a small cafeteria and a store that wasn’t much more than a card shop.”
It was well-known architect Rafael Vinoly who proposed tearing part of the structure down, restoring the 1916 neoclassical marble building and the 1971 North Wing addition designed by Marcel Breuer, and adding two new symmetrical wings.
That proposal, explained Strean, required reopening the part of the Georgia quarry where the original white marble had been mined in 1916. “We selected the area of the quarry, selected the slabs and laid it out stone by stone so that the veining would match.”
Vinoly also came up with the bright idea of enclosing the courtyard, envisioning it as a community gathering place.
“Before it was a wonderful little space that could be used in the summer, but what we got is a place that you can come to year-round,” said Strean, who believes the atrium has changed many people’s perceptions of the museum.
“Before the project, they thought it was kind of a fancy place, one where you had to dress up to come to,” he said. “Now it’s much more inviting. You can come in a jogging suit and you don’t have to know anything about art. And the atrium has become an organizing feature—you look out any door in the museum and see the atrium and get a sense of where you are.”
Art lovers won’t be disappointed
For those who come for the art, there is much for reflection and enjoyment. You can get an overview by going to the museum’s web site where the entire collection is described.
Cleveland is especially known for its outstanding collection of Asian art. The original building now houses Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Sub-Saharan, African, Byzantine and Medieval art. The East Wing has the Impressionist, Contemporary and Modern Art Collection. The Ingalls Library is one of the largest art libraries in the nation.
The museum has a wide variety of offerings: from stroller tours for babies to a film and performing arts series. “What we hope,” concludes Strean, “is that we’ve created a place where people who don’t necessarily think they enjoy art can come for an afternoon—have lunch, shop and maybe spend even 15 minutes in the galleries. Before, it was terrific to look at the art but we didn’t have the creature comforts. This whole renovation was about the amenities.”
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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC