(originally posted 3/7/2009)
Ok, I know this isn’t technically a Cleveland thing, but it’s close enough that I’m going to include it.
The city of Canton Ohio has an arts event called First Friday on the first Friday of every month.
Canton is only about an hour and a half away, but I had never been there before. I was really impressed by the city. It was really clean and comfortable. Walking down a brick-paved alley, I saw three or four really beautiful pieces of outdoor art. I am not sure even how to describe them. They were pretty large scenes suspended from the side of a parking garage. There were several permanent outdoor sculptures which, according to the First Friday website, are made from recycled steel! My younger kids really liked the sculptures because the ones we saw were animals. I took their pictures in front of a cute yellow duck, a giraffe, a turtle, and a monkey. Apparently there are more of these sculptures but we didn’t find them on our visit.
There also was a temporary display of a rhino made from tires. It sounds strange, but it was amazing. The tires really gave the sculpture the coolest texture. There are a bunch of painted cement (?) trash containers and wooden benches too. It was absolutely charming. I can’t wait until later in the year. It got dark pretty quick after we got there. I would love to see more of the area in daylight.
The point of first Friday is to encourage people to come and patronize the many small art galleries and restaurants in a 5 x 3 block area of downtown Canton. From my experience yesterday, it’s working. There is a gallery called 2nd April that has many independent artists studio on the upper floor. The place was packed. In fact, every gallery/studio we visited was full of people. There were single adults, couples, families with children. I loved it. My little son was bored out of his skull, but he liked the walking between galleries and flirting with every pretty woman he saw (and there were many).
We had dinner while we were there. There are a few really nice looking restaurants that, if I had left my children somewhere else, I would have loved to try. Instead, we picked somewhere a little more casual. We found a place called Napoli. It was a really strange place. There was a really nice covered, outdoor eating area out in front of the restaurant. Then there was a regular dining area, sort of like an old-fashioned pizza parlor, only a little fancier. There was an older man in a very strange velour (?) blazer/sports coat who served as host to the main dining area. He looked as though he belonged in a very upscale eatery in 1950. If you kept walking on through the building (and I had to, my kids can never pass up the chance to use a public restroom, UGH!), you came to a cafeteria/fast food counter complete with menu boards. Then there was a man doing easy listening karoake act (he had backup tracks but he also played his keyboard. I don’t know what that’s called when you play an instrument along with a backup track. Is it still karaoke?). My grandma would have really enjoyed the music.
If you kept walking further back, there were fast food-style booths along one wall. And if you went to the back, you could walk through some double doors and there was a room with round tables, it was very different than the seating area in the front. It was like the restaurant wasn’t sure what it wanted to be.
The food wasn’t fancy but it was good. I had a cheese calzone and it was ricotta cheese. I was expecting mozarella cheese. Finding ricotta was a really welcome surprise. I love ricotta cheese and the calzone was really well done. My husband had a veal sub which was amazing. My oldest had antipasta salad, my middle child had a kids’ pizza, and my son had chicken fingers. Everything that everyone had was well made. Not fancy, but solid, good food. And the prices were great too. For the five of us, we spent $50, with the tip (and we always leave at least 20%). It absolutely made up for the schizophrenic layout and decor.
There were some really fun looking clubs. I’d like to go again without the kids. And I have to be sure to hit the Canton Art Museum next time. I just ran out of time on this visit. I had a really great time. There was free parking. I felt safe. The city was pretty. There were musicians out on the street. Well done Canton. Cleveland, what the hell is wrong with you? There are some really great art studios in Cleveland, but I don’t feel safe going to most of them. It’s a damn shame. I mean, I still go, but I don’t feel safe doing so.