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The Cleveland Art Museum: a surprising discovery in the Midwest

Cleveland museum

Maybe it was my lack of knowledge about the American Midwest, or my misguided understanding of American culture, but I was pleasantly surprised by the art scene in Cleveland, Ohio. My uninformed perspective of the Midwest was lacking in plenty of details. Among the many surprises was learning about Cleveland’s Museum of Art.

The museum was founded in the early 20th century with a generous endowment, on condition that it be accessible for everyone. In a word: FREE. And still today, it’s one of the largest museums in the USA that has a free permanent collection.

Wade Park, Cleveland

Thanks to some smart acquisitions, the museum isn’t home to just some Podunk artworks, but some real quality pieces. Not to mention that the building’s architecture, and the surrounding University Circle neighborhood, is open & spacious, green & relaxing. I spent an afternoon exploring the museum’s exhibits which included works by European masters, historical artifacts and contemporary exhibits (I caught one about DIY book design).

Museum visits can often seem a bit stuffy, so it’s nice to see some technological advancements such as iPads for rent. But the museum also had free wifi when I visited, so I’m not surprised to see their social media smarts.

Museums Cleveland

My Visit to the Cleveland Art Museum

I stepped through the grand entrance of the Cleveland Museum of Art, feeling an immediate sense of anticipation. I had not heard much about this renowned institution, and finally, I was about to explore its treasures for myself. The grandeur of the building’s classical architecture, with its massive white columns and elegant facades, hinted at the treasures that lay within.

The moment I entered, I was greeted by the museum’s impressive atrium, a vast, light-filled space that served as the perfect introduction to the world of art awaiting me. The soaring ceilings and massive skylights allowed natural light to flood the atrium, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. As I walked deeper into the museum, I couldn’t help but be struck by the sheer scale of the place. The museum was enormous, and I knew that I was in for a day of artistic exploration.

Cleveland Museum of Art

My first stop was in the gallery dedicated to European paintings. The collection was staggering, with works by some of the world’s most famous artists, including Van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso. I stood before Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night Over the Rhône,” feeling a profound sense of awe at being so close to a masterpiece that I had previously only seen in textbooks.

As I moved from room to room, I encountered a diverse array of art spanning centuries and continents. Ancient Egyptian artifacts, intricate Asian ceramics, and contemporary sculptures all found their place in the museum’s extensive collection. The diversity of the artworks on display was a testament to the museum’s commitment to showcasing the breadth of human creativity and expression.

Cleveland Museum of Art

One of the highlights of my visit was the Armor Court, a room filled with medieval suits of armor and weaponry. The dimly lit space transported me back in time, and I couldn’t help but imagine the knights who once donned these suits for battle. It was a stark contrast to the vibrant and colorful paintings I had seen earlier, yet it demonstrated the museum’s ability to transport visitors through time and across cultures.

University Circle, Cleveland

After hours of exploration, I found myself in the museum’s tranquil outdoor sculpture garden. The beautifully landscaped gardens provided a serene escape from the bustling galleries. As I strolled among the sculptures, I marveled at how the museum seamlessly integrated art with nature, creating a harmonious environment that encouraged reflection and contemplation.

Cleveland art

My visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art was a truly enriching experience. It was a journey through time, across continents, and into the depths of human creativity. The museum’s vast collection and its commitment to accessibility made it a must-visit destination for art lovers and enthusiasts alike.


I left with a profound appreciation for the power of art to inspire, educate, and connect people from all walks of life. Cleveland had not only surprised me with its cultural offerings but had also left me with memories of a day well spent in the world of art.

If you’re looking for a bit of culture in Cleveland outside cheesy sandwiches and craft beers, you can’t do better than the Cleveland Art Museum. Visit their website for upcoming exhibits.

On the web:

Cleveland Art Museum
  1. Like Drew Carrey always said “Cleveland Rocks”! And now I believe him. That museum sounds like a ton of fun.

    • Adam says:

      Yep – I remember watching Drew Carey and it was hard not to think of that while I was there!

  2. Dale says:

    This looks like the kind of place I’d love to be right now.

    Plus, you said the magic word; FREE!

    I read about somewhere the other day that had just been bequeathed a large art collection on the condition that they never charge admission to the museum – ever. That’s the kind of awesome I love to hear.

    • Adam says:

      Dale, that’s awesome! I hope more art collectors decide to make their art free and available to the public – it can be such an incredible source of inspiration.

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