Big Ideas: Think Local
The dance floor at Market Garden Brewery is crowded. People are moving to DJ Steph Floss' beats, waving glow sticks in the air. It's a typical Saturday night in one of the city's most popular bars, right? Well, sort of — except it's Friday afternoon and everyone has to go back to work in a few minutes. At least they're going back to work happier.
Lunch Beat is just one experience put on by Thrive Cleveland, an organization billed as a happiness incubator by co-founders Jen Margolis and Scott Simon. "What we like about it is it's physical activity," Margolis says of the midday dance party. "It's moving around."
The idea that events such as Lunch Beat are good for us is rooted in science, according to Margolis. Research shows that certain drivers related to smells, touch, tastes, physical activity and community increase peoples' happiness, she says. "We sort of created a formula of incorporating these happiness drivers into all the things we do." thrivecleveland.com
Ohio City Farm
Urban farming isn't a new concept, but the version being cultivated on a bluff overlooking the Cuyahoga River is. The Ohio City Inc. development group manages the 6-acre Ohio City Farm, but several different organizations tend to the individual parcels set up within it.
"I think our model of subleasing is pretty unique," says Ohio City Inc. executive director Eric Wobser. Tenants include Great Lakes Brewing Co.; The Refugee Response, a nonprofit that helps refugees in exile adjust to life in new communities; and Cleveland Crops, the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities' urban-farming initiative. Ohio City Inc. and Cleveland Crops are also talking about creating a community kitchen incubator to provide workspace to food trucks, farmers and anyone with an eye toward starting a food business.
"People start doing these things out of their home kitchen," Wobser says. "But they quickly outgrow that before being able to move into a brick-and-mortar space. This could be a good opportunity for a sort of in-between time." ohiocityfarm.wordpress.com
Cleveland Critical Mass
The last Friday evening of every month, Cleveland's downtown streets swell with up to 700 bicyclists. This monthly fixture is known as Cleveland Critical Mass, a 10- to 20-mile trek through the city that ends at a restaurant or bar. The ride is meant to promote cyclists' road rights and empower people to ride more in their daily lives.
"If you talk to people who started doing Critical Mass as it got bigger, they say they started riding in that group and now bike to work or the grocery store," says Bike Cleveland executive director Jacob VanSickle, who joins in on many of the rides but has no official affiliation with the group.
Critical Mass is a worldwide bicycling event, happening that last Friday of every month, rain or shine. VanSickle says Cleveland's version is more friendly than what he knows of other cities' rides. "In other cities, Critical Mass can be much more confrontational," he says. "Here, people ride down the street yelling, 'Happy Friday!' " clevelandcm.wordpress.com
The Transformer Station
The original use of the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation's Transformer Station — turning AC power into DC power for Cleveland Railway Co.'s trolleys crossing the Cuyahoga River — doesn't exactly draw the mind to contemporary art. "You couldn't think of a more mundane purpose for a building," says art collector Fred Bidwell. He and his wife, Laura, were drawn to the '20s-era building as a home for their private art museum because of its classical proportions, as well as the fact that it was essentially one big room. A contemporary addition was added to the original building, resulting in a wide-open space with 24-foot-high ceilings. The couple is lending their space to the Cleveland Museum of Art, which will plan six months of contemporary sculpture and painting exhibitions. "Collecting is a little bit like drug addiction," Fred Bidwell jokes. "You always want some more." transformerstation.org