In 1916, the Cleveland Museum of Art opened in a Neoclassic, white-marble structure built with funds bequeathed by industrialists John Huntington, Hinman B. Hurlbut and Horace Kelley on land in University Circle donated by Western Union Telegraph co-founder Jeptha H. Wade. The museum wasn’t Cleveland’s only arts institution in existence that endured.
The Cleveland Institute of Art, founded in 1882, had been hosting exhibits at its University Circle location, a facility built in 1904 with what was then the city’s largest exhibition space. Karamu House, the East 89th Street arts center recognized as the nation’s oldest producing African American theater, opened as a settlement house in 1915.
Local real estate developer Joseph Laronge and theater owner Marcus Loew were planning Playhouse Square at Euclid Avenue and East 14th Street.
In 1931, Cleveland Orchestra, which performed its first concert at Grays Armory in 1918, moved into its permanent home at Severance Hall. Thirty years later, Cleveland Institute of Music — one of only seven independent conservatories of music in the U.S. and one of three devoted exclusively to classical music performance — moved into its current Circle location after 41 years of conducting classes first at the Statler Hotel on Euclid Avenue, then in private homes.
By 1969, all of the Playhouse Square theaters but the Hanna had closed. A 1970s grassroots effort to restore the structures saved them from the wrecking ball. The Hanna now serves as home to the professional classic theater company Great Lakes Theater, founded in 1962 as the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival. Playhouse Square thrives as the country’s largest performing arts center outside of New York City, venues for everything from touring Broadway shows to performances by top comedians, dance companies and musical acts.
Among the city’s newer attractions is the annual Cleveland International Film Festival and an 8-year-old faceted glass gem in the Circle’s Uptown district that houses the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. The latter, founded in 1968, is the region’s only contemporary art museum.