Our leaders have failed us.Local television news would rather entertain than inform.
Steel is not the future of our regional economy.
Thomas Mulready sits inside Detroit Avenue's Phoenix Coffee House, stirring his tea, rattling off the reasons why he believes Cleveland's much-hyped renaissance of the mid-'90s has drifted into neutral. An information-technology consultant by day and one-time senior vice president for National City Bank, Mulready has lately turned into a crusader by way of a humble "e-letter" dubbed "Cool Cleveland."
It started showing up in e-mail accounts last fall, mainly as a vehicle to draw attention to local arts and entertainment events that don't get much ink anywhere else. Along the way, it's evolved into a way for Mulready to spark debate among Greater Clevelanders about what can be done to help pull the region out of its widely perceived slump.
"Even though it might be a little presumptuous, it's important for people to put themselves out on the limb and take a risk," Mulready says, the bill of a charcoal baseball cap framing his heavy black glasses. "Risk being embarrassed or contradicted or stepping on toes."
In the first several issues of "Cool Cleveland," Mulready wonders aloud why Pittsburgh's local arts scene is creaming ours, proposes a rally to help convince biotech firm Athersys to stay in Cleveland and mourns the move of local musician Tim Askin, who remarked that "everybody cool is leaving town" before he himself left last fall. Where possible, Mulready includes hypertext links so readers can delve deeper than his four- of five-line take on a topic if they choose.
"That section is actually very critical of Cleveland," Mulready notes. "There is a lack of leadership here and it's not getting talked about. I'm putting it out there and saying, 'Here's what's happening' or 'Here's what other cities are doing. Why aren't we doing them?' "
That's only half of the package, though. The heart of "Cool Cleveland" why Mulready started it in the first place is his hand-picked list of local entertainment options, ranging from dance theater to poetry slams to local rock 'n' roll shows. They are the events that don't
usually get newspaper coverage or end up drowned in the tiny-type sea of entertainment listings.
In fact, "Cool Cleveland" began as a courtesy to a handful of Cirque du Soleil performers who asked Mulready during their stay what there was to do around town. He sent the same e-mail to friends in the arts community, then friends in the corporate sector. It grew from there.
Mulready pushes the arts scene strongly not only because he is part of it (he was founding director of the Cleveland Performance Art Festival staged here from 1988 through 1999), but because he sees it as a way to help revive tired neighborhoods and create a new buzz and personality for the city. "I'd rather see Cleveland as an exporter of culture than an importer of culture," he explains. "I'm really focused on things being created here and sent out into the world."
efore that happens, however, Mulready says Cleveland must start supporting local artists, rather than focusing on the national rock acts and touring Broadway productions that flit through town.
"If you added up all the money we literally stick in an envelope and ship out of town, it's hilarious," he says. "Instead, go out and check out a really cool regional band. You're probably going to have more fun, it's going to be a lot more accessible and it keeps the money here and develops our local artists."
Cool idea. The question is whether anyone out there will listen.
Not on the "Cool Cleveland" subscription list? Send an e-mail request to email@example.com.